In screenwriter Gregory Widen’s first novel, Blood Makes Noise, a junior CIA officer and an Argentinian revolutionary each has his reasons for seeking to protect the corpse of Evita Perón.
You mention the “restless journey” of Evita’s corpse in your acknowledgments, but what motivated you to base an entire novel around her remains?
There was so much mystery and suspense at the time of her disappearance—not only about where her body might have been hidden, but what secrets she might have been buried with—that it seemed like an obvious framework for a literary thriller. Mid-’50s Argentina was such an interesting time, with spies and coups and revolutionaries, combined with the history of nearly open warfare between the CIA and FBI there during that period—a fascinating story that’s never really been told—that I thought it a setting people hadn’t read about before.
Your novel is rich in details, ranging from embassy life and procedures to the feel of neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. How did you go about researching?
Lots of footwork. Many of the locations depicted still exist and you can visit them. It always helps to be able to stand in the actual place where something happened. I also had the invaluable help of some current and retired CIA station chiefs who worked in Buenos Aires and knew all the stories, as well as helping with the kind of mundane facts of daily life there as a spook that really helps a writer make a setting feel tangible and real.
There’s quite a variety in your screenwriting projects, ranging from Highlander to Backdraft. Have you considered how you could turn this novel into a screenplay?
I honestly wrote a novel because that’s how I wanted to tell this story. But sure, the story itself is very cinematic and in many ways more dramatically linear than some movies I’ve written/directed, like The Prophecy. So, sure, it’d make a great movie.
Where do you think Evita rests today?
Ha, good question. Officially, she’s in the Duarte family crypt in Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, but it’s known historically that her embalmer, Pedro Ara, to confuse her enemies, made at least one “spare” head and possibly an “extra” body by surgically altering another corpse. He was famous for those abilities and was known to present at parties the embalmed head of a peasant he’d altered to look like Clark Gable. So who can say if the real Evita is buried there?