To interview Montero Glez, you have to go back in time and dial the numbers of a landline phone that many people don't even have at home anymore. He does not like tactile mobiles and continues to write the texts by hand, which he later transfers to the computer. He, too, is not a fan of books in digital format, because the backlit screen makes reading faster and makes him anxious. The author of the novel Carne de siren (Today's Topics) likes to walk slowly, which is why he lives away from everything in Cádiz.
It's not like he's a luddite or out of touch with reality. In fact, he answers emails – at his own pace – and even has a Twitter account, in which he only publishes recommendations for books, movies or series that he has liked. "Before, I did clash with one and the other talking about politics, but not anymore," he says. "Now what I want is to create good vibes with the people who follow me. I have removed toxicity."
In addition, he writes every week in different media, like elDiario.es, although it is the genre that least satisfies him as an author. "Journalism is the art of haste, as Umbral said. You write, deliver and that's it. I am continually dissatisfied and I always see mistakes and defects that I could correct." Essays, stories and novels allow for more leisurely work, reviewing as many times as words are needed, removing paragraphs, cooking over low heat. This is how a novel about rough men has come out, at times dizzying and very hard, like the Costa da Morte in which it is set.
You have been given the title of cult writer. Does that crown weigh a lot?
A cult writer is nothing more than an author who owes his success to the prestige of his failure. It's a luminous way of calling me a failure. I run away from labels because they take away your possibilities. But they have called me from everything.
But does this seem better than others that have been put?
No, I prefer to be called red and fagot.
Mermaid meat just hit the market. After so many published titles, do you still get nervous?
It's an upset feeling because I like it at times and others look at it and think that this could have improved it. I am continuously dissatisfied. What I do when the books arrive is give them away right away so I don't have any close by, forget about it and get to work and go about my day to day. Vanity is the pride of the simple. And I don't consider myself a simple person, I am a man who writes and that's it.
Beyond the story, it is clear that he has put care into finishing the book as an object in itself with the photo of Alberto García-Alix on the covers. How and why did he choose that image?
Alberto tells stories with a camera and me writing, but it's the same. The stories have come to meet us before we have come to them. And I am a very, very fan of his work. Not only of him, but of this entire generation that seems memorable to me, the last one there has been and it is plastic. There is Alberto García-Alix, who is the captain in the night and my great friend Ceesepe, who for me he was the bestLet the others forgive me. And Miquel Barceló, Javier de Juan, Ouka Leele and Pepito El Hortelano, who is the one in the photo. They are friends and I admire them.
Marcel Ventura, the editor of Temas de Hoy, really likes Alberto and connected well with him. This photograph, where Pepito El hortelano appears, was the most impressive. He is telling a story that can be identified with what is inside. It was a success of the people of Today's Themes not to step on it with the name or the title. So you can put the novel in front of your bookcase.
He says that stories come out to meet him. On this occasion she touches on the subject of Galician drug trafficking. Why?
I left Madrid 25 years ago and, before coming to Cádiz to live, I was in Galicia for about a year and a half. I was amazed with the atmosphere, with everything that is the sea and the climate there. I was able to identify the black root gothic, Edgar Alan Poe and the horror and fantasy stories that I like so much. I realized that there is no history there, but a lot of stories. And I took notes.
I am a hashish smoker and what they sold there was very good pollen, very sweet, which entered the lungs very well. Of that same quality he had only smoked in Morocco. I was quite amazed because in Madrid, at that time, what was available was apaleao, of low quality. And twenty-odd years after this, Fariña arrives, the book by Nacho Carretero. I understood that the structures they use for drug smuggling are the same as the ones they used for tobacco and why hashish was so good. It gave me a spark, I collected all the notes I had from that time and began to tell the story of a man who goes to sea to face his destiny.
After the adaptation of Fariña to television and later with Narcos, the figure of the drug lord began to be mythologized. Suddenly Pablo Escobar was seen as a more than bad character, charismatic. But you run away from that and present drug traffickers as criminal and ruthless beings.
