Breaking Lorca

Paperback | February 23, 2010

byGiles Blunt

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A master crime writer trains every weapon in his arsenal on a crime against humanity.

A literary novel that treads fearlessly into one of recent history’s most shocking moral crucibles.

In 1980s El Salvador, a young woman is detained in a government torture squad’s head-quarters, suspected of supporting guerilla forces. There, a bookish new recruit, Victor Peña, is assigned to assist in her interrogation. Before they learn so much as her name – Lorca – the squad relentlessly break her, body and soul. It is a terrifying journey into human cruelty and courage, one which years later – in the pinnacle of cosmopolitan America – still haunts the tormentor as dramatically as it does his victim.


From the Hardcover edition.

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From the Publisher

A master crime writer trains every weapon in his arsenal on a crime against humanity.A literary novel that treads fearlessly into one of recent history’s most shocking moral crucibles.In 1980s El Salvador, a young woman is detained in a government torture squad’s head-quarters, suspected of supporting guerilla forces. There, a bookish ...

From the Jacket

"An utterly vivid, completely disturbing account of how thugs with authority unrestrained by the rule of law and untempered by the quality of mercy can go about the physical, mental and emotional destruction of a person." — The Gazette "Giles Blunt writes with uncommon grace, style and compassion and he plots like a demon."— Jonathan K...

Giles Blunt grew up in North Bay, Ontario. After spending over twenty years in New York City, he now lives in Toronto. He is the author of four crime novels set in the fictional city of Algonquin Bay and featuring John Cardinal as well as No Such Creature, which Random House Canada will publish in fall 2008. He lives in Toronto.From th...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 0.7 inPublished:February 23, 2010Publisher:Random House of CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307357015

ISBN - 13:9780307357014

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Customer Reviews of Breaking Lorca

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Breaking Lorca is gut wrenching! A very graphic depiction on humanity, and morality.
Date published: 2014-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A significant novel This is a significant novel by one of Canada's best novelists. The brutality depicted in the first half is appropriately done with non-emotional reportage so its impact on the reader is severe. But this is necessary to bring home the point that a totalitarian regime strips people of their humanity in order to rule them and this, above all, is a novel in defence of humanity. Not only the tortured but the torturers are victims as the latter's capacity for compassion and sympathy must be taken away from him in order to do what needs to be done to support the state's rule. This is not a non-fiction accounting of totalitarianism but a novel which makes points that only a novel can adequately express. Victor, the torturer, is impotent to act to defend Lorca. He knows that compassion will brand him a traitor. I have seen the ending described as Hollywood, but it most certainly isn't. Victor's act of self-sacrifice is an ethical act of compassion and, as such, is, of necessity, also a radical act against the state. He fights back by refusing his impotence, by being fully human, by defending another, which is what, by extension, inevitably derails despotism. This is not a Hollywood motif. I think if one wants to see cultural progenitors of the story (and it deserves critical discussion and should be on many literature courses) it would be more germane to look to things like the story of Christ (whose death was a self-sacrifice to save others) and the radical Romantics ('Christ was a sinner' i.e. a radical - William Blake) like Blake and Shelley who saw that compassion was ethical and political. Not that this is a religious book, and Victor is not Christ, but it is a story that shows how compassion and a defence of human decency is still often radical and always brave.
Date published: 2012-09-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Very Disturbing Account This story is a taunting and disturbing account of how far people in a position of authority will go in order to obtain what they want and remain in power. Through a compelling and provoking narrative the readers are taken on a harrowing journey where there is no mercy. This vivid and emotionally charged account relates how countrymen are subjected to physical, mental and emotional destruction in order to keep them submissive. Giles Blunt is known for his “John Cardinal” series but this suspenseful tale is a standalone novel. The first part immerses the reader into a troubled time in the early 80’s when El Salvador was in a vicious civil war and the average citizen’s life meant nothing to those in power. The second part focuses on two of the citizens who made it to the U.S... The protagonist is Victor Pena, a former officer, rescued form a firing squad to be a key player in a secret unit dedicated to acquiring intelligence. Victor finds himself out of his depth in this unit, violence and savagery are not part of his makeup, but right now it is his only option to stay alive. Victor soon finds himself up against a mysterious female detainee named Lorca who he cannot help but admire; he finds her strength and determination under prolonged torture to be impressive. In the last part of the novel, Victor is sent to Fort Bening in the U.S. to hone his training. Once there, he sees an opportunity to escape the position he is in and find freedom. Driven by his conscience, his aim is to locate Lorca who has miraculously survived and is believed to be hiding in New York. He is constantly haunted by past memories and feels he could lessen the pain by redeeming himself in her eyes… Mr. Blunt’s background in TV is evident, the writing is very crisp, the characters are so real and the dialogue creates a virtual picture, the graphic details of torture are horrific and gut wrenching. It is hard to believe people can contemplate doing this to others and carry on life as if nothing happened. This dark novel is not for everyone, it brings to life what is believed to have transpired during a time of political turmoil in El Salvador. Although the ending left me a little disappointed, it had a bit too much flash and bang for a novel, it seems the concluding chapter was meant more for the big screen, nevertheless I enjoyed every page.
Date published: 2010-12-22

