Apart from working on my WIP (currently I’m translating the third novel in the series to Spanish) and translating and editing some other books (I’ll tell you about my new translation next week) I’ve been looking at my older books. The Spanish version of my first novel The Man Who Never Was has undergone some revision and as I was thinking of the book, I wondered about the cover, that originally was my own effort. I’ve been talking to my friend Lourdes who has a very good hand with designs (she does interior design) and knows Photoshop in an out and I asked her to have a look at the original covers, with the idea of, at least, changing the text. But, at the time, not sure why now, other than because I liked the two images, I used a different image for each cover, the Spanish and the English one, and I wanted to ask you which one do you prefer.
To add to the mix, originally I had found another image I really liked, but with my lack of skills I didn’t manage to make it work, but now that might be another possibility.
These are the images:
This is the one I used for the English version:
For the Spanish version I used this one:
And this is the other image, that I never used:
The Man Who Never Was
The protagonist, Jesús, is ugly. Extraordinarily ugly. He is so ugly that his friends and relatives are convinced that behind that ugliness there must be something else. A malefic power or possiblyr a momentous fate. The truth is that fairly special things happen wherever Jesús is. His biological father is a mystery. He only manages to discover that he seems to have fathered quite a few other extremely ugly boys like him during his career. His sister (half-sister) is a child-prodigy who excels at everything she does (writing, career in foreign relations, acting…), his mother becomes the president of the country, his own bank is successful, his best-friend Vero is a computer tycoon, his brother-in-law also makes it in politics…But for all the success and money around him he still feels unsettled. He tries sports, banking, cinema but nothing provides the answers he wants. Who was his father? This is a family saga where everything goes: from politics to retirement homes, from sport to cinema, from adultery to incest but nothing is taken too seriously.
If you enjoyed Isabel Allende’s ‘House of the Spirits’ and love ‘The West Wing’, combined with a touch of comedy, this is your book!
Adelina (Adele for her posh friends) was the most beautiful girl in the village. Not only that, but she was the heiress of a very well-off and quasi-aristocratic family, and that increased her appeal for prospective beaux. She was beloved by the parents of all her friends; she was fashionable and popular with the girls; she was lusted after by men of a certain age. And she was considered hot-property by guys her own age. Adele was in everybody’s wish list, and her list of Romeos was nearly as long as the Yellow Pages. Some witty person had suggested that her family needed a system of traffic lights to avoid fatal crashes for the men in her life.
With all the comings and goings, her father, Don Severo, who was austere, serious, and not given to frivolities, didn’t have a clue of who the father might be. Because when Adelina started gaining weight, against all the rules and regulations of the fashion magazines and celebrities of the moment, it became quite evident that she was pregnant. Her always having been thin as a stick only accelerated matters, and what initially was gossip amongst the help soon became common knowledge of the best (and worst) of society. Even her father, Don Severo, who was always away, busy with business, and distant from his family and everyday life, finally realised what everybody had noticed ages before. He begged, he threatened, he tried and bribe his daughter, but all to no avail. She refused point blank to reveal the name of the father of the creature. And she didn’t even want to do the decent thing and have an abortion (legal maybe by pulling some strings, or a touristy one) like many of her friends. No, she didn’t care about the shame and embarrassment she might bring upon her parents. She wanted that child, and she’d have it. Nobody had ever said no to Adelina, and she wasn’t prepared to set a precedent in that occasion.
The birth was a big event. Adelina’s stubbornness had won again and she had refused to go to a hospital.
“You’re mad! Why won’t you go to hospital like everybody else?” Doña Remedios, her mother, asked for the millionth time, in desperation, as the birth got closer and closer. Doña Remedios, like her husband, was quite traditional and not trendy enough to understand concepts like natural birth or the importance of a friendly environment for the newborn. Birth might be natural, but she didn’t think it should be a pain for the mother or an inconvenience for the mother’s family. How friendly can it be for a baby to be born to her mother’s screaming her head off and everybody running around like lunatics?
“Precisely because that’s what everybody else would do. That won’t do for me. No.”
