«The crime novel offers a glimpse into the sewers of society, and to that extent has a component of denunciation or exposure of the dark areas of individuals and communities.»
Everything is ready. The wheels ready, the mileage to zero, the feet on top of the pedals … And the maillot yellow? Wishing to have its first owner already: The leader of the Tour de France.
On the occasion of the start of a new edition of the famous cycling competition, from PlanetadeLibros we interview the journalist and writer Jorge Zepeda Patterson. His latest book, the thriller Death against the clock, it was just published in pocket format. Perfect reading and size to spend a summer full of adrenaline! 😉
After his successful series The Blues, whose second installment earned him a Planeta Award in 2014, Zepeda returns to the novel with a vertiginous thriller set in the Tour. 21 chapters by 21 stages. 21 days of competition that will bring out the best … and the worst of the protagonists, all suspects, in the purest Agatha Christie style, of a mysterious plot to end the life of the favorites to rise up with the maillot yellow.
Why the Tour? What has this competition, one of the most important in cycling, that makes it such an exciting backdrop for Death against the clock?
I wanted to tackle a story of suspense in a closed community, an area where the characters look in the face and assume that one of them is a murderer, without being able to determine who he is. And cycling, with its epic, the dose of sacrifice and passion that entails, was a perfect way to make a playful and exciting story.
Were you already a fan of the sport and the Tour, before writing the novel?
He was a simple interested. But I was very attracted to the possibility of immersing myself in something entirely new. Investigating on the subject was a joy. He forced me to cover several races in Europe, including the Tour de France, of course, mixing among runners, mechanics, masseurs, dieticians and soaking in that inner universe. They were very pleased that someone wanted to make a novel about their craft and ended up adopting me. At some stage in the Volta de Catalunya, for example, the Movistar team took me to the official car in the co-pilot seat, to witness the way they give instructions to cyclists through the window and pass them jerry cans of water and protein gels.
But it is not a sports novel to use. Could we say that sport is the excuse to talk about many other subjects?
I loved to tackle the high performance sport and with as many interests at stake as in the Tour de France because it takes the passions to the limit; Emotions are bare wires when competing for something that demands so many sacrifices. Love, ambitions, loyalty or betrayals are over-dimensioned. If a runner is willing to kill himself, descending a mountain at 90 kilometers per hour on precarious roads and huge abysses, why would not he be willing to kill for it?
«Cycling, with its epic, the doses of sacrifice
and the passion that involved was a perfect medium
to make a playful and fast-paced story. »
Why we are so passionate about readers, the crime novel?
For many reasons. In general, a novel sets in motion human passions expressed to the limit. An exacerbation of reality itself. An artifice that fascinates readers, people in general, because we have all experienced those drives (jealousy, ambition, hatred, despair) even when they have not culminated in a crime (I hope).
For the rest, the crime novel offers a look at the sewers of society, and to that extent has a component of denunciation or at least exposure of the dark areas of individuals and communities. And we can not ignore that the black novel is also a ludic challenge for everyone who likes riddles, puzzles. Many reasons, then, and no despicable.
In the book you present us the figure of the gregarious, "the condemned to lose", as you have described in some interview. Who is this person and why did you decide that he was your main character?
There is something fascinating, and almost inexplicable, that a sport that demands a life of sacrifice and self-flagellation, that offers for many of those who practice it professionally the simple compensation of being squires of others. One can understand that a marathon runner imposes torments in the face of his personal gangs; at least it is running to itself. But how to understand that someone is willing to do it year after year with no other purpose than to make another champion? It seemed to me a psychological enigma and precisely my central character embodies this mystery. In my opinion, the novel explains it.
«A novel sets in motion human passions
expressed to the limit. »
You come to reap great success with your first three novels, including several awards, such as the Planeta 2014 Award. Following the metaphor of the Tour, we could say that you have a few jerseys yellows and a good collection of stuffed lions. How did you face the next stage? New book, new characters …
When I think of a subject for a novel I do not usually ask myself as much about the result as about the process. That is, I write for the pleasure of writing. Whether or not to like a particular market is a topic that does not fit into my calculations, so to speak. The question I ask myself, rather, is whether I have a vital interest in writing it and I am going to enjoy it. After all, it is something to which you will dedicate a year and a half or two years of your life.
Either way, Death against the clock It has been a success Is it true that they are preparing an adaptation to the small screen in France?
Yes. A producer of French television bought the rights to produce a series in several chapters about the novel. I'm very curious about the possible result. A dozen countries have acquired Time Trial Death to translate it to other languages: French, English, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Czech, Dutch, among others.
Finally, I would like to comment on a phrase you said in one of the presentations of the book in Mexico: "To write one must be a critical or obsessive reader". What does Jorge Zepeda Patterson read with obsession?
Everything and without measure, as the classic says. I always hold a book in my hand (and many in the digital device). I just finished a magnificent novel by Vikram Seth, Music Continuous; and before that The order of the day, by Eric Vuillard and The Red Hair woman, the last of Orhan Pamuk. And I have alternated these months with Thomas Mann; some that I had not read and others that I am rereading: at this moment Dr. Faustus.