Cover image for Never shake hands with a left-handed gunman
Never shake hands with a left-handed gunman
Prado, Benjamín, 1961-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Nunca ledes la mano a un pistolero zurdo. English
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
150 pages ; 22 cm
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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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A group of four young people in 1990s Barcelona live extremely intertwined lives until their leader disappears, leading to the efforts of the others to solve the mystery, a mystery that is ultimately left up to the leader to solve.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Three aimless Barcelona misfits orbit around a fourth, Israel Lacasa, who disappears under ambiguous circumstances. That is the thin hook upon which Spaniard Prado hangs his American debut. The suspects are Gaizka, an ex-boxer and Israel's slavish protégé; Sara, Israel's childhood friend and ex-lover; and Blueberry, another childhood friend and Israel's rival for Sara's heart. In spare, surreal prose loaded with allusions literary (Kafka, Pound, Chester Himes, Jim Thompson), cinematic (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Frankenstein) and musical (Elvis, the Sex Pistols), each character describes a different facet of the enigmatic Israel. No straight lines are drawn in the elliptical, multilayered portrait that emerges of an engaging nonconformist struggling against the effects of a horrific childhood. Prado himself appears as a detective in the final segment of his quirky novel to offer a variety of interpretations and solutions‘it's up to the reader to decide if a crime has even been committed. Less mystery than pop-culture adventure, Prado's abstract story line offers sharply etched characters and amusing scenes but lacks the suspense necessary to pull the reader into the game. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Israel Lacasa is the hole at the heart of Prado's somewhat awkwardly titled novel, the first by the Spanish author to be translated into English. From the time he appears in the community, Israel is the center of everyone's world, taking charge, assigning nicknames to his cohorts, and challenging them to match his cabalistic knowledge of literature, film, and music. His sudden and unexplained disappearance drives the novel. Three of his followers, Gaizka, Sara, and Blueberry, relate the stories of their relationships with the enigmatic figure who ties them together. In a brief final section narrated by a character named Benjamin Prado, Israel's disappearance is dispensed with by a gust of metafictional wind. The writing throughout is as terse, understated, and affectless as Sam Spade could ever wish for, but those looking for a body might be disappointed. The hip awareness, though, might make this a cult favorite where The American Friend is playing at the revival house down the street. For larger public libraries.‘Bob Lunn, Kansas City P.L., MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One "Sometimes I don't even feel like I'm really myself," he said. He stood still for a moment, looking as if he had just put his hand inside a deep, dark box, trying to find something he couldn't see at the bottom.     He then went to the back of the RV and returned with a couple of cans of beer and we sat there for a while, not saying anything, with the motor going and the radio on, watching the harbor lights. He started up the RV and we drove past the freighter again. Besides the old Barreiros trucks there was a pair of Norton motorcycles on the deck, and three or four Land Rovers.     "What do you mean?" I asked him, but he didn't say anything. It was one of those situations, this strange way he had of not saying a word, it was sort of like ... well, it was something that was just between you and him right then, like a couple of guys trying to carry a heavy suitcase, one on either side.     "You see, they ... they toss you their knife and then say `good luck.' It's all the same, because every time they take a swing at you, that's one more swing you'll learn how to dodge."     We drove along San Antonio and started to climb. The mountain road was dark and down below you could see headlights coming out of the tunnel. I looked at him again, and thought about what he'd just said. It was like that lots of times. It was just ... It just seemed pretty hard to go from where you were, to wherever he was. It all seems now like what he said had so much more ... kind of like a premonition. He spoke in omens or something. That was the day it all began; so ... you know, I mean ... he was on his way somewhere and he didn't care about anything else. He always said, "If you want to rise up anywhere, you've got to bring your own stairs." Anyway, we were practically all the way up the mountain by then, and I wanted to know if everything he'd told me about the freighter was really true.     "Are you serious?" I asked. "About your plan?"     He kept on driving, for a couple of more miles, I guess, because we had passed those two gas stations, first the Texaco then the Repsol, before he answered me. He stopped the RV and stared at me. He had these eyes, cobalt blue, just like the color of the shutters of a house on the beach ... He just sat there looking at me, for so long ... Shit, those eyes could turn you into a pile of nothing.     "Gaizka," he said finally. "I am going to ask a favor of you. For as long as I can remember, I can't think of a single time I ever tried to pull one over on you. Now I'm asking you to help me."     "You mean we' re actually going to do it?"     " I'm going to do it; you can join me, if you want."     "I'd ... I'd have to quit my job."     "Well. You can't start a fire if you're not prepared to burn a little of what you've got, you know?"     "What if everything goes wrong?"     "It could. Then we'll die from the cold because there won't be anything left to burn."     "So ...?"     "So ... pick your lucky number and cross your fingers. Don't forget: Whatever it is that you want, you have to go out and get for yourself. The most anyone else will do is hand you a couple of oranges and then ask you for a glass of lemonade.     He turned and started the RV back up and put on a Sex Pistols tape and we drove into the forest. We turned down a dirt road. I lowered the window: I liked all that, sitting there with a nice cold beer, next to my one and only friend in the world, tapping to the beat of the music, and breathing in the smell of all those wet trees around me.     He stopped right in front of the wooden fence.     "High Sierra," he said, smiling. He waited to see if I knew what he was referring to.     I said, "Go ahead, Roy," so he knew that I got the reference. I remember we saw the movie High Sierra on TV and right after they killed Roy Earle, he had said, "Now pay attention, Gaizka. This is what happens to you when you've got nothing at all, and no options left." I wondered if he was referring to me, or maybe Roy Earle, but now I think ... Well, later on I realized he wasn't talking about either me or Roy after all.     