Her initial writing forays led to the exploration of poetry in Spanish as an outlet for her creativity. In 1970, she received a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship for poems later included in Palabras de mediodia / Noon Words (Fuego de Aztlán Publications, 1980; bilingual edition Arte Público Press, 2001). Her first collection of poems appeared in Fireflight: Three Latin American Poets (Oyes, 1976), and a third poetry collection followed: Variaciones sobre una tempestad / Variations on a Storm (Third Woman Press, 1990).
After her first collection of poetry appeared, Corpi experienced a long and personally worrisome poetic silence. To ease the tension, she turned to prose, penning several award-winning short stories. In 1984, she wrote her first story in English and her first English-language novel, Delia's Song, was published by Arte Público Press in 1989.
In 1990, Corpi was twice honored: she was awarded a Creative Arts Fellowship in fiction by the City of
The publication of Eulogy for a Brown Angel: A Mystery Novel (Arte Público Press, 1992) was the culmination of a life-long dream. The novel won the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award and the Multicultural Publishers Exchange Best Book of Fiction. Corpi holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from UC-Berkley and an M.A. in World and Comparative Literature from
Lucha, can you give us a brief overview of your last three books and tell us how your current book relates to those?
I write detective novels, four in the Gloria Damasco series: Eulogy for a Brown Angel (1992), Cactus Blood (1995), Black Widow's Wardrobe (1999), and the recently published, Death at Solstice (2009). Each of the novels highlights various aspects of the history and culture of Chicanos/Mexicans and Latinos in the U.S., and in particular in California. These aspects are always integral to the plot. However, each of the novels stands on its own and may be read separately.
Eulogy for a Brown Angel: Gloria Damasco and her friend, Luisa Cortez, find a murdered a child, his small body defiled, during the 1970 National Chicano Moratorium (on the Vietnam War) protest march and subsequent riot in East Los Angeles. Gloria is deeply impacted by the death of the child, and she begins a search for the murderer. It leads her on a trail of international conspiracy and bloody vengeance. Before long, two other people are dead. Gloria is determined to piece the mystery together, no matter how long it takes her. The mystery comes to its hard-hitting conclusion eighteen years later in the Napa Valley, California's wine country.
Cactus Blood: Visions of striking rattlesnakes and a crucified woman haunt Gloria Damasco's dreams. Who is the naked woman she sees tied to a cactus cross? And who would do such a horrible thing? What role does a young undocumented Mexican girl, dying of pesticide poisoning and with ties to the United Farm Workers movement, play in the death of one of Gloria's poet friend, the disappearance of another poet, and the death of a third person? Is the naked woman tied to a cactus the next victim? Gloria races against time as the intensity and poignancy of her visions compel her to follow the trail of a ritualistic killer to save the life of the woman on the cactus cross.
Black Widow's Wardrobe: Gloria Damasco, a widow, and her mother and daughter take part in a street procession during the celebration of The Day of the Dead, in misty San Francisco. Soon after, they witness the bizarre abduction of a young woman and the attempt on the life of notorious convicted murderer, Licia Lecuona, otherwise known as Black Widow, and an heiress to a fortune. Gloria is hired by Black Widow's good friend and manager of her estate to find out who wants Black Widow dead. Her investigation takes her from the fog-shrouded San Francisco Bay Area to the remote sunlit peaks of the Sierra de Tepoztlan near Cuernavaca, Mexico, and perhaps, she fears, back in time to a mysterious and violent encounter as ancient as Mexico itself.
In Death at Solstice, just published, Gloria is hired by the Chilean owners of the Oro Blanco winery in the California's Gold Country, to investigate the theft of a family heirloom, a pair of antique diamond and emerald earrings rumored to have belonged to Mexico's Empress Carlota. But she soon finds out there's more to the case than stolen jewelry when a young woman believed to be a saint disappears and her nurse is found dead. Gloria follows the alleged Death at Solstice arrives as I enter and celebrate my 40th year as a published poet and writer.
Wonderful! I love your settings and use of real historical events as the background for the mysteries. So, what has been your motivation to write this series?
I fell in love with the detective story when I was a girl in Jaltipan, Veracruz, Mexico, hiding and reading the crime page--la pagina roja--of the regional newspaper. Although for the first two decades of my writing career I wrote and published only poetry (written in Spanish and published bilingually) and short fiction, I dreamed of writing a mystery novel one day. Eulogy for a Brown Angel was the fulfillment of that dream. But what can I say--I grew addicted to the writing of mystery stories. I enjoy the challenges it presents. Since the publication of Edgar Allan Poe's The Purloined Letter, the detective story has changed little. It is a plot-driven long or short story, leaving room for little more than the solution of the crime. The challenge--the art--for any crime writer is precisely to find ways to offer much more than the unraveling of the plot or bringing to justice those who have broken the law, thus finally restoring the social order. My novels follow some, many or all of the conventions, traditions and structural demands of the mystery genre. They are solid, fast-paced mysteries, but they are also multilayered. Yet anyone reading them will immerse themselves in Latino/Mexican American culture and history and become aware that what we share in common--our humanity and the human condition anywhere and everywhere in the world and together in the U.S.--makes us more alike than different. That is the beauty of reading bicultural and/or multicultural literary works.
Will there be another book in this series? What are your plans for the future?
I have begun researching topics and other motifs that I believe belong in a new Gloria Damasco mystery novel. The research for any of my novels takes almost a year, and I like to complete it before I sit down to do the actual writing of the book. In the meantime, I continue writing poetry and working on a book of personal essays, The Orphan and the Bookburner, which combines selected memoirs to illuminate those events and people that have formed and informed my poetry and fiction, but also lead beyond my personal experiences to larger themes, such as the nature of justice, the education of women, colorlines, bilingualism and biculturalism, and the quest for meaning and destiny, among others.
I wish you great success with your work, Lucha. Thank you so much for stopping by. I enjoyed our online chat. Besos!