She wanted a home-birth. She had counted on their private medical care to provide in case of any problems, but not on how busy doctors were (especially as most of them worked both in the public and the private sector). By the time their physician turned up he was only able to examine the new born. He didn’t look particularly pretty or even wealthy. He was small, thin, very dark, and all covered in black hair, like a tiny werewolf. Doña Remedios was the first one to hold him in her arms. Immediately, the baby, who hadn’t even cried, opened his eyelids. His eyes, green with yellow sparks, and with elongated pupils like a cat’s, made his grandmother gasp and say: ‘Jesus! He has the devil’s eyes!’
That comment became part of the family’s lore and was always mentioned when discussing their choice of names, because Adelina, who was notably fresh and alert after giving birth, told her mother:
“Yes! Jesús! That’s it! Perfect name!”
Remedios looked at her daughter.
“Jesús? But…That’s not one of the traditional names in the family. And what about non-religious or Christian people? They might find it offensive.”
“But why? I’m not calling him God. And people have always used Biblical names, and names of prophets…Anyway, the world is full of Mohammeds, so why should I be that respectful?…Although God…has a ring to it…Or…Satan…Lucifer…”
“Jesús will be fine. Sure.” Remedios agreed to avoid even worse. And she reflected that maybe it would bring the child good luck and protect him from whatever fate those eyes seemed to announce. And unless his looks changed, he would need all the luck he could get. He wasn’t ugly, not in a conventional sense. He didn’t have a bent or big nose, and the eyes, despite their peculiar colour, weren’t either too small or too big, not too close to each other. His hair, that didn’t grow in his head until it fell off the rest of his body, was black, shiny, and growing straight, in spite of the best efforts of nannies, hairdressers, relatives and doctors.
Don Severo observed and waited to see if the boy would grow up to show any resemblance to anybody.
“What do you think, Reme? Don’t you think he looks a bit like that boy she went out with…Charlie? The garage guy?”
“You mean the guy with the noisy cars? No, he was blond. Real blond too.”
“I don’t know…Are you sure you can’t make her tell you?”
“You know Adelina. Nobody can make her do anything she doesn’t have a mind to.”
“You know? I’m not sure she even knows who the father is?”
Adelina knew perfectly well who the father was, but she worked hard to forget it, and by the end of her life she would insist that Jesús was her child and hers only.
However fantastic or mysterious his origins, Jesús grew up, but annoyingly slow for his grandmother and his nanny, because her mother went back to her previous life. She read chick-lit, went for tea or coffee with her friends, and attended balls and parties. It was somewhat peculiar, as the village was quite old-fashioned and normally a scandal like that tainted individuals and families for ever. But Adelina, even after the birth, was still the prettiest of the place, her father was still the wealthiest, and all the inhabitants seemed to reach the conclusion that Jesús’s birth was the result of some evil conspiracy and it had nothing to do with Adelina who was an innocent victim of the situation. And Adelina abandoned her son in the same way she had previously abandoned toys, clothes and accessories when they weren’t fashionable anymore or she grew bored of them. Of course, there was always the matter of the child’s malevolent expression that made him very difficult to fit in or be accepted, as people didn’t want to look at his face for any longer than necessary.
Jesús grew up like any other child, walking and talking at the normal ages, and suffering all the usual illnesses, without demonstrating in any way the evil nature his grandmother had predicted. Because the child didn’t see any other man in the house but his grandfather, he assumed he must be his father. The first time he called him Dad, Don Severo didn’t hear him and nothing happened. On the second occasion, while his grandfather was reading the financial news, he pulled at his trousers. Don Severo looked down at him.
“What’s the matter?”
Don Severo paled and slapped him twice on the cheeks before getting up and storming past him to the kitchen, saying:
“What the hell? I’m not your fucking father!”
Jesús could hear shouting from inside the kitchen. Don Severo was talking to his wife.
“That child called me Dad! Can you believe that! What on earth have people been saying?”
“There’s no need to get so angry. Nobody has been saying such a thing. He’s just confused. He must have noticed other children have a father and he thought…Poor thing.”
“Poor thing? I tell you, if he calls me that again…”
Luckily Jesús was too young to understand the full conversation, but he was old enough to understand that Don Severo wasn’t his father and that wasn’t the solution to the enigma of his birth. It seemed that, in contrast with the other boys, he didn’t have a father.
