Minos: A Romilia Chacon Novel
Edition: Paperback, 416 pages
Publisher: Dell (March 1, 2005)

The award-winning Home Killings, Marcos M. Villatoro's first Romilia Chacon novel, won dazzling acclaim for its fusion of character, suspense, and a gripping police procedural swirling around a fiery Latina detective. Now, in a new novel filled with the same remarkable precision and power, Romilia Chacon turns back to the reason she became a cop in the first place: to hunt for the sadist who took her sister's life and has kept on killing ever since.

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On Tuesday, When the Homeless Disappeared
Edition: Paperback, 88 pages
Publisher: University of Arizona Press (September 1, 2004)

Novelist, activist, and radio personality Villatoro writes poetry steeped in his own Salvadoran syntax. This new collection is a memoir-in-poems telling how the world appears to a Latin American immigrant. Combining Borgean logic, the grit of Neruda, and a heady dose of Zen, it offers a primer on how to integrate a history of brutality and injustice with the privilege and comfort of life in America.

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Home Killings
Edition: Paperback, 368 pages
Publisher: Dell (August 31, 2004)

Teeming with the shadows of revolution in Central America, the illicit drug trade, and pre-Colombian Myth, this spell-binding detective novel featuring Latin detective offers many new twists to the genre.

Romilia Chacon, a rookie in the Nashville police force, finds herself thrown immmediately into her first big case on her new beat. Are the ceremonially slaughtered cadavers popping up around town the product of ancient ritual, a serial killer or a campaign to shock rival drug lords into compliance? Can the recently arrived detective prove herself on her first assignment while juggling her work and her home, where mother and child are both so dependent on her? Combatting the machismo of the police force and the challenges of being an outsider within the Latino community, Chacon follows the trail of murder in this fully textured and well-developed whodunit.

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Minos: A Romilia Chacon Mystery
Edition: Hardcover, 320 pages
Publisher: Justin, Charles & Co. (September 25, 2003)

At the start of Villatoro's scintillating, densely plotted sequel to 2001's Home Killing, bilingual Nashville cop Romilia Chacon has been searching for six years for "the Whisperer," the serial killer who murdered her older sister, Catalina. Romilia's hunt for the elusive Whisperer, now calling himself Minos (after the mythical monster in Dante's Inferno), is interrupted when she finds herself in the hospital with a horrible gash on her neck, a near-fatal wound from another killer she was pursuing. Her struggle to come to terms with the large, unsightly scar she will always bear quietly wins her the reader's sympathy. During her convalescence, she discovers the Internet and an entirely new way to investigate the Whisperer. An unexpected source, however, provides the most help: drug lord Rafael Murillo, a creepy yet alluring figure also known by the Mayan name Tekun Um n. Romilia inadvertently saved his life when she was wounded, and in return Tekun steals FBI files on the Whisperer and sends them to her. There's something appealing, in spite of his nature, in Tekun's devotion to Romilia. In addition, the contrast of a palpably present, ambiguous antagonist, Tekun, and the evil Whisperer creates a compelling, dramatic balance. The ending resolves beautifully, but that is really secondary considering how well the story works as a whole.

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Home Killings
Edition: Paperback, 288 pages
Publisher: Arte Publico Press; 1st edition (March 1, 2001)

Teeming with the shadows of revolution in Central America, the illicit drug trade, and pre-Colombian Myth, this spell-binding detective novel featuring Latin detective offers many new twists to the genre.

Romilia Chacon, a rookie in the Nashville police force, finds herself thrown immmediately into her first big case on her new beat. Are the ceremonially slaughtered cadavers popping up around town the product of ancient ritual, a serial killer or a campaign to shock rival drug lords into compliance? Can the recently arrived detective prove herself on her first assignment while juggling her work and her home, where mother and child are both so dependent on her? Combatting the machismo of the police force and the challenges of being an outsider within the Latino community, Chacon follows the trail of murder in this fully textured and well-developed whodunit.

