“The Blind Man of Seville is an ingenious and compelling thriller. It covers some unusual ground: the nature of artistic genius, for example, and the price of happiness.”
“A splendid assembly of complexities and relationships that tangle generations in murder and scandal... Wilson has a talent for digging beneath the skin to explore psychological and emotional nuances.”
New York Daily News.
It's Holy Week in Seville, Semana Santa, the Easter week of passion and processions. A leading restaurateur is found bound, gagged and dead in front of his TV. The self-inflicted wounds tell of the man's struggle to avoid the unendurable images he's been forced to watch. When confronted by this horrific scene the normally cool and dispassionate homicide detective, Inspector Jefe Javier Falcón is inexplicably afraid. He looks into the victim's ruined face and asks himself: 'What could be so terrible?'
The investigation into the restaurateur's turbulent life sends Falcón trawling through his own past and the ferociously candid journals of his late father, a world famous artist. Painful revelations churn up Falcón's unreliable memory and more killings push him to the edge of terrifying truth. And he realizes that this is not just the hunt for an all-seeing murderer who knows his victim's secret lives, but also the search for Falcón's own missing heart.
This huge and complicated novel is on the surface a police investigation into multiple murders but it turned out to be as much about how to become a writer as anything else.
Something that always bothered me about crime series heroes is how little they change. There's a reason: most senior detectives are middle-aged men. They have to be to run such serious investigations. But middle-aged men never change. How would I get one to change? The only way was to create a profound mental disturbance caused by an investigation that turns horribly inward and reveals to the hero his most deeply concealed fears.
Out of the vast collection of scenes of Seville in my head walked Javier Falcón. I suppose his character came from my growing awareness of how enclosed Sevillano society is, how steeped in tradition and inward-looking its people are, which was why I decided to make him the Sevillano who was an outsider in his own city. He hasn't lived there for many years, having done his training outside and then worked in Barcelona, Zaragoza and Madrid. Then his father, a famous artist, died and Javier returned to the city. But Javier was unable to move on. He was stalled. Something was preventing him from clearing out his father's studio, obstacles appeared in his career and emotionally he was so blocked his wife had divorced him. He'd gone cold. He was locked in. Unable to communicate with his fellow officers, even his clothes showed his temperament: dark suit buttoned up, tie always at its zenith, shoes laced up tight.
Then came the trauma that tipped him over the edge.
I didn't just want to write a book that was an introduction to my new hero, I also wanted to show where modern Spain had come from. Did this vibrant, artistic, animated, sociable people have something to hide? Living next door in Portugal I'd become fascinated by the differences in the two populations. How could two countries whose histories were so similar, even at some stages entwined, have peoples that appeared to be polar opposites? The one and only crucial difference was that Spain had had a very bloody civil war in the 1930s, which Portugal had avoided.
So the novel was going to be about Javier but the important figure in his life was his father, Francisco Falcón, who was born in Tangier and had run away from home to join the Spanish Legion. It was at this point that I developed the idea of the triple investigation: the first into the murder, the second into Javier's mind and the third into Francisco Falcón's journals.
The horror diary
I didn't want to get into the dual storyline bind again in this novel so I decided to develop the historical story through the brutally frank journals of Francisco Falcón. I didn't write them until I reached the point in the story where Javier discovers them in his father's studio. At that point I broke off from the narrative and threw myself into the mind of a monster. I had no idea how much I would need, all I knew was that this was one of the most creative rides of my writing life. I wrote the journals in the towering heat of the summer of 2001, which somehow suited the demanding nature of the character. Every day I would sit down for four or five hours and try to become this half-mad, demonic, charismatic, crafty, weak, vulnerable, brutal, sensual, chilling, amusing maniac. The journals burgeoned to 100,000 words of which I used only a third in the book but what had started out as the development of a new technique for me turned into something that I felt gave the book wings.
The Unpublished Francisco Falcón Diaries
The diaries that I didn't use are available here to download as a pdf. The published text is in bold. It is advisable not to read these entries before you've finished the book.
“... it is Falcón Senior's diaries that are the real gem. They are full of drama and confession - like Alan Clark's, but with paintbrushes, firearms and catamites.”
THE BLIND MAN OF SEVILLE
Harvest Books (January 19, 2004)
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd