The Beginners Guide to the 40th Anniversary of Franco’s Death – ‘History’ Remains Fluid

El Caudillo. The Generalissimo. Supreme patriotic military hero by the Grace of God. Whatever you want to call him, Franco was a short man with a penchant for moustaches and murder. When people think of dictators, they think of Franco’s mate Hitler, or more current dictators such as Mugabe or the North Koreans with bad haircuts. Some would say Franco was a coward in comparison, or more moderate. If you turn from the word dictator and instead to fascism, the dictionary will give you Franco as a definition. Call Franco whatever you like, but November 20 is the day to celebrate his slow and painful death. The day in 1975 when cava and champagne bottles were popping faster than overheated popcorn. That day, Spaniards, at home and in exile, could finally shake off their not-so wonderful leader.

Born in December 1892 in Galicia, Francisco Paulino Hermenegildo Teódulo Franco Bahamonde was one in a long line of relatives in the navy. But instead Franco chose the army in 1907, and worked his way through the ranks through wars in Morocco, and was shot in the stomach in 1916, and lost a testicle (it is rumoured). He continued fighting and winning medals, and by the mid-twenties, he was ranked high enough to be before the King in Madrid. The royal family got run out of the country when the Second Spanish Republic took hold in 1931, but it wasn’t until Franco’s cozy position at the army academy in Zaragoza being extinguished did Franco start getting angry. Posted to the Balearic Islands for a few years, Franco got a taste of killing his own people during the miner’s strike in Asturias in 1934. He crushed innocents defending their rights, and the left and right side of politics only continued to divide as bitterness set into the young Republic. After the 1936 elections, all went to hell, and Franco found himself leading an army from Morocco into Spain to depose the Republican government.

Fast forward through three years of brutal civil war though 1936-1939 (if I explain that in detail, we will be here forever), and Franco’s Nationalist army, backed by fascists, Carlists, monarchists, any right-wing nutball group really, had defeated the Republicans, with the communists, anarchists and general plucky young men and women from Spain and overseas fighting for freedom. After gross atrocities, upwards of 200,000 people were killed. Franco was the leader of Spain, a nation decimated by force and hate. The short, moustached, one-testicled Hitler lover was in control.

Spain was no picnic. So many fled the country, many to France, Mexico, Cuba, Argentina… basically anywhere but Spain. Artists, teachers, bright minds, and those of the left-wing all ran for their lives. Spain skipped the Second World War after basically being in pieces, claiming neutrality, though Franco loved Hitler’s style of hating. While Franco was claiming that Spain had struck gold and all would be well, 200,000 people starved to death in the first half of the 1940’s. The whole decade was spent rounding up people who had supported the Republican side of the civil war, and up to 50,000 were killed, or put in concentration camps, or just ‘disappeared’.

Franco was brutal and bizarre. He could be easily played with wild schemes. But his own plan, being anti-Communist, won him love from the United States. They were allowed to set up military bases, Spain got money and their love for Hitler, Mussolini, etc was swept under the carpet. Spain and its technocrats were keen to move on and make Spain wealthy and prosperous again, though naturally, all spoils only went to the people at the top of the food chain. Spain’s Años de Desarrollo, years of development began through 1961-1973, with Franco promoting tourism, bullfighting, flamenco, everything super-Spanish. Financially, things got much better, but since everyone was doing so poorly, ‘much better’ still wasn’t great. Many Spaniards were still living overseas. Riots broke out at universities, women were still horribly oppressed, with divorce, abortions and birth control illegal. They couldn’t have bank accounts without male oversight, and couldn’t even leave a violent husband, real middle-ages style of living. The church was sticking its evil nose into everything, being gay was illegal, local languages were banned, and nuns loved hitting kids in schools and orphanages.

By 1969, Franco was getting old and handing more power to the lecherous bastards who profited from his reign. It was time to choose an heir. Franco had one daughter (though that has been questioned, given the testicle incident, but never mind), and Franco chose Juan Carlos de Bourbon, grandson to the Spanish King exiled to France in 1931. The young man, dutifully married to a Greek princess, would be modelled and educated in the ways of Francoism – basically being a murderous douche.

