Professional wrestling was my first career. I began training when I was fifteen years old, at the legendary Doghouse in Jamaica, Queens. I turned pro at seventeen. We’ve always called ourselves “workers,” and I was a worker for almost ten years of my life. I loved it with everything I was and everything I had to give to the business. It was everything to me. I worked all over the country and in Mexico. I retired in my mid-twenties because, quite simply, there’s no middle industry left in pro-wrestling and I wasn’t good enough to work at the highest level. I came too late for a sustained career, such as I was. I don’t regret the decision in the slightest. I love what I do now, which is write stories for a living.
People who know about my wrestling days often ask me when (never “if”) I’m going to write something about pro-wrestling. Outside of a few essays I’ve offered very little in answer. I have a lot of complex feelings about the business, and I’m still not far enough removed from it to process all of them as is required to write about it, even and especially in a fictionalized story.
You see, last year a wholly unique opportunity presented itself. One of my very best friends is Keith J. Rainville. Throughout the 1990’s, Keith published the English-language lucha libre magazine in the United States, From Parts Unknown. Keith is a passionate Mexican wrestling fan and encyclopedia. He’s easily the only gringo who knows more about lucha libre than I do, and his love for it is in his blood. Keith’s magazine eventually became a full-blown publishing company, releasing specialty books like Lucha Noir, a collection of artwork by Rafael Navarro that is without question my favorite coffee table book of all-time, and Zombi Mexicano, a love letter/rare historic archive of Mexican zombie movies. FPU publishing also released one of my favorite novels of all-time, Edgar Award nominee Christa Faust’s Hoodtown.
Keith had this idea for a new story about enmascarados, the masked wrestlers/heroes who make lucha libre what it is. He also dug what I’ve been doing with my novella series like Slingers and my current New-York-City-restaurant-world-meets-supernatural-comedy-thriller series, Sin du Jour, with Tor.com Publishing.
Long story short: We’ve decided to smash the two together and make something unbelievably cool.
Today, From Parts Unknown announced the first book in what will hopefully be a series of novellas about Ciudad Rencor, a fictional city somewhere between the US and Mexico notorious for ending the biggest, bloodiest feuds in lucha libre. The story, based on Keith’s original concept and written by me, follows two enmascarados, one the purest of heroes and the other the most dastardly of villains and his arch-nemesis, who, years after the epic end of their feud, are forced to team-up when a seemingly supernatural crime wave threatens to overtake their beloved city.
We’re calling the first book Life in Grudge City. It’s the first stanza of a possible trilogy, and folks, I absolutely love this world and this story. It’s set in a modern world, but it’s also a throwback to the heyday of 70’s cop shows and Mexican B-monster movies starring legendary enmascarados. It also explores what it is to be a pro-wrestler, the business itself, and the culture surrounding it. It’s got great action, great humor, great heroes and villains, but it’s also about the masked hero of myth dealing with a very real world that’s constantly evolving.
It’s something I never thought I’d get to write and am thrilled is becoming a book, especially one published by FPU.
I also want to make something clear right out of the gate: This isn’t Nacho Libre. This isn’t a parody. There’s plenty of levity and laughs and satire arising from the story and the situations, but the story itself is lucha to its bones. I would never write anything about lucha, and Keith would never publish anything about lucha, that was less than an authentic celebration of the sport and the culture. For me it’s far more than the respect of fandom. While I may look as fluorescent as they come, I grew up in a mixed-race family attending Spanish-speaking border schools. I spent countless hours as a human pommel horse while Super Aguilar taught the Maximo brothers and Amazing Red how to fly by using my back as a springboard. Enmascarados were my friends and colleagues.
Put simply: I’ve done my family and my friends justice with this story.
Rencor: Life in Grudge City will drop in the second quarter of 2016 as both a print and ebook.
Keith and I sincerely hope you’ll enjoy your visit and want to come again.
There’s more to come, but for now dig this fantastic concept art of the two main characters created by Jesse Justice!