cover image The Mongolian Conspiracy

The Mongolian Conspiracy

Rafael Bernal, trans. from the Spanish by Katherine Silver. New Directions, $14.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2066-8

First published in 1969, this Mexico City noir is a lot of fun and packs an unexpected wallop, despite its Cold War kitsch. Filiberto García, a grizzled hired gun, tries to help foil a suspected plot by Communist Chinese-Mongolians to assassinate the presidents of Mexico and the United States during the latter’s upcoming visit to Mexico City to unveil a statue. Working with agents from the KGB and FBI, García goes deep into the opium dens and restaurants of the city’s Chinatown, where he falls for the beautiful and doomed Marta, a young Chinese woman who brings out García’s dormant chivalrous side. While Bernal (1915–1972) switches freely between third-person and first-person, the style works well and adds a feverish feeling to the novel. The real magic is in the character of García himself, a walking anachronism in the freewheeling counterculture of the late 1960s. This absurdist pastiche is equal parts Richard Stark and Philip Atlee with echoes of Chester Himes and Paco Ignacio Taibo II. (Nov.)