Below are synopses of my four previously published dramatic works of fiction (three written in Spanish and later translated into English, and one originally written in English). I also encourage you to visit the Stanford University repository, if you would like to see a consolidated collection of my academic papers on history and philosophy of classic or contemporary English Literature.
Talismán (Talisman) (2005) in Spanish, Random House Publishing, New York, NY, USA, ISBN: 0000000000. (Sold over 3.5 million copies world-wide, across 4 reprintings.)
Much is revealed at the fireside chat. Secrets of the ugliest kind. Even sinister things. And, events have come to make sense, but we may wish we had lived out our lives never having known. The Canadian couple can be amusing, though he’s proven to be a bit too rough around the edges, especially the razor edges of his bizarre humor. And, she is acquiescent. Still, they’re cute and lively, and the only other trekkers that Tom and Ingrid had encountered so far in Chiapas…
So, when Max, the Canadian, makes an obnoxious joke about stealing Mexican babies, they could brush it off as more of his drunken idiocy. What could they do anyway, leave, try to make the couple leave the campsite the four of them had set up together? It just doesn’t really work that way when you’re the only travelers in a very remote area at night in a foreign country. Anyway, they know they’ll happily never see them again after tomorrow morning, so the thing is just to relax and get through an annoying evening.
But, when they offer you a ride to the train station in the morning in their van, and you find a wriggling blanket with a baby inside that wasn’t with them the night before—and which they haven’t even bothered to mention, much less explain—you know something’s coming, right now!
You’re not really very surprised to turn your head and see a gun barrel an inch away from your face. So, Tom was not entirely shocked at that point to hear Ingrid crying in the distance. From there, it’s a mission to get her and yourself out of sight of that van and range of that gun, alive…possibly killing one or even two people, if it comes to it…and somehow saving a baby in the process. But, the self-amused and highly-strategic kidnapping partiers inform Tom that they need him to help them pick up another baby…
Cuna de las Montañas (Cradle Of The Mountains) in English, (2008) Random House Publishing, New York, NY, USA, ISBN: 0000000000. (Sold over 5.3 million copies world-wide, across 7 reprintings.)
The small-town years in Antigua, in the cradle of created between a triad of towering volcanos, with its unceasing trickle of tourists, familial daily routines, civic rituals, youthful excursions to Guatemala City are all set in memory. Above all, I think, the long-felt angst in gazing upon the craters of the three beasts changes young boys. They set goals. Boyish goals. One was to hike to the tops, and look down into each of the three evil cones. These were goals set before the boys knew that most of them would grow up, move away, and leave that noble aim behind forever.
This story is not about myself, but about the self I wish I had been during my own youth in Antigua. I would have made myself a more thoughtful boy, less stuck in my own mind on mathematical curiosities and trivial technological innovations, and more fixated on Frost’s point that “knowing that way leads onto way” it was unlikely that I would really ever go back…
The imagined boy, the alter-ego, does not hate the craters as I did. He really does long to scale the triplet volcanos that cradle the painfully quaint and pretty, and monstrously vulnerable town of Antigua. He daydreams about what he would find peering down into one of those craters, maybe some steam! Or, bubbling lava! Or, even some red cracks! The alter-me takes some friends, including, of course, the prettiest girl in our ninth grade class, some water pouches, fruit, sandwiches and blankets, and set out for a summit chosen at random.
Years pass. We’ve scaled two cones. Nothing too curious was in the craters, a lot of organic growth and some spooky hints of smooth black areas. One member of our happy party has died an early death from insufficient medical care, barely seventeen years old. Another married at 16, and long ago began losing time for such frivolities as scaling the third cone, busily working, struggling, and caring for a baby. Another member of our band of explorers met with a hideous and fatal end during the trip up the second cone, at the summit, in fact, at the edge of the crater.
The other three of us are in our mid-thirties now. I, rather alter-I, was the one who did not move away from Antigua after all, though I had planned to do so more passionately than the others. Our group of Antiguan volcanic cone climbers has dwindled in numbers of available participants, indeed, with only two others of our original band of eight ever bothering to revisit Antigua, though most live in Guatemala City, just an hour below. Except one, Enrique.
Enrique had moved years ago toward much more distant career horizons in Las Angeles, CA. He should never have been expected to return to visit Antigua with his wife and two adolescent kids. Much less likely would it have seemed that he would think to look up alter-me (Roberto) and his lovely expat US American wife, Jane.
And, it certainly wouldn’t have been anticipated that they would all start chatting over dinner about that nagging, final unseen crater, or that after a little too much wine, they would all commit to make the hike the next day. And, no one could have foreseen the curious events they would witness as they made their way up that final cone, nor clear and heartbreaking evidence of earlier lost innocence that they would discover at that last crater…
Del Lobo (Of The Wolf) (2011) in Spanish, Simon & Schuster Publishing, New York, NY, USA, ISBN: 0000000000. (Sold over 7.4 million copies world-wide, across 6 reprintings.)
