My first novel was The Wilderness, begun in East Africa in early 1964. I was 24 years old and working for a traveling magician. I studied his performance in the same way I studied writing. Eleven years later I wrote my fifth novel, Metropolis, in Henley Beach, Australia, in a small apartment looking over the St Vincent Gulf. In between I wrote Mofa, The Pilgrim, and Orphe, which were begun in Costa Rica, California, and the upper Amazon. During those years I circumnavigated the globe twice. I worked as a smuggler in India, a fisherman in the south seas, the manager of a mining company in Borneo. I lived with Moro pirates in the Sulu Sea, and rode a bicycle through Bali and Java. It was an adventurous time. The novels, I believe, are quite adventurous too.
THE MEXICO NOVELS
After finishing Metropolis in Australia, I wandered for another year and a half: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Spain, Tangier, London. Eventually I returned to California. For seven years, inexplicably, I was unable to write. One day—it was April 1,
1987—I loaded my typewriter and some clothes onto my motorcycle and drove
into Mexico. Crossing the northern deserts, my old Honda had five flat tires,
a sure sign, I thought, that I was a fool to be making this journey; or else—such
is the ambiguity of signs—that I was being punished for putting it off for so long.
I arrived finally in Manzanillo, a seaport below Puerto Vallarta. I moved
into an abandoned house in a coconut grove next to the ocean. I wrote daily,
unexpectedly, in a cafe on the plaza. In three months the first draft of The
Ethiopian Exhibition was complete.
You will have to imagine what a relief this was—and how this began a long relationship with Mexico. In a lifetime spent wandering around the world, I had never before found a country I disliked so intensely or found so fertile. After Manzanillo I encountered bits and pieces of my next novel, Maya, scattered around the country: in Xalapa, San Andres Tuxtla, Morelia, and more. In Patzcuaro, in the mountains of Michoacan, I discovered my third Mexican novel, The Queen of Las Vegas. These three novels comprise what I call my Mexico Trilogy, which was published by Fiction Collective 2 in 1996.
After the Queen, I lived most of the time in Aguascalientes, a Colonial city in the center of Mexico. There I wrote another trilogy, the Lola books: first Orifice, then Autobiography of a Wanderer, and finally Hag: three novels which explored the idea of the Muse, an ancient woman who is both blessing and curse. With Hag I added something else: I took an early digital camera with me and began shooting video. The video became a movie, an hour and 15 minutes of visual exploration.
Eventually Mexico seemed to lose its fertility. I returned to California.
LATE NOVELSAs I write these words I have been in California for ten years. I have finished no new novels, but have two well underway: Kongo and Evidence of a Lost City, which is also an in-progress animated movie. I have also published, as e-books, two longish, illustrated stories: Jacaranda and Kali. I expect to add more published work soon.