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Wednesday 15 August 2018

Works in progress: (1) A Leon Cazador novel

A little background, first...

In the middle of 2005, I received a communication from a Spanish man, Leon Cazador. He wrote in English and this is it.

Dear Mr Morton

Forgive me for approaching you like this, but I was intrigued by your book Pain Wears No Mask, which is purportedly a novel. Yet the first person narrative suggests otherwise. I thought you captured the voice of Sister Rose perfectly. I feel you could do the same for me, too.
         Let me begin by saying that my allegiance is split because I’m half-English and half-Spanish. Mother had a whirlwind romance with a Spanish waiter but happily it didn’t end when the holiday was over. The waiter pursued her to England and they were married.
         I was born in Spain and I have a married sister, Pilar, and an older brother, Juan, who is an officer in the Guardia Civil. You may wonder why I am contacting you. Well, I am a private investigator and sometimes I operate in disguise under several aliases, among them Carlos Ortiz Santos, my little tribute to the fabled fictional character, Simon Templar.
         As a consequence of dealing with the authorities and criminals, I have observed in my two home countries the gradual deterioration of effective law enforcement and the disintegration of respect. My name translated into English is ‘Lion Hunter’. The Spanish sounds less pretentious, I think.
         When I was growing up in England, I never imagined there would be no-go areas in those great cities, places where the shadow of light falls on streets and minds. At weekends, some sections of many towns seem to be under siege.
         Now that I have returned to live in Spain, I find that it is not so bad here, though I must admits that there have been many changes over the last thirty years, most of them good, yet some to be deplored. It is heartening to see that family cohesion is still strong in most areas, but even that age-old stability is under threat. Yet, some urbanizaciones more resemble towns on the frontier of the Old West, where mayors can be bought, where lawlessness is endemic and civilised behaviour has barely a foothold. Even so, most nights you can walk the streets and feel safe here in Spain.
         I was not always a private investigator. I believe you will find I have led an interesting life. As Spain’s conscription didn’t cease until 2001, I decided to jump rather than be pushed and joined the Army, graduating as an Artillery Lieutenant. About a year later, I joined the Spanish Foreign Legion’s Special Operations Company (Bandera de operaciones especiales de la legión) and was trained in the United States at Fort Bragg, where I built up my knowledge about clandestine activities and weapons. Some months afterwards, I was recruited into the CESID (Centro Superior de Informacion de la Defensa), which later became the CNI (Centro Nacional de Inteligencia). Unlike most Western democracies, Spain runs a single intelligence organisation to handle both domestic and foreign risks.
         I am one of those fortunate individuals capable of learning a foreign language with ease: I grew up bilingual, speaking English and Spanish, and soon learned Portuguese, French, German, Arabic, Chinese, and basic Japanese. Part of my intelligence gathering entailed my transfer to the Spanish Embassy in Washington, D.C. There, I met several useful contacts in the intelligence community, and at the close of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan I embarked on a number of secret missions to that blighted land with CIA operatives. By the time the Soviet withdrawal was a reality, I was transferred to the Spanish Embassy in Tokyo, liaising with both intelligence and police organisations. Secret work followed in China, the Gulf and Yugoslavia.
         A year after witnessing the atrocity of the Twin Towers while stationed with the United Nations, I returned to civilian life and set up a private investigation firm. During periods of leave and while stationed in Spain, I established a useful network of contacts in law enforcement, notably the Guardia Civil. One of my early cases resulted in me becoming financially set for life, so now I conduct my crusade against villains of all shades, and in the process attempt to save the unwary from the clutches of conmen, rogues and crooks.
         To begin with, I would like to relate to you several of my private eye cases, changing names as appropriate, of course. Perhaps at a later date I might be able to go into some detail about certain clandestine operations. Would you be interested in meeting me with a view to writing about these cases as fiction ‘in my own words’?
         I remain,
         Yours truly
         Leon Cazador
Pain Wears No Mask has since been republished, with some changes, as The Bread of Tears, and has picked up its fair share of favourable reviews. 

Needless to say, I couldn’t miss the meeting. Señor Cazador is a remarkable individual and I have since transcribed 23 of his cases in the collection Leon Cazador, P.I. 

He also appears in the ‘Avenging Cat’ novels, Catalyst and Catacomb currently published by Crooked Cat Books.

Leon continues to supply me with information that I am gathering for additional short stories and a novel which I’m writing now, though this will be from the third person perspective. I hope it will be ready this year (2018).

Leon Cazador, P.I. – some reviews

… These stories are humorous, insightful and sometimes tragic. Leon Cazador is not afraid to bring the bad men to justice, and so help to restore the balance in this world. Beautifully written with a simple and uncluttered style which draws you in to the heart of the story. Highly recommended! - Laura Graham, actress, author of Down a Tuscan Alley

…While reading these exciting stories I experienced a myriad of emotions. I laughed, cried, and became incensed. I cheered and clapped, but most of all I felt a confirmation of universal values. - E.B. Sullivan, author of Different Hearts

A likable protagonist in Leon Cazador, a colorful international flavor, and some terrific writing make these stories about a PI who likes bringing the ungodly to justice a very enjoyable read. Leon has a heart, yet uses common sense in his assessment of problems in Spain and Europe, often in refreshing contrast to political correctness.
Some stories involve criminal cases, others are more adventure oriented. Some are just stories about Spain’s people Leon has known and helped. My only caveat is that the first couple of longer short stories were good enough that it made the shorter ones which followed — there were a slew of them, so you definitely don’t get cheated — seem like quick shots rather than a full glass… I liked the old-fashioned Saint vibe blended with modern day Spain and with an interesting half-English half-Spanish protagonist in Leon Cazador. The colorful flavor of Spain and an international vibe give these stories some spice… – Bobby Underwood, author

… a marvelous collection of short stories linked by a common protagonist, the private investigator Leon Cazador. Yet, each story is unique in setting and plot, drawing on the author's remarkable breadth of knowledge and extraordinarily full life, spiced by a genuine loathing for evil and wrong-doing. We learn a great deal about the history, culture, lore, and landscape of Spain and meet a diverse cast of characters, as Cazador sees to it that a variety of miscreants, petty and grand, are appropriately done in. Mr. Morton is a gifted writer, a modern-day Aesop, only more complex, providing entertaining stories, each with a moral. You have no idea of the treat that is in store for you. – Charles Ameringer, author of The Old Spook.

A particular difficulty with short stories is that they are exactly that – short. All too often they can be over before they have really begun, leaving the reader somewhat frustrated. But Nik Morton has managed to create a collection of individual stories in this particular book which are absolute little gems. The pace of each is perfectly judged to reach its conclusion at just the right time and in just the right way. Nik has also managed in many of them to weave in topical Spanish themes and issues such as immigrants trying to get into Spain from North Africa, drug running, memories of the Civil War and the corruption of Land Grab in Valencia to name but a few. I can thoroughly recommend this book. Not only will the tales appeal to general lovers of short stories but in particular those with experience of living in Spain will I’m sure feel a certain resonance with these stories. – Amazon reviewer.


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