This tale takes place in a fictional Ohio town that’s struggling with its growing influx of Latinos. Racism and violence have both reared their ugly heads in what used to be a quiet community. Now, the rape-murder of a Mexican-American woman, Thalia Ruiz, threatens to cause those tensions to boil over, and it falls to the town’s just-installed police chief, former Border Patrol commander Tell Lyon, along with a corners-cutting, hard-line county sheriff, Able Hawk (“El Gavilan”—The Hawk—of this book’s title), to bring down Ruiz’s assailants before more blood and divisiveness are spread.You’ll find my discussion with McDonald here. Feel free to comment on our exchange or on El Gavilan itself, if you’ve already read it.
* * *As is typical with my interviews for Kirkus, there was more to my conversation with McDonald than I was able to fit into the column. So I offer the remainder below
J. Kingston Pierce: What sorts of research resources did you employ while crafting El Gavilan?
Craig McDonald: Mostly it was written from first-hand observation and some stories we were covering that revealed just what a financial and social impact illegal immigration was having on social services and school systems. There was also a very demonstrable impact in terms of illegal narcotics--particularly meth production--that was spiking crime in central Ohio.
JKP: Are there many real towns in Ohio and elsewhere in the Upper Midwest facing the sorts of immigration pressures seen in your fictional New Austin?
CM: As I’ve described, it’s a pervasive issue across the entire state. You can drive down two-lane county roads in any direction in Ohio, hit a town with little more than a single stop light, and still find illegal immigration stresses ... particularly because Ohio remains so agriculturally centered. As Able Hawk says to Police Chief Tell Lyon in El Gavilan, “the border is now everywhere.”
JKP: Is this truly a standalone novel, or might we expect to see more from Tell Lyon, Able Hawk, and Lyon’s fetching new wife, Patricia Maldonado, in the future?
CM: It’s a standalone. I had a series I wrote prior to the Lassiter series that centered on a journalist turned novelist. That guy was named Chris Lyon, and he actually has cameo appearances in El Gavilan and in the third Hector Lassiter novel, Print the Legend. I have several books centered around Chris that are sort of sitting on my computer, but Tell and Able have had their day, so to speak.
JKP: So, after doing the research and writing this story, how do you think the United States ought to deal with its growing problem of illegal immigration? Build a ridiculously expensive wall? Ease the path to legal immigration? What?
CM: If I had that answer, I’d probably have a clear path to elected office. It’s certainly not a new dilemma. I know a lot of people living in border states and who are living on the front lines. They’re as vexed as anyone else in terms of a strategy that’s financially supportable. The notion of a wall is absurd. On the other hand, not so long ago, it was projected that medical and prison costs tied to illegal immigration could cost the state of Ohio somewhere in the range of an additional $300 million by 2020 or thereabouts.
READ MORE: “The Monday Interview: Craig McDonald,” by John Kenyon (Things I’d Rather Be Doing); “El Gavilan: The Hector Lassiter Connection,” by Craig McDonald (Spinetingler Magazine).