Extra Content

Read from the Book

Chapter OneSooner or later the other soldiers in the squad were going to kill him. It was only a matter of time. Victor had never done anything to antagonize the brutes he worked with, but he was sure they hated him, or soon would.He had wanted such a different life. He had wanted to be a teacher, but war had come and schools were closed. Many teachers were killed, many disappeared. Both of Victor’s parents were dead; he had joined the army out of necessity. Now all he wanted was to stay alive.He tried to concentrate on the paperback in his hand. Victor was reading Of Mice and Men – very slowly, and with an English—Spanish dictionary – but even reading at this turtle’s pace, he was touched by the loyalty between the two men: big, dumb Lenny and shrewd, crabby George. John Steinbeck knew that people should exist in pairs. Victor would have given anything for a friend, someone to be loyal to, but there was no one like that in this place.A friend might have helped stem the tide of fear that rose around him; he could feel it lapping at his chin. Soon the waters would close over his mouth and nose and he would drown altogether. The Captain hated him to be reading, he knew that, but there was simply no other way, lacking a friend, that he could distract himself from the fear that – maybe not for a month, maybe not for two – the other soldiers were going to kill him.In America, now, things would be different. They had jobs in America, not war. You didn’t have to carry a rifle to prove your manhood. He could go to a vast American city and lose himself among the crowds. No one would know what a coward he was. He would work at two jobs, three if necessary, and perhaps one day open a restaurant or a store. Maybe New York, maybe Washington, he hadn’t decided yet. That was the nice thing about a fantasy, there were no decisions to make. He devoted himself to the study of English, knowing that one day he would speak it in America. Oh, all of the soldiers spoke a little English, but none of them could read it – he wasn’t even sure if his uncle could read it.Not that he could lose himself for long in fantasy, not at the little school. The air was sour with the smell of bodily fluids. The guardroom was a tiny space between the cells and the interrogation room. Pretty much the only thing the soldier on guard had to do was to bring the latrine bucket to the cells as needed, and to shoot anyone who tried to escape. There was no chance of that. Guard duty was easy, but the stench from the cells was not something you could forget for more than a few minutes at a time.“Reading again.” The Captain filled the entire doorway, casting a shadow over the book.“Yes. Same story,” Victor said, showing the cover. Anger emanated from his uncle like heat from a stove.Captain Peña did not even glance at the book. “That’s why you took guard duty, I suppose. Even though it’s not your turn.”“The others enjoy their card games. I thought, why not let them?”“You don’t do it for them. You do it because you want to read.”“Well, yes,” he said with what he hoped was a disarming smile. “Reading is definitely my vice.”“Don’t imagine you’re making friends by taking extra duty. You read in here because you don’t want to be with them. You think they don’t know that?”“They like cards, I like books. Why is that a problem?”“Don’t be stupid. They know you are from a different class. By reading, you rub their noses in it.”“I don’t think I’m better than them.”“Then you’re even stupider than I thought. With your background and education? Of course you are better than them. But you’re a corporal, not a general, and from now on you take your breaks like everybody else. You spend your free time with your brothers-in-arms.”“It’s just going to cause trouble, sir. They don’t want me around.”“They never will, if you don’t make the effort.”A prisoner called out, “Please. I need the bucket. I can’t wait any longer.”Victor started to get up.