Or if the bull kills youThose of you who know Jason Webster will be familiar with his non-fiction works that sketch Spain – both past and present – with lucid clarity and a passion that adds pace and emotion to the narrative. Webster made his name with highly acclaimed books such as Guerra, Duende and Andalus, each of which delves into a world that is unknown to most of us, but does so without holding back and with an honesty that is refreshing.

In Guerra he travelled throughout Spain to get to grips with the Spanish Civil War, speaking to those who were there and those who experienced its legacy. Webster has his own opinions, but in his writing he maintains the neutrality and integrity of a great storyteller, relating what happened rather than moulding it. In Duende he submerged himself into the netherworld of flamenco, gypsies and criminality, speaking in the first tense because he was there to see it.

The same can be said of Andalus and Sacred Sierra: a year on a Spanish mountain, in which he took us further into the fibre of Spain, recording its past and living its present with a dedication and enthusiasm that is impressive. There have been many books that have tried to define Spain, particularly from the perspective of the foreign visitor, but Webster ‘shows’ you the country rather than trying to tell you about.

A new direction

With the birth of his child the author, who divides his time between Valencia and the nearby mountains, felt he could – at least for the time being – no longer spend months on the road researching his books. He also felt ready for a new challenge and stage in his development as a writer, and so embarked on his first work of fiction, Or the bull kills you. Set in Valencia, it is the first in a series of novels with chief inspector Max Cámara of the Policía Nacinal as the central character.

Jason Webster writerWebster’s intimate knowledge of the city, its moods, districts and rhythms is evident as he sketches a richly atmospheric background against which the plot plays out. Cámara too displays his understanding of the Spanish character, although he is by no means an average personage. Complex and irreverent, he is nonetheless a committed cop – but a Spanish one, not the personification of some stereotyped detective imported from abroad.

The other characters that populate the book equally represent fascinating elements of a Spanish society that is not always as homogenous as it seems to outsiders. Or the bull kills you is a therefore a great read on two levels – as a classic crime novel and for its earthy, contemporary and honest portrayal of Spain. For those of us who know and love the city of Valencia, there is the further element of recognition as we trace the story in our mind’s eye. Let this Anglo-American author take you on an absorbing rollercoaster ride through one of the most enigmatic cities in Europe.

To read an interview with the Valencia-based writer please follow this link.