We went into the yard behind the fence, with the headlights shining onto the house. That's when we first saw it. We didn't know what it was, but as we approached it, it got bigger and bigger. We stood there looking at it, painted right on the front door, a huge white X. I waited for him to say something, some kind of explanation. He was silent. In some peculiar way, I thought that that X, whatever it was, was exactly what Israel had been talking about all along.     We stood there for a while looking at it, then he went around to the back of the RV.     "Israel," I called out. I went over to where he was and I grabbed his hand--but, I don't know, when they met it was like two empty hands ... belonging to two guys with nothing to say. There was absolutely nothing there.     He turned and walked away. "You know what I'd like to know?" he said, before going inside the house. "When the fight begins, I'd like to know which side of the punches each of us will be on." Chapter Two He had told me about his scuba-diving plan earlier, when we were still working on the freighter. One day, we had been sitting on the deck, and the crane was lifting up one of those old M-60 tanks. I had just begun counting the trucks that were still on deck.     "Not much," I said.     "Much of what?" Israel asked.     "Trucks. Just five to go."     "Just as I thought." Before even looking over at him, I knew that he was smiling, but I didn't know why.     "Plus three Land Rovers," he said. "And two motorcycles, right?"     "So I guess this job is about finished up," I said.     "Not on your life. The dance has barely begun. And Gaizka, you and I will be the ones to turn the music on."     A siren wailed and we went back to work. I never figured out how he'd found us the job in the first place, but he was always like that. He never bothered to offer any explanations, and I never bothered to ask him for any. Instead of ever asking him, I just repeated to myself something he'd once said to me, "Is the job easy?" Yes. "Is the pay good?" Yes. "Well then, that's all the questions and answers I need."     The job was as follows: We'd go to the seaport each morning, we'd get on a freighter and they'd take us a couple of miles offshore. The anchor was thrown and we'd start working, pushing these old military vehicles into the water. The purpose, we were told, was to create artificial reefs which eventually would restore the "underwater equilibrium." Israel and I, plus five others, would push those old trucks off the deck to the bottom of the sea. We threw Land Rovers and Norton motorcycles overboard as well. The cranes would handle all the really heavy stuff, like the M-60 tanks. "The point is not what's left," Israel said then, after we'd gone back to work. "It's about what you're able to see. If you put a bunch of people in front of a forest, guess what happens?"     "A forest like yours?"     "It doesn't matter what kind of forest, Gaizka. That's not the point."     "So what, then?"     "All those people standing there; they're all staring at the same forest, but some only see the trees, and others only see the shadows."     "So what's the ... What are you getting at?"     "Now that's the best part of all. We don't have to 'get' anywhere," he said. * * * We exchanged looks with the guys on the other side of the truck, and all together gave one big push. Another truck fell into the water. It was one of the Barreiros with the green cab. We watched it go down, like always. It was nice to watch them sink. It made you think of a whale that had come up to look at the sky and then gone back down. The boat turned around when the deck was clear and brought us back to the seaport. We all went into one of those bars by the dock. Almost all the men were by themselves, at separate tables. Everyone drank or ate in silence.     "What do you mean we don't have to get anywhere?" I asked.     "Look at all these people, Gaizka: sitting there. They're like leaves blown in by the wind. Some of them are total idiots; they can't even chew gum and tie their shoes at the same time. The others are all cowards. Their lives are empty as donut holes. Open doors scare them more than closed ones. They stack their cans of food in alphabetical order. They start their Christmas lists in June and before they're forty years old they have to choose between everything they lost and everything they never had. And what do they have? Do you want to be one of them?"     "How can I not be one of them?"     "You can believe this: Opportunity knocks on everybody's door, but very few dare to open it. Or you can choose not to believe and stay where you are, waiting for it to knock." I don't know if I'm explaining this right as I remember back. I can see now what Blueberry was talking about when he said: "We could be anywhere, Israel and I, the two of us all alone. It was always as if we were really three people together, and you never knew which of the two he was going to be." That was a part of it, and the other was those things he said--those words, and the way he used them. They were like ... live fish flipping on a hot pan, or something. As I looked around me, this bar we were sitting in, this was what I belonged to. I didn't like it. Israel then told us about his plan. His idea had to do with those M-60s, those trucks, and everything else we'd pushed into the sea. Where other people saw a pile of junk, he saw a pile of money.     "Envision two things," he said. "One, what it's like down there, at the bottom of the sea. And two, what people will pay to see it. All those tanks at the bottom of the sea, Gaizka; all the cabs of those old Barreiros filled with yellow fish. Think about it: `The Army of Ghosts: An Experience You'll Never Forget.'"     This is what we had to do, he figured. Buy a boat with an outboard motor, a couple of scuba-diving suits, oxygen tanks, all that stuff. Of course, we'd have to get some kind of job to save money for all that equipment. Then we'd wait for summer. All those tourists with lots of money. Here was something they could spend it on. Sure, it would be a little different. We'd take them out on the boat, give them the scuba-diving suits and then let them go on a dive to the bottom of the sea. What would happen if people weren't into it? I asked. He said nothing.     We were just leaving the bar when one of those freak storms started. He stopped in the middle of the rain, turned to me and said, "Gaizka, what's the one phrase I have that's opposite of what everyone else says?"     "`I'll see it when I believe it.'"     "Exactly. So listen up: I only want you to join me if you see it, too."     His eyes were vacant, like a room where someone had turned out the light.     We started walking down the street. The rain smelled like wet copper--I remember because ... it made me think of, I don't know, of blood or something, and ... God, I even looked down at my feet, and ... This may sound strange, but it was hard to believe we weren't walking on something red and hot.     "Yeah, I can see it," I said.