The story is told from the perspective of a young girl—a departure from Salvador’s usual first person male vantage—on a desolate Latin American beach, a long way from home, and a long way from civilization. It’s a forgotten beach. It’s well forgotten. Several miles of weirdly rotting scrub brush between anything growing or any signs of normal life, and then at least a mile of dirty sand cut with knarled ruts of ocean water and stagnant rain across the most dreadful deserted, barren terrain, and then a few paltry dunes guarding a strip of dead-fish-covered, stinking sand along the water front.
But, it’s all okay. This is just a simple, quiet weekend of camping on some beach, any isolated beach, with the new boyfriend. How bad can it be? Pick a dune…set up camp…start a fire…eat a steak…drink beer…sit back and wait for the stars to come out. Still, he did say he knows this place. Then, why come back to it? It’s covered in carcasses and emanating the stench of death. But, he seems aggressively fixed on staying. In the nearly twelve months she’s known him, she’s never seen him be inflexible. He’s always acted reasonably.
First, the blanket, spread out on a dune, quickly starts teeming with huge, clumsy beetle bugs. She’s in the spirit of the camping trip, and is certainly a good sport about some harmless beetles, no matter how many there are, or how relentlessly they’ve overrun her space. It’s just that every other area of the dunes as far as she can see is beetle-free, but the blanket is virtually solid black with beetles.
But, the beetles are of no concern when a very bold group of nine large-ish wild dogs—who seem unclear on whether or not their species preys on people, perhaps because they never see people out here—come close, only a dune away and stand their ground, staring eye to eye with her, persisting. As the boyfriend carries the last few items from the car, parked on the stinking sea-debris-strewn beach below, she resolves not to be deterred from having a nice weekend.
But, she does wonder about those dogs. How many more are there in that group? How hungry are they out here, with so few apparent food sources? She’s never heard of a pack of dogs eating sleeping dune campers. So, she will try to amuse herself with the remaining dozen beetles, now that most have moved on, apparently back into the sand (where she can only hope they will stay through the night).
Anyway, she’s much more concerned with a new predator, a confirmed one. Within minutes, a sky full of mosquitos descend on the beach in force, quickly driving her back down the dune and inside the now blazing-hot car to escape. She can’t open the window, not even an inch, the swarm is enveloping the car. And, she can’t run the AC all afternoon, because this is the true middle of nowhere; she can’t just run the engine until the gas tank is empty.
The new boyfriend is refusing to leave. He’s determined to outwait the mosquitos. She tries to reason with him, but he screams with rage at her through the window, slapping the window hard at her face, vehemently demanding that she get out of the car. That’s new. He’s never shown the slightest sign of being capable of behaving that way. But, then, she hasn’t seen him met with instance of adversity until now.
She watches as he furiously marches back up the dune, and then sits…like an incomprehensibly resolved yogi up there up on the dune, thickly covered with the intensely attacking swarm of mosquitos. He had immediately given up trying to kill or even discourage them, opting instead for the peculiar, creepy, and rather alarming alternative of permitting himself to be a mosquito feeding post for what must be thousands of biting bugs.
Her companion has increasingly become the most disturbing thing among the miserable life forms on this god-forsaken beach. He’s just sitting up there, still as a statue, not bothering even to protect his face or arms with a shirt, much less his legs with the blanket.
Is it just laziness perhaps that makes him utterly reject the common sense idea of simply driving to another beach? Or, is it something else? Is this a strange experience of beholding a particular manifestation of a silent mental meltdown? Well, it appears she may have all night in the back of that car to find out…
Caminando Salvaje (Walking Wild) (2015) in Spanish, Simon & Schuster Publishing, New York, NY, USA, ISBN: 0000000000. (Sold over 12 million copies world-wide, across 7 reprintings.)
Walking Wild is a representation of the national angst of the Guatemalan male youth during the world’s longest civil war. The story is set along the winding road of the exotic jagged northern Guatemalan mountains. The road is run by steady streams of school bus commuter busses packed tightly with local villagers and the occasional wide-eyed misplaced gringo smiling at passengers and chickens alike.
All make their way cheerfully, as the busses pitch from left to right along the tight turns on the slivers of inadequate roadways through the magical scenery from Talisman at the Chiapan border of Southern Mexico. The bus heads toward points south, to Huehuetenango, and on to Quetzaltenango, right through the garment district, and on to its final destination of Guatemala City.
The tale tells of the rising political tensions, as machete-wielding groups of rebels routinely emerge from the jungle, where they’ve obscurely stationed themselves along the bus routes at their own chosen checkpoints. It recounts the fear and bewilderment of one foreign traveler as a few of the machete men enter the bus and walk the isle, ordering all the males off the bus, per their usual unofficial procedure. All of the male passengers except the foreigner are standing as ordered, facing the bus, legs spread, with hands on the side of the bus, for body searches and questioning. The traveler stands back from the proceeding, not understanding that he had not been required to exit the bus at all. He is surprised and cautiously relieved at the surprising reserve of the group in control, at their careful judgment in managing the affair. But, he recoils in shock and terror at what suddenly goes wrong, when one of the local male passengers is suspected by that civilian militia. Now, what will they do with the foreign witness?