Antonio Hill follows up his Spanish sun-soaked crime debut The Summer of Dead Toys with his second Inspector Salgado mystery, The Good Suicides. A cryptic and unnerving message is sent to a select group of managers at a cosmetics company: a horrifying photo of dogs hanging from a tree accompanied by the line, "Never forget." Soon, those on the receiving end of the email begin committing suicide in grotesquely creative ways, and the rattled Salgado is thrust into the investigation.
We caught up with Hill and chatted about Barcelona's best (and not-so-great) qualities, his work in literary translation and more in a 7 questions interview.
Describe your book in one sentence.
After a woman in her 30s jumps in front of a subway train, Inspector Héctor Salgado will discover that one of her colleagues killed his own family and himself not long ago; besides their tragic deaths, working in the same company is the only thing both people have in common. . . .
What do you love most about Inspector Héctor Salgado?
There are a few things in Héctor that I like. For one, he’s stubborn—in the good sense of the word. He never gives up, and not only because he’s paid for doing the job. He is very sensitive to the idea of truth. Justice cannot always be achieved, but at least, for him, we owe the victims the effort of finding the truth and exposing it to the light. He is a good friend and tries to be a decent father, although he knows he’s far from being perfect. But for me, even his bad temper is becoming a good quality now that he’s learning to manage that anger in a positive way.
Both of your novels have been set in Barcelona. What makes Barcelona such a good location for a mystery?
Barcelona is a great location for any sort of story, but it’s been especially [great] in crime fiction, and I can’t explain it. In my case, I wanted to portray a city I love deeply with all its contradictions: Barcelona can be charming and elusive at the same time, and its biggest ambition—to stand out from Madrid, the capital of Spain—has made it a cosmopolitan place. It is perhaps the most “European” of all Spanish cities, but little by little the city has forgotten the needs of its real inhabitants and decided to show the world only a beautiful, modern and sunny façade. The fact that I used a cosmetics lab as a setting in The Good Suicides has something to do with that false idea of beauty that the city tries to project.
Name one book you think everyone should read.
The good thing about reading is that you can choose from millions of books. But if I had to name one or two, I’d pick up To Kill a Mockingbird and One Hundred Years of Solitude.
You have translated a great deal of acclaimed literary fiction from authors such as David Sedaris and Jonathan Safran Foer. What do you enjoy most about translation?
There is something voyeuristic in translation. You get to know an author’s work even better than him/herself sometimes, [if] only because you have to deconstruct every sentence in order to write it again in a foreign language and, at the same time, keep the rhythm of the prose. It is very hard work and not always appreciated enough by readers and publishers.
What are you working on next?
I have just finished the third Salgado novel, Los Amantes de Hiroshima, and I plan to take a real break for a couple of months.
Author photo by Jaume Recoder