Mar 9, 2017

Ex-El Paso journalist Raul Hernandez discusses his new book

Cover of author's latest book.
Former El Paso journalist discusses his new book

The Digie Zone Express interviewed author Raul Hernandez about his newest book "The Dead Sea Bar and Grill," a readable and funny tale filled with colorful characters. This memorable book is a must read.  - DZN staff

Here is an excerpt of that interview:

I am a native of El Paso, Texas, who has lived in Santa Barbara, California, for the past 17 years.  I worked for more than 30 years as a journalist at three newspapers, the now-closed El Paso Herald-Post, the El Paso Times, the Press Enterprise in Riverside, California and the Ventura County Star in California.

I have written four books "Stepping on the Devil's Tail;" "The Dead Sea Bar and Grill;" "The Serape Notebook" and "La Mariposa Cafe."

Two books, "Stepping on the Devil's Tail" and "The Dead Sea Bar and Grill" have been published.

I am the editor and publisher of a criminal justice website: CJ Notebook. The website keeps me very busy.

I have been writing my books for more than three decades. But work and other interests kept me from writing full time.  I must have written, edited and rewritten each book more than a thousand times. So I'm finally publishing my books.

I love writing and bleed ink. It is self-therapy too because writing allows a person to go to places an author creates and after a while, the characters seem to hold your hand and take you where you never planned on going.  So you end up with different and better stories and different endings to novels.

It is a love and joy to create these worlds and these complex characters.

New book

My latest book, "The Dead Sea Bar and Grill," is a comedy about tough guys trying to hide tender hearts and painful pasts who get involved in an elaborate scheme to con Arab and other oil barons during the height of the 1977 oil embargo.

One of the main characters is a New York City pint-size pimp named Butch Badovich who owns a stable of women nobody wants: they are too fat, too old or too ugly. So Butch gives credit to shut-ins, the maimed and other losers. The problem is that some of them rack up credit and don't pay Butch.

Butch needs muscle and goes down into a church basement where Frankie "Frankenstein" Finch is working as a janitor. Frankie was an up-and-coming heavyweight boxer in the late 1950s but lost that dream because he wouldn't take a dive in the ring.  Frankie is about to take his life when Butch shows up in the basement. Frankie is not pleased to see him.

"Don't consider this a visit. Look at it as an opportunity. I got a job offer for you," Butch tells Frankie.

I began this book during a creative writing class at the University of Texas at El Paso in 1976. Several people who have edited or read "The Dead Sea Bar and Grill" said the story would make a great movie.

My first published book, "Stepping on the Devil's Tail," has characters that were influenced by people I knew and met when covering federal and state courts for 18 years for three different newspapers. That book is a crime thriller about a burned-out journalist who works at an El Paso newsroom.

None of my books are set in Santa Barbara. It is a beautiful city but it's bland and compact. It lacks the salsa, passion, and heart of El Paso and its people.  El Paso's biggest asset is not its mountains or deserts but its "gente" (people) who are very down-to-earth and friendly.

I hope to publish my third book, "The Serape Notebook," at the end of this year. It is about two brothers growing up in El Paso during the time of the Vietnam War, and wow Vietnam changed their lives.

It is, basically, a love story about two brothers.

It is difficult for Hispanics to publish. Many in the publishing industry still believe Hispanics don't read books and that few of us can write them. 

Hopefully, somebody will be smart enough to start a publishing company that will pump out solid novels about Hispanic doctors, lawyers, detectives, teachers or soldiers.  Many more positive stories about middle-class Hispanics need to be written because it is a large multi-million-dollar market that's waiting to be tapped.

Going beyond stereotypes

Quite frankly, I am tired of reading the same, mundane stories about Paco going to his grandmother's house on his donkey to get a cleansing or people hiding from La Migra (Border Patrol) or and an "ese" gang book about the "homies" roaming the barrio.

I once told an artist friend when she took me to an Hispanic art show and seeing the wall-to-wall Mexican artwork about death and ghouls, "one of you guys needs to bust out with a Norman Rockwell or something like that."

I loved the late artist Manuel Acosta's paintings that depicted the blood, sweat, and tears of everyday Mexican-Americans in El Paso.

Don't get me wrong the skeletons, ghouls and fascination-with-death paintings are great but we are much more than that. The rich tapestry of Mexican-American heritage and culture is still in its infancy at bookstore shelves, on the silver screen and the art world.

I have faith that Hispanic youngsters will change much of this because they will recognize the need to write novels about our Hispanic middle and upper-class American footprint that is growing stronger every day.

Author Raul Hernandez


DZN Note: Raul Hernandez's book is available on Amazon in paperback ($12.99) and Kindle ($8.99) versions.