“Sit down. I’m talking to you.”Victor sat down.“I’m beginning to wonder why I saved your ass. I should have let Casarossa put you in front of that firing squad.”“Please don’t think I’m ungrateful, sir. I’m very grateful.” That was true. He was still amazed that his uncle, whom he had never known all that well, had saved him.“I didn’t do it for you. What would your father do if he knew he had a coward for a son?”“He would have shot me himself,” Victor said. “He would have had no mercy.”“Exactly. You didn’t deserve any. That fake wound on your head.”“The wound was not fake, sir. I ran into a guy wire.”“Very convenient to fall into a ditch just when the firefight is about to begin. Quite a coincidence.”“I can’t say. I don’t know what happened.”“Oh, of course not. You were unconscious through the whole thing.”The prisoner called out again, “Please. The bucket. I can’t hold out any longer.”Victor started to stand.His uncle screamed so that the veins stood out on his neck. “You get up when I tell you to get up and not before! You think our dainty little prisoners need a bucket every time they whine for one? Forget the prisoners. The prisoners are dogs.”“Yes, sir.”“Dogs.” The Captain took out a handkerchief and mopped his brow. He spoke more softly, as if he had suddenly remembered they were blood relatives. “I blame myself for letting things slide. Two weeks go by and you don’t make the slightest effort to fit in. Well, things are going to change, understand?”“Yes, sir.”“Number one: no more reading. Is that clear?”“Yes, sir.”“Number two: you spend your free time with your squad. Is that clear?”“Yes, sir.”“Number three: I’m going to be on your tail night and day. No more mollycoddling. You’re my nephew, you’re a Peña – I expect more of you, not less.”“Yes, sir.”“Every day I’m going to move you a little bit closer to the heart of what we do in this place. If you stay on the edge, the others won’t trust you. I know the work is hard, I know it doesn’t come naturally. You think I like this work?”“No, sir.”“I hate this work. God knows how I hate this work. But it’s my duty, and you do your duty or you are nothing but a traitor, you understand?”“Yes, sir.”“Holy Mother, the things I’ve had to witness. They would make you sick just to hear about them. The war has forced this on us, the fucking Communists. I get no pleasure from what we do here. I just do my job, understand? And from now on, you will be one with the team. Otherwise, I’ll send you back to Casarossa with my apologies. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll just shoot you myself.”“Yes, sir.”The Captain’s anger seemed to ebb again. He took out his handkerchief and mopped his brow, and when he put it away his tone was softer.“Listen, Victor, I have seen even some of the worst soldiers eventually shape up. I’m not giving up on you. First opening that comes available, I’ll pull some strings and send you for training. Real training. They have a wonderful facility in Panama. Even better would be the United States. Fort Benning. That would be the best.”“The United States,” Victor breathed with hope. “I could go to Fort Benning?”“Possibly. But it’s for soldiers, not cowards. Next detainee we bring in, I don’t care who it is, you are going to get some hands-on experience, is that understood?”“Yes, sir. Understood, sir.”From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

"An utterly vivid, completely disturbing account of how thugs with authority unrestrained by the rule of law and untempered by the quality of mercy can go about the physical, mental and emotional destruction of a person." — The Gazette "Giles Blunt writes with uncommon grace, style and compassion and he plots like a demon."— Jonathan Kellerman, The New York Times bestselling author of Capital Crimes"A tour de force, sorrowing and direct, sharp as a knife blade, beautifully written — an unforgettable window into the human capacity for cruelty and courage." — The Globe and MailFrom the Hardcover edition.