Parmenides, a late-sixth-century-BC fellow, said a thing that sounds like a truism, but is quite profound: "To be is, not to be is not." In his time, the being was the free man and the non-being, the slave. From that maxim or that aphorism, arises everything that is the political dissidence of Karl Marx, who wrote Capital from the non-being of Parmenides. In our current times, the being is, for example, a guy like Amancio Ortega, an industrialist who is given to us as an example of a self-made man.
The non-being is the women, the children, all the people who are working right now on the other side of the world, in a dark basement, sewing so that these clothes are later distributed in their stores. That is what interests me. The work of Amancio Ortega is also mercy, alms to make a good impression on society, Pablo Escobar also did the same. I'm not interested in Pablo Escobar, I'm interested in those who worked for him.
Last year her first novel, Thirst for Champagne, which had been published in 1999, was reissued. What was it like facing her again? Has it aged well?
It's very bittersweet, because of course, 22 years have passed. I see myself again as a kid who gets on the witch's train and doesn't know where the broomsticks are going to come from. On the one hand, it is a return to innocence, but it is also very sweet because I am living the moment in which the novel becomes a classic, five editions have already been made. No reissues within the same publisher, but has gone through five different ones. And those that remain, because it is already a classic, it is already unstoppable. Few authors can boast of that.
But at first it was difficult to publish it.
It was an incredible pilgrimage of rejections, something unfortunate. I say unfortunate because now he is a classic. It was rejected by people who still work in publishing houses. But I am a gentleman and I will not name names.
Would it have been easier today?
Right now there are many more publishers than before, at that time there were hardly any. And even on Amazon you can self-publish. But I don't recommend it because the editor is required. I was very lucky to have Mario Muchnik, who I consider the best editor in the world and he just passed away. He taught me to write, to grow facing my work. He wrote me a letter that said "What do you want for me to be your editor?". Those are the words that every author needs, wants and dreams of.
Now that many books are released after they make a series or a movie about them, would you like Mermaid Flesh to be brought to the screen?
I haven't had an offer yet and I'm waiting. All the other works have been bought from me to take them to the cinema, but none have been adapted.
Because of the fetishism of merchandise that Karl Marx called. They take them so that someone else doesn't do them. That is the dirty game, but it only happens to me, they usually work like that. Mermaid Flesh is much more cinematic than the others because of the gothic elements. I'm a bit waiting and yes I would like to. But it is something that no longer depends on me, I write, that's it.
In 2016, he said in an interview that Pablo Iglesias was "like a little brother from whom I learn." Is he still like that?
He is a guy I have a lot of respect for. He is a greyhound that when he bites the rag hare he doesn't run again, a bit of a metaphor for the loss of innocence. He got into institutional politics and realized that reaching the Government is not reaching power.
He has been the most singular politician that there has been in Spain, which is not very difficult either, since the Civil War. Then there was Juan García Oliver, an anarchist from the CNT, who became Minister of War in the hardest moments. He had to take that position to save Madrid and he did it in 1936. If it wasn't for him, I wasn't here now, because my family comes from the anti-fascist struggle. When they lost the war they were retaliated against and a trace of that remains in part in my position in literature and journalism.
Those of us who are children and grandchildren of those who lost the Civil War have it much more difficult. Pablo comes from there too and I admire his tenacity, his courage and everything he has done. He has made mistakes, yes, but they are not the ones who have sought him out and have appeared in the media.
Has the Spanish left lost after your departure from politics?
I am in the spirit of 15M, it was the most stimulating thing that happened in a long time in Spain. From then on capital was on its guard and tried by all means to neutralize that and it has succeeded. We are not going to fool ourselves, we have to accept defeats. Right now the left does not exist in the street and less in the institutions, because they are the reflection of the street.
That doesn't mean it won't revive. In the universities, on the street, in everyday life there are small impulses, I do have hope in those small outbreaks. But for now, here and now, the only thing I have faith in is skepticism, I'm already 56 tacos and I'm pretty disappointed with everything that the political movement has been. But Pablo is my colleague and I am very fond of him, my perception of him has not changed at all, quite the opposite. It seems to me that he left with a lot of dignity.