Mulholland Books is pleased to announce the acquisition of Richard Lange’s new novel Angel Baby. Celebrate with us with the below guest post from the Guggenheim Fellowship recipient and author of the acclaimed novel This Wicked World and short story collection Dead Boys. Welcome to the team, Richard!
Tijuana lies sprawled along the line where the U.S. and Mexico crash into each other like two tectonic plates. This convergence leads to a certain seismic instability, and the city is constantly being rattled by tremors of one sort or another, whether it be drug murders or a political scandal. Business continues as usual, though, because that’s what business does, barely taking notice of all of the little calamities that somehow miraculously never add up to a major catastrophe.
It’s a city of two million hardworking people, 7,000 stray dogs, and lots of noisy black ravens. Technically, it sits in Mexico, 20 minutes south of downtown San Diego, three hours from L.A., but it’s a border city, perhaps the quintessential border city, and as such is neither Mexican nor American. “Tijuana isn’t Mexico,” people say, and they’re right, but it’s not a suburb of San Diego either. It’s not even some strange amalgamation of the two. Instead, like all great cities – Los Angeles, New York, Paris – it’s completely unique, possessing a personality that sets it apart from every other place in the world. It has its own culture, its own language, its own dreams and nightmares.
The city was a sleepy backwater until Prohibition, when Hollywood and the mob began to come down to drink and gamble. Later, it became the playground of servicemen stationed in San Diego, offering all the depravity an 18-year-old sailor could want. Regular tourists started venturing across the border in droves in the 1950s. They came in search of spicy food, cheap margaritas, and souvenirs for the folks back home — an oversized sombrero, maybe, or a silver ring that would turn your finger green after a week, or a life-size plaster skull wearing a Nazi helmet.
Today Tijuana isn’t the tourist Mecca it once was, but it’s still one of the fastest-growing cities in Mexico due to the many foreign-owned factories that have located there in order to take advantage of cheap labor. These maquiladoras attract workers from all over the country. There is also a sizeable transient population made up of people who are waiting to slip cross the border into the U.S. or have been deported from there.
The scrappy metropolis has long fascinated me. I’ve written about it in a couple of short stories, and a portion of my new novel, Angel Baby (Mulholland, Spring 2013), takes place there. Some of my visits are chronicled in the half dozen blurry black-and-white photos I have that show me sitting in carts behind different sad-eyed donkeys painted to look like zebras, all shot by various Tijuana street photographers over the years.