Shaken and Stirred

Like many others before him, Francisco Haghenbeck moved to Puerto Vallarta three years ago looking to get away from Mexico City’s increasing hustle and bustle. Once here, he and his wife opened their very successful La Piedra stores. The move was also a turning point for Haghenbeck. A self-described “mercenary” writer, he’d made a living writing anything from political speeches to television scripts to comics. Particularly proud of the latter, he is the only Mexican writer who has ever written for superhero publisher DC Comics.

Once in Puerto Vallarta, and influenced by a fellow writer who accepted his invitation to write a mystery novel here, Haghenbeck decided to write his own. “Trago Amargo,” or Bitter Drink, his first novel, was just completed in late 2005. In a short time, however, it has gained unexpected notoriety in Mexico’s literary circles, unanimously winning this year’s “Vuelta de Tuerca” award, the local equivalent to the prestigious Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award.

The novel follows beatnik detective Sunny Pascal, who is sent to the set of Huston’s “Night of the Iguana” to solve a murder mystery. Carefully researched and constructed around real characters, reading the novel is as though the 1963 production took place only yesterday. Cleverly interspersed within the novel are stories and recipes for martini drinks from the ‘60s, a passion inherited from his grandfather. Available only in Spanish, an English translation is in the works and will be published in 2007.