Marta and Berta Miralles are the protagonists of The president (Alfaguara Negra), the last book of Alicia Gimenez Barlett. Two young inspectors assigned to shine in the panorama of the Spanish crime novel. A duo with unorthodox methods and a high sense of duty. One is responsible, serious and marked by a love disappointment, the other, crazy, bon vivant and enjoy. Both complementary, and moreover, sisters.
In the center of the frame, the assassination of the president of a conservative party devastated by corruption in the Valencian Community of the urban development pitch.
Giménez Barlett, loaded with a sense of humor and manners, has definitively dropped the stereotype of the (male) policeman tortured by life from the genre. She created Petra Delicado in the 90s, the first policewoman of the European black novel, of which he has already signed ten installments with international success (a series has recently premiered on Italian television), although he confesses that the Anglo-Saxon authors had already opened the door to the police. Prolific, methodical and multiple award-winner, at 70 years old, the writer will see the Miralles sisters for a while.
QUESTION: To create Petra Delicado, it was based on one of the first curators of Barcelona in the 1980s. Where did the Miralles sisters, as peculiar as they are fascinating, come from?
RESPONSE: Well, they have come out of my head. Perhaps Petra Delicado’s age, apart from the fact that she could be inspired by someone specific, was more similar to mine. While here they are two quite young girls and I wanted to create these characters. I was paying a lot of attention to how young people talk and it has been a fun experience.
And based on the large number of women who are in the police force now. Those who have now reached police stations, chief inspectors… The difference is brutal when I started, that is, you had to be inspired by the current reality.
Q: A political plot and corruption. The material is inspired by the Valencian reality brushed in detail and you always carry out exhaustive documentation. Why did you address this topic? Do you pick up the glove of the black novel as a social complaint?
A: Yes, that is very well seen. In fact, it is a classic crime novel to be based on political corruption, aside from the fact that it was a very striking season in the Valencian Community with a series of things that inspired the most painted. What surprises me is that there are no more novels on the subject, flashy things like the pope’s visit (Benedict XVI’s visit in 2006 from which a plot of fixes was later uncovered) with its corresponding hit. People filling their pockets with money. I think it was so serious, so widespread, so general and picturesque that it was forced to do so. I think there will be more novels on that subject, for sure.
“The Spanish crime novel no longer only focuses on Madrid or Barcelona”
Q: On The president it also introduces the character of a judge who thinks contemptuously but does not say so, that “women are in all professional fields and these things did not happen before”, is it a counterpoint that shows that there is still much to evolve?
A: It must be said that he is a judge who is about to retire, but I do not know if the presence of women surprises older people, men who have been recalcitrant and that they belong to a generation that is still very macho. Suddenly, they are found everywhere.
I believe that one of the phrases that the judge says, I have heard it not from a judge but from an older doctor who said ‘it is good for women to occupy positions, but all of them?’ because he really felt like he was surrounded, invaded by the feminine presence. But let them wait because we are going to go further (laughs).
Q: “In Spain people are quite intolerant, but there is an attitude of indisputable mercy towards rookies.” The book is full of pearls like this one about social customs, influence peddling, treatment of newcomers and even job insecurity. How did you compose it?
A: There are times when you are in line at a supermarket and you see that things are not moving forward. You see that the cashier is someone young, it worries you, you stick your head out as if to say ‘come on, hurry up’, and the man or woman who is in front of the queue tells you: calm down a bit, it’s new. That affection towards rookies, because it has always caught my attention. We are more tolerant in that, although not in other things. People are very angry about everything and protest about everything.
“There are many writers of the police genre, but quality must be demanded”
Q: Now it is the most common thing, that inspectors or commissioners are protagonists of novels and there are also many police authors, what do you think of this new neo noir? Do you have a favorite author of the new remittances?
R: When I started in crime novels I was practically the only author in Spain, but now it seems perfect to me as a woman that many successful authors appear, also with many readers. What happens is that you always have to demand quality, not just quantity, and sometimes because we get female authors, especially Nordic ones, you realize that this has little to do with literature. In general, in Spain, it’s great and I hope it doesn’t remain a passing fad, but that the matter catches on as it happens with the Anglo-Saxons, that women have taken over a bit of the black genre.
In our country there is a very good level. Besides, we haven’t focused only on Madrid or Barcelona, but the thing has spread throughout the country: Seville, Asturias, Galicia, and now I’m giving Valencia a try. It is as if a traditional novel of an urban city, of the center, has not been made, but each one has picked up the peculiarities of their place. That’s great and it’s a lot of fun.
Q: Petra Delicado is a strong and independent woman but she doesn’t hide her insecurities either, we really realize how feminist she is when we review it with the eyes of today, were you aware of creating an icon?
A: I was not aware, I did not even know that it was going to be a series. I wrote the first book and realized that I was comfortable. This genre allowed me many licenses, such as humor, which for me is basic. At first, he was a bit surprised. They told me that she was a smart woman and very grumpy. She sometimes got pissed off and swore. I think there is also something of me there, at least I’m less grumpy than Petra.
At the same time, all the women of my generation were, after Franco’s death, the advance guard of feminism in Spain, of fighting for our rights, of being in the front line, of studying, of doing things. I think that if there is something iconic about Petra, it is that transition from democracy to entrenched democracy.
Q: You have always been independent and have written what you wanted without belonging to cliques. Do prizes help?
A: An award like the Nadal (where no one finds you, 2011) because it obviously has many readers and allows you to continue doing what you want. And a prize like the Planet (naked men2015) because it is a huge economic injection that you also tell yourself, because I am on the right track.
I don’t belong to any clique and, moreover, many times I have been misplaced. I have written in Barcelona when the authors in the Castilian language began to be less considered. I’ve always been against the grain, but awards give you more readers, money and recognition. I am delighted to have received them. I do not deny
Q: Several times you have answered in interviews that you will work until your body lasts. What is your writing routine? What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a crime novel?
A: I start work at ten in the morning, I live in the countryside, in Vinaroz, and I didn’t stop until four in the afternoon. I stop working and don’t think about the novel until the next day in front of the computer. That is something that I have learned to do, that work does not accompany me all day. Because when you work in your own home you don’t separate. Now many of us have learned that with confinement and teleworking.
My advice to someone starting out is that he read all the styles of black novels that he sees how he poses it each author, where he goes, what he extracts, and then think, why a black novel? Do you just want to do it for success and because it’s fashionable? Bad, because fashions pass. There are thousands of black novel authors but if there is something from your inner world that you can get, go ahead.
Q: Will there be new installments of the Miralles sisters? Your characters live sexuality in a very free way. Will you introduce new forms of love relationships through social networks in future plots?
A: I don’t know if it’s going to be a series of the Miralles sisters, but maybe it will happen like with Petra, and then I’ll get excited about it. But in principle it is a book with its beginning and its end. We’ll see how the inspiration goes.
And then about sexuality. Well, I think that the pioneers were those of the 70s in considering that marriage was not the only way out, that you could make love without committing to a guy, etc, etc. But I think that now it has changed in many ways and I would like to explore it there, see how younger women take love and sexHow do you introduce it into your life? And if I continue, I’m sure there will be a lot of sex in the novels, a lot of fucking (he bursts out laughing).