Bolivian noir ...
The narrator/protagonist proclaims his love of Raymond Chandler and Chester Himes, but American Visa seems closer in form to Jorg Fauser's The Snowman or Night Bus by Giampiero Rigosi. In each, a central character, down on his luck but not yet desperate, falls into a series of wanderings, mostly or entirely in cities, that are part adventure story, part travelogue. Each book's lively eye for its surroundings manages to keep it oddly upbeat despite the straitened or dangerous circumstances in which the protagonists find themselves.
In American Visa, the adventure is Mario Alvarez's quest for a visa to visit his son in Miami. Alvarez travels from his small town to La Paz, "a city I struggled to recognize; half a million hungry peasants had changed its face. These immigrants from the sterile Andean plateau had taken over La Paz's higher-elevation neighborhoods, like ants swarming over a beehive. A wild rustling accompanied their movements. This gray, unruly mass transformed the entire city into a gigantic marketplace."
Of course, an immigrant of a kind is what Alvarez himself is trying to become, a hope more difficult than in the past for a Bolivian trying to get to the United States because, as one character says, "They think we're all potential drug traffickers." The remark is plucky but rueful, rich with possibility of adventure but also tragedy. I'll be back later to tell you how the story turns out.
© Peter Rozovsky 2007
Juan de Recacoechea
Bolivian crime fiction