Even as Franco was getting super old in the 1970’s, he was still being real bastard, handing down executions just months before his death. Young people were rising up, wanting change in their country, and groups such as ETA wanted their regions’ independence back, as did Catalonia, Galicia, Valencia – basically everyone. In the final months of Franco’s reign, countries were having protests against his execution decisions, Mexico tried to have Spain kicked from the UN, and the Pope wasn’t interested in him anymore, which isn’t cool for a Catholic nation. But on October 1st, Franco have a hate speech from his palace and left in tears. From that moment, his number was up.

Pneumonia, heart attacks and then internal bleeding took hold. Machines kept the old man alive and drugged. Doctors worked day and night for the man who let people be shot by firing squads or starve to death. But after 35 days of pumping life into a frail old man, on November 20, 1975, Franco finally passed away.

The parties started, in Spain and all around the world, where Spaniards had waited for the day. Half a million people went to see his body, just to see the proof for themselves (this figure remains disputed, like all figures during Spain’s 20th century). Spain, which had been lying dormant, could live again. The protege, Juan Carlos, was crowned King, and tossed Francoism aside, opting for democracy. None of that was an easy ride as the road to the Transition began.

The trouble is, those killed during and after the war are still buried in their makeshift graves. Those lecherous wannabes who circled Franco did not lose their place in politics, and among the wealthy and elite. Those who were evil were all given amnesty, to smooth the road for democracy. Justice was never served; Spain’s hard questions remained unanswered for so many. Those who did wrong have grown old, as those who were harmed. The varying levels of independence of Spain’s 17 regions still causes headaches. Does Spain still need to ask questions of its past, or is the future hard enough?

Either way, pop a cork off champagne today, at least to celebrate the freedom Spaniards would have felt on 20 November, 1975.

Read more of what has changed in Spain since Franco’s death, and what is to come – Spaniards aim for a new democracy and end to Franco’s long shadow

Read more about Valle de los Caídos, Franco’s super creepy tomb, where monks will be praying for him today (yes, that’s a thing!)

Read more about Franco’s war, reign, and death in the Secrets of Spain  novel trilogy

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A Novel Blog – Part 6: Winning at Life as an Author (+ Free Books!)

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This flyer makes me winning at life, so the librarian tells me

This Saturday, you will be able to track me down in my natural habitat at Botany Library in Auckland. I am giving an author talk (see right sidebar for deets) and anyone is welcome to roll up and throw questions at me (not books, just words – nice words). I’m not one for giving speeches and have no intention of writing a speech, rather I will talk about books, writing, research, reading, reviewing and general Spain-ness. My children have kindly(!) offered to play photographers.

As this is not the kind of thing I normally do (even at smaller gatherings, I tend to shut up, so me, a microphone and an audience is extremely daunting), I have decided to be super fun and coincide the chat with a free book offer. This is a one-time only deal that hasn’t been done, and probably won’t be done in the future. For five days, Thursday 18 until Tuesday 23 June, the Secrets of Spain trilogy, containing Blood in the Valencian Soil, Vengeance in the Valencian Water and Death in the Valencian Dust will be free on Kindle. Feel free to grab your own copy, and by all means, review me, as a trilogy or on any individual book. I want to hear thoughts on my work (no need to be a troll, though, there’s enough of that already).

Secrets of Spain

Check your time zone for the special deal

UTC (GMT) – Thursday 18 June 07:00 until Tuesday 23 June 06:59

Pacific Standard Time – Thursday 18 June 0:01 until Monday 22 June 23:59

New Zealand Standard Time – Thursday 18 June 19:00 until Tuesday 23 June 18:59

European Daylight Savings Time – Thursday 18 June 09:00 until Tuesday 23 June 08:59

Click here for Amazon US

Click here for Amazon UK

Celebrate the release of ‘Death in the Valencian Dust’ with competitions and freebies!

CLICK HERE TO BUY IN PAPERBACK AND ON KINDLE

May 8 sees the release of the third and final installment of the Secrets of Spain series, entitled Death in the Valencian Dust. To celebrate the long-awaited final part of the Beltrán Morales puzzle, there are free books up for grabs!

