Blood Makes Noise, the debut novel by Gregory Widen, is an action-packed thriller based on the events before and after the death of Eva Perón (available April 30, 2013).
It’s hard to articulate the effect Eva Perón had on Argentina. Her combination of charisma and chutzpah took her from what we could gently call an unfortunate childhood, to an undistinguished career as an actress, to the position of First Lady. In a different time, she’d have been running the country herself. (There were plenty of people who figured she pretty much was.) But this was 1946, and while her husband Juan Perón was serving as president of Argentina, Evita was traveling around the country charming the pants off everyone. By 1951, there was strong and unprecedented public sentiment toward making her a candidate for vice president in the next election.
The fact that she died of cancer in 1952 at the age of 33 merely ensured Evita’s place in the pantheon of the great gone-too-soon and elevated her popularity to a galactic scale. Weirdly, her body was embalmed and meticulously preserved by a Dr. Pedro Ara in a process that took about a year to complete. Her remains became what could only be described as a holy relic.
And then they disappeared…
Knowing you just can’t make this kind of stuff up, screenwriter Gregory Widen (Backdraft, Highlander) has based his first novel on the true story of Evita Perón’s life, death, and legacy. Even decades after she died, Evita had the ability to stoke blinding passion, both in those who loved her and in those who hated her.
Blood Makes Noise is at its best when describing the visceral and emotional connections that ordinary citizens had with their extraordinary first lady:
Michael … walked across the street to a weedy lot between two low adobe buildings. A small pile of stones stood there.
You saw them out here, rocks stacked together into an altar, and atop the altar a cardboard box containing sometimes Evita’s picture but this time a small, blonde-haired doll. On either side were heaped runny remains of a hundred candles. Fresh flowers carpeted the top.
They always seemed more pagan than Christian, these shrines, part of the obsessive spiritualism that was the glue of these empty places. A way to ward off Indian ghosts blowing over the land, to invoke the protection of Her.
She had come from a town like this, and in towns like this they would never forget Her. Always theirs to stroke and polish and call up against the frightening shapes that drifted through their lives.
You have the sense that, even after all these years, Evita’s charm has touched Widen, too. Her presence in this book is mythical, saintly, and like a deity she is always referred to as “Her” or “She” with capital letters.
The living characters are complex in a Hollywood sort of way: Michael, the CIA agent fighting personal demons from the past and professional enemies from the present; Alejandro, the young man from the Argentine countryside who endures more abuse and torment—both mental and physical—than anyone outside a major motion picture ever could; Hector, based on a real government operative with a nebulous agenda, who seems to know everyone, see everything, and be everywhere. They’re all pursuing “Her” for individual and sometimes interconnected reasons.
None of the central characters is entirely believable, but in the end that doesn’t matter. When you begin with a premise that is utterly unfathomable, yet entirely true, you can be forgiven for painting your characters with broad strokes. This is a pounding, plot-driven, quest story. The object of the quest just happens to be a beautiful woman’s perfectly preserved corpse. The seekers will do anything to retrieve her. It’s stuff even Hollywood screenwriters can’t make up. That’s because much of it is true.
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Leslie Gilbert Elman is the author of Weird But True: 200 Astounding, Outrageous, and Totally Off the Wall Facts. Follow her on Twitter @leslieelman.
Read all of Leslie Gilbert Elman’s posts for Criminal Element.