by Osvaldo Aguirre
A bank robber, another bank robber's girlfriend, a defense attorney, and a crime reporter for the local newspaper all weigh in on a crime spree set in and around Rosario, Argentina in this high octane new novel from badass rosarino Osvaldo Aguirre. While the nominal center of attention in Leyenda negra [Black Legend] is the rise and fall of career criminal Dámaso Ferreyra, a non-cookie cutter antihero from Uruguay who finds a Napoleon biography in the prison library and mulls over the lessons to be learned from the notion that the Corsican's best battle tactically might actually have been the one where he suffered his greatest defeat at Waterloo, the gang leader's story only gradually comes into focus via the Savage Detectives-like first person testimony of those who knew him. Thematically, think of the Arlt/Piglia wing of Argentinean crime fiction as encapsulated in the follow the money trail formula of Bertolt Brecht: "¿Qué es robar un banco comparado con fundarlo?" ["What is robbing a bank compared with founding one?"]. Hugo Arrivillaga: "No miento si digo que en San Nicolás, en Pergamino, estaba la policía más corrupta de la Argentina. En San Nicolás, en Pergamino, uno iba a un hecho y si no se encontraba con el jefe de la departamental estaba por lo menos el jefe de la comisaría supervisando que todo se hiciera como era debido. Por lo menos" ["I'm not lying if I say that the most corrupt police in Argentina were in San Nicolás, in Pergamino. In San Nicolás, in Pergamino, you'd go to a job and if you didn't run into the police chief, there'd be at least the precinct station head there making sure that things were going as they should. At least" (ePub, no page numbers). García Jurado: "Me dicen abogado de delincuentes. Está bien. No lo niego, al contrario. Soy un abogado de delincuentes y lo digo con orgullo. Si pudiera, lo pondría en la placa, bien grande. Las mejores personas que conocí han sido delincuentes. Las más honestas" ["They call me a lawyer for criminals. That's all right. I don't deny it, on the contrary. I'm a lawyer for criminals, and I say it with pride. If I could, I'd put it on the plaque, nice and big. The best people I've met have been criminals. The most honest"]. Aguirre, whose background as a poet and a onetime crime reporter prob. made him uniquely suited to tell this story about what one character calls "los hijos ilegítimos del sistema" ["the illegitimate children of the system"] in the way that he has, has scratched practically all my Argentinean Literature of Doom itches with this anti-law & order thrill ride--which is really saying something to maybe one or two of you at best. For everybody else, wow.