Spain: September, 1975 – After 39 years as dictator, Francisco Franco is dying, but his parting words to the nation are leaving a bitter legacy. Jaime Morales, brother-in-law and sword handler for Spain’s greatest bullfighter, Paco Beltrán, finds himself caught up with a young Basque woman named Alazne, who seeks political change with plans of violence. Executions are handed down, and Spain collapses into turmoil in the shadow of their leader’s death and the crowning of a new king. Jaime, Alazne and entire Morales family have to face who they are and what they believe…

It’s 2014 and the final season for Spain’s favourite celebrity bullfighter, Cayetano Beltrán Morales. Guided by his father Paco and Uncle Jaime, Cayetano is reluctant to let go of his magnificent career. His wife, Luna Montgomery, has plans as she transitions from mother of the couple’s four children to leader of the Beltrán family, while fighting Spain’s ‘pact of forgetting’. Cayetano’s sister, Sofía, has rising political ambitions in Valencia as Spain crowns a new king. The final ghosts of Escondrijo, Luna’s Valencian farm, can finally speak the truth. But the Beltrán Morales family must at last recognise their identity, where they sit in Spain’s turbulent present, and their potentially fractured future.

Bodies need to be laid to rest, truths must be acknowledged, and destinies are up in the air as Luna Montgomery finds her long-awaited place in her Spanish family. But death still lurks in the Valencian mountains…

The same day as the release of Death in the Valencian Dust, sees the release of the Secrets of Spain trilogy, all together in one edition, for anyone who is starting the saga, or anyone who wishes to have this limited edition release.

To celebrate, 20 copies of Death in the Valencian Dust and 5 copies of the special Secrets of Spain edition will be given away in the ebook format of your choice. To enter, just put your name in the comment section below, along with the answer to this easy question about the series –

What is the home country of Luna Montgomery and her grandmother, Scarlett?

All names and details will not be published; all comments remain private. The winners will be published on Friday 8 May.

Also, from May 7 for four days only, both Blood in the Valencian Soil and Vengeance in the Valencian Water, the first two books in the series, will be free on all Amazon sites worldwide.

Get  Blood in the Valencian Soil free from Amazon US – HERE

Get Blood in the Valencian Soil free from Amazon UK – HERE

Get Vengeance in the Valencian Water from Amazon US – HERE

Get Vengeance in the Valencian Water from Amazon UK – HERE

My Best Spanish Reads in 2014

 

As 2014 shuffles off, the list of books I have read has piled high yet again. I lost count once I passed 100 books back in August or so. I’m always reading, though I only review books on this site I think are worthy of addition. Books I dislike get tossed and forgotten; I don’t ‘do’ bad reviews here. I also read plenty of books which are not based in Spain, written in Spanish (or translated) or created by Spanish authors, but I review those in different places. This site is purely for my Spanish reads. Here is the list of the books I deemed worthy of adding to my site this year. These are books brand new, yet some are 70+ years old; some are new to me, some I have read five or more times. I haven’t had to time to load all my reviews (I’m attempting to publish my next book in April 2015), but these reviews make the 2014 list anyway.

‘The Forge’, ‘The Track’ and ‘The Clash’ by Auturo Barea. I may review at some stage, maybe not. So much brilliance, how can it be reviewed? My favourite reads of the year, and I managed to get first editions of all three books.

Winter in Madrid’ by C J Sansom Some really unlikable characters here

‘Spanish Cooking Uncovered: Farmhouse Favourites’ by Paco de Lara and Debbie Jenkins Yum! And there is now a sequel too

‘Adventures of a Doctor’ by E. Martínez Alonso HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

‘War is Beautiful’ by James Neugass (review pending early 2015)

‘100 years of Spanish Cinema’ by Tatjana Pavlović (review pending early 2015)

‘The Angel’s Game’ (El juego del ángel) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón How many times can someone read this? Dozens

‘Images of the Spanish Civil War’ by Raymond Carr Sad yet powerful

‘Surrealism and the Spanish Civil War’ by Robin Adèle Greeley (review pending early 2015)

‘The New Spaniards’ by John Hooper A classic, stands the test of time

They Shall Not Pass’ by Ben Hughes (review pending early 2015)

