Few people know the complexities of Spain better than Jason Webster, who has written five books about Spain – four of which have been factual. In fact, Jason is an acknowledged expert on the complex and fascinating culture of Spain and writes for a number of quality newspapers in the UK, as their expert on the country.
Jason’s first book was Duende, which has become a standard work for anyone interested in flamenco, one of the most passionate (and difficult to understand) pillars of Spanish culture. Jason then wrote Andalus: Unlocking the secrets of Moorish Spain, in which he looked at the influence of the Moors on Spain – something that is fascinating, often forgotten and rarely admitted to (in a positive way!) by the Spanish.
Following on from Andalus, Jason bravely tackled a raw nerve within Spain and wrote Guerra: Living in the shadows of the Spanish Civil War, before publishing Sacred Sierra: A year on a Spanish mountain, in which he describes life, traditions and local customs, whilst farming traditionally in Valencia.
Jason’s latest book about Spain is called Or the Bull Kills You. This is an exciting read and centres on a Spanish detective in Valencia city, who embarks upon a desperate hunt for a brutal killer. As the story unfolds, you are given a superb insight into Valencia, one of the most enigmatic of Spanish cities, as the build up to Las Fallas reaches its climax.
Meanwhile, running through Or the Bull Kills You is one of the most controversial parts of Spanish culture. This, of course, is bullfighting, which Jason describes from a Spanish viewpoint, bringing the arguments to life (both for and against), in a vibrant and compelling way, rarely seen by non-Spaniards.
Jason is Anglo-American, speaks Spanish fluently and is passionate about Spain. “I’ve had a long love affair with Spain” he says. “It’s a fascinating country with a depth that would take more than a lifetime to understand fully. Indeed, I often think that Spain can only really be thought of in the context of a mini-subcontinent. Each region of Spain is startlingly different from any other, with a culture and customs that are completely individual, making any generalisations about the country virtually meaningless”.
Curiously, Jason Webster does not live in Andalusia, the focus of two of his books, but close to Valencia City, which he agrees was, until recently, one of the forgotten cities of Spain.
“Certainly, Valencia has a curious place within Spain,” Jason says, “perhaps because it retained the biggest presence of Moors after the end of the Reconquista in 1492. It is a region that tends to be looked down upon by many Spaniards and has been strangely ignored by foreigners. However, it a wonderful place in which to live and has made a terrific background for Or the Bull Kills You.”
One of the aspects to Spain that Jason likes is living within the essence of Spanish culture. This, he asserts, is essentially tribal.
“Spanish society is still very close, with most people focusing upon their family, their village and local community, real grass roots stuff that has little to do with the outside world. Day to day life is all about being connected and having contacts. Indeed, once you are settled within an area then you can quickly become an intimate part of it, with the friendliness and care incredibly warming and all-encompassing. So much so, that to return to the UK is quite a shock, almost brutal, by comparison to the gregarious and kindly nature of the Spanish.”
Jason has just completed the sequel to Or the Bull Kills You, which is due to be published in June. However, unfortunately, he would not tell me about the plot although you can be assured that it will be compelling and provide a real insight into Spain. Indeed, that is likely to be one of the great benefits to reading Jason Webster’s fiction. Not only do you get a great story but also a genuine ‘feel’ about Spain and the Spanish themselves and this is something that only an author who really knows the Spanish can provide – and Jason knows Spain intimately.
So – if you are interested in Spain (how could you not be!) then do look at Jason Webster’s books. You will be in ‘safe hands’ and a whole new world will open up for you. Some of the complexities of the country will become clearer and others will challenge you, so that you will seduced into wanting to know more and more. Meanwhile, if you are short of a good thriller then Or the Bull Kills You will keep you well and truly occupied!
Incidentally, you can buy all of Jason Webster’s books from my pal, Rod Younger’s excellent, specialist on-line book store at Books4Spain – together with innumerable other books about Spain!
Nick Snelling of Culture Spain interviewed Jason Webster by arrangement with Books4Spain