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The Holy Spirit of My Uncle's Cojones: A Novel
Edition: Paperback, 298 pages
Publisher: Arte Publico Press; 1st edition (1999)

At times charming, sometimes trite, this is the fictional memoir of Antonio McCaugh Villalobos, a semisuicidal 34-year-old, half Appalachian-Scot, half Salvadoran from Tennessee. Tony published a novel in his early 20s, based on his Salvadoran family's history. A decade later, he has become an introverted journeyman English professor, splitting his time between the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and two small neighboring colleges. When his mother calls from San Francisco to tell him that his Uncle Jack has died, he seizes upon the excuse to escape a confrontation with his live-in lover, a foxy 23-year-old grad student whom he has just discovered serving up more than tennis balls with her blond partner, who is hung like his racket handle. Struggling to reconcile his mixed ethnicities, Tony is something of a basket case and has an adolescent fixation on the size of his equipment. His pilgrimage to the Bay Area brings back memories of the summer he was 16, when he was sent West by his mother after slashing his wrists over a girl, and placed under the tutelage of his pot-smoking rakehell Uncle Jack as a primitive exercise in psychotherapy. The bulk of the narrative recounts Tony's exploits as drug-dealing Uncle Jack flees south of the border to escape the mob. Hiding out in the boonies with Jack's sensual ex-wife, Ricarda, young Tony's hangups are exorcised, and when he returns home, he is, however tenuously, a man. Villatoro's (A Fire in the Earth) depiction of the fiery Latino personality and plentiful dialogue in Spanish add color to the narrative. Sexual initiation, ethnic conflict, penis envy and mushroom and mescaline-laced voodoo make for some colorful scenes, and, while Tony's odyssey of self-pity has its longueurs, the slyly humorous ending should satisfy macho readers.

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Walking to LA Milpa: Living in Guatemala With Armies, Demons, Abrazos, and Death
Edition: Hardcover, 177 pages
Publisher: Moyer Bell Ltd.; 1st. ed edition (November 1, 1996)

Milpa means cornfield, which is sacred to farmers of Central America who depend on corn for sustenance. The term is a symbol of the culture that Villatoro, a poet and novelist (A Fire in the Earth), wished to experience. In 1989, he and his wife left Alabama to live in Poptun, a Guatemalan village, as lay missionaries of the Maryknoll order. The author was not entirely an outsider: his mother, a San Salvadoran who had fled to the U.S., kept alive her Latin culture and Villatoro grew up in East Tennessee feeling close to it. Nevertheless, to the Poptun villagers he was a gringo. Here, in a series of vignettes, he conveys the character and ambience of the town and its people, whose lives are suffused with fear and violence. However, Villatoro does not discuss politics but focuses this sensitive memoir on the warmth and fortitude of the people.

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They Say That I Am Two: Poems
Edition: Paperback, 85 pages
Publisher: Arte Publico Press (May 1, 1997)

From 1985 to 1996, Marcos McPeek Villatoro lived in various Latino worlds, both in the United States and in Central America. A richly hued-tapestry of his life and the lives of the people around him during that decade emerges in They Say that I Am Two. Villatoro writes about witnessing friends disappear in raids by immigration agents and making love in a Guatemalan jungle where death squads wait silently outside the door. As a man of two distinct ethnic backgrounds, his poetry invites us to explore the deeper, sometimes disturbing questions regarding race and culture. His verse, both in English and Spanish, draws us into the personal and the political, from the vision of a beautiful, young Nicaraguan woman guarding the Honduran border during wartime to the raucous, heretical reflections upon organized religion. Poignant, comic and planted deep in the rich soil of many languages and voices, They Say that I Am Two introduces the unique and singular voice of a man whose poetry resists the entrapment of borders.

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A Fire in the Earth
Edition: Hardcover, 496 pages
Publisher: Arte Publico Press (March 1, 1996)

El Salvador from 1870 through the 1930s is the setting for this sprawling populist mural of a novel. The title refers to an earthquake that creates a volcanic mound where Romilia Vasquez, a strong woman of Indian peasant stock born during the quake, later tills the land. No surprise, the (somewhat idealized) traditional ways of indigenous peoples, including the communitarian ethic of the campesinos, are pulverized as big landowners sell out to imperialistic U.S., German and British corporations, which then dispossess whole communities and tear down forests to grow coffee for export. In telling his tale of exploitation, Villatoro, who has published stories in both English and Spanish in a variety of small literary magazines, evinces special empathy for the plight of women, particularly Romilia, whose wealthy, crude husband, Patricio Colonez, treats her like a possession, and Necira Reyes, who's kidnapped and forced to undergo a brutal abortion because her father and brothers don't want her to have a child with Indian blood. Sketching characters broadly, Villatoro follows Romilia's son, Paco, as he joins his communist comrades in New York and returns to El Salvador to lead a workers' uprising that is brutally crushed by machine gun-toting government-backed troops. This is not a novel of character but rather an imaginative testimony on behalf of an entire people.

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