‘The Spy with 29 Names’ by Jason Webster A forgotten Spaniard with engaging skills

‘Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War’ by Amanda Vaill A whole lot of history and ideas crammed into one novel

‘Unlikely Warriors’ by Richard Baxell Well researched, well written

‘The Spanish Civil War’ by Stanley G. Payne (review pending early 2015)

‘Soldados de Salamina (Soldiers of Salamis)’ by Javier Cercas A moral tale anyone can understand

‘Blood Med (Max Cámara 4)’ by Jason Webster This series keeps improving with age

‘The Shallow Grave’ by Walter Gregory (review pending early 2015)

‘Sketches of Spain (Impresiones y Paisajes)’ by Federico García Lorca Read with a glass of wine

‘As I Walked Out Through Spain in Search of Laurie Lee’ by P D Murphy A genre I don’t usually read, but it is excellent

‘The Triumph of Democracy in Spain’ by Paul Preston My go-to while writing ‘Death in the Valencian Dust’

‘Nada’ by Carmen Laforet A truly beautiful novel in 1940’s Barcelona

‘Outlaws’ by Javier Cercas Fast-paced with moral consequences

‘Into the Arena’ by Alexander Fiske-Harrison A truly excellent bullfighting book, well thought out and researched

‘Heart of Spain’ Photographs by Robert Capa A beautiful collection of Capa’s work

‘The Ambulance Man and the Spanish Civil War’ by Paul Read A revival of a forgotten man

‘1984 and the Spanish Civil War’ by Paul Read A short story filled with thought-provoking comments

Juan Carlos: A People’s King’ by Paul Preston Essential studying while writing my newest book

‘Death And The Sun: A Matador’s Season In The Heart Of Spain’ by Edward Lewine  A bullfighting icon

‘Moving to Spain with Children’ by Lisa Sadleir The book I wish existed ten years ago!

‘Franco’ by Paul Preston I’ve lost count how many times I’ve turned to this book

‘Franco: Biography of the Myth’ by Antonio Cazorla Sánchez Almost felt as if I had jumped down Alice’s rabbit hole while reading

‘Defence of Madrid’ by Geoffrey Cox So grateful I stumbled upon this book, never recommended to me

‘The Spanish Civil War: A Very Short Introduction’ by Helen Graham The whole war read in a day

‘The Anatomy of a Moment (Anatomía de un instante)’ by Javier Cercas History at its finest

If I read your book (or your suggestion) and you don’t see it here, let me know. The review may be lost in my archive of posts. If the book in question was one I hated, you will have already known that from my honest twitter feed! If you have any suggestions, or would like to request your own book to be added to the list for 2015, please let me know.

 

Get the ‘Secrets of Spain’ series free for Christmas!

To celebrate Christmas, for 72 hours only, you can download Blood in the Valencian Soil and its sister, Vengeance in the Valencian Water for free, for your Kindle (or on any device using the free Kindle app). They are the first and second parts of the ‘Secrets of Spain‘ novel series, featuring bike mechanic Luna Montgomery from Valencia, and Cayetano Beltrán Morales from Madrid, and their quest to dig up Spanish Civil War and Franco-era mass graves, while coping with 21st century Spanish life. Get one, get both, read in any order, the choice is yours! Read about 1930′s war time Cuenca, Valencia 1957 and the flood which took over the city, and present day Valencia, Madrid and Cuenca. The series has something for everyone – Spain, history, war, bullfighting, cycling, romance… whatever you like, this series will give out your favourites and tell you the stories of ordinary people in extraordinary lives. Of course, you don’t need to have a knowledge of any of these subjects, just jump in and follow the story!

Check your timezone, so you don’t miss out on the offer. The books will be on sale –

December 22 09:01 – December 25 09:00 Europe time

December 22 00:01 – December 24  23:59 US Pacific time

December 22 21:01 – December 25 21:00 New Zealand time

Click here to download –

BLOOD IN THE VALENCIAN SOIL (US/International)

BLOOD IN THE VALENCIAN SOIL (UK)

VENGEANCE IN THE VALENCIAN WATER (US/International)

VENGEANCE IN THE VALENCIAN WATER (UK)