During the first years of his life, a legend had grown about him. Everybody knew what his grandmother had said when she had first seen him open his eyes, and the people who’d seen him whispered that he looked like the devil’s son indeed. The truth was they were exaggerating somewhat. There was no denying, though, that the child looked like a cartoon or old-Western baddie. Some optimistic people insisted that he could have a profitable career in a TV soap. That is, if he didn’t mind getting typecast.
When Jesús was five years old his mother came home one evening and entered the dining room, where her parents and her son were having tea. She smiled at them and said:
“I have some news! Great news! I’m getting married!”
Don Severo dropped his fork, Doña Remedios nearly chocked, but Jesús carried on playing with his food. He’d never really liked broccoli.
“Who is the lucky one? Are you marrying his father?” Don Severo asked, looking at Jesús.
“His father? Are you mad? Of course not! Why would I want to do such a thing? No, I’m marrying Senén.”
“Who?” Don Severo had given up on trying to keep up with all the young men she was dating.
“Senén…The mayor’s son?” Doña Remedios, who’d always been better at gossip-related activities, asked. Quite a handsome boy. He’d taken after his mother, because the mayor wasn’t precisely a picture.
“Well…That’s not too bad.” Don Severo said. The mayor, Don Raúl, was also quite rich and from a good family. Not as good as theirs, of course, but considering Adelina’s behaviour, it was quite a good match. Better than he would have dared to hope for.
“We’ll have to organise an engagement party and…” Doña Remedios said, getting up from the table ready to check her magazines.
“I don’t think we’ll have time for all that. What we need to organise, and rather quickly, is the wedding.” Adelina said, beaming, or should we say glowing? Because yes, she was pregnant again.
It was all a bit of a rush. Despite Doña Remedios’s bests efforts due to the notoriety of the two families things took a fair amount of organising, and by the time of the wedding there was no doubt that Adelina was pregnant again. She had the baby, this time in hospital, shortly after their return from the honeymoon. They had decided beforehand that the newlyweds would move in with the mayor, who had lost his wife a few years earlier and wanted some company. Also, Adelina wasn’t that keen on staying at her parents, and Don Raúl, Senén’s father, had a fantastic cook. And they had always kept his nanny, Felisa, in employment, so… The little girl was called Stephanie, because her mother loved women’s magazines and thought the name might bring her good luck. Jesús was really happy with all the events, as he believed Senén might be his father, as he hadn’t paid much attention to Adelina’s comment when she announced her wedding. He decided to ask Senén directly, as Adelina had always been vague in her replies as to his parenthood. One of the many afternoons when Adelina had gone shopping with friends and Senén was watching the Sports Channel Jesús decided to broach the subject. Due to his grandfather’s reaction he felt calling him dad wasn’t a good approach. He went for direct questioning.
“Senén? Are you my dad?”
“Me? Your dad? I never met your mother until after you were born. Quite a long time after, if you want the truth. And how can you imagine I could possibly have a child with a face like yours? Have you looked at me? And at your mother? She must have been very drunk that night. Either that or it was very dark. Mate, in all honesty, if I had a child with such a face I’d kill myself. But…if you want to call me Dad, that’s fine, as far as there’s no one around.”
Jesús understood that Senén was his sister’s father, not his, and that he might never have his own father. Regarding the offer to call him Dad, he decided to think about it. Anyway, father or no father Jesús adored his sister, who had been much luckier in the looks department. She was as pretty as her mother had been at her age, possibly even more, and everybody was saying that Adelina had now given birth to an angel, to balance things out.
Jesús, with his cruel and dangerous-looking face, had to bear jokes and taunts from children and grown-ups. Although he was by nature a pacifist and disliked fights and violence, due to all the persecution and bullying, he got involved in fights quite a few times, and got a reputation of violent and dangerous, although he believed he was only brave. He joined a gang of children from school, amongst the naughtiest and most troublesome, the only ones who accepted him, but he had to quit it, because with his face he was blamed for any misdeeds that happened. Even the ones he had nothing to do with.
In spite of all that, Jesús was an optimist and believed his future would be happy. Senén, whose father had always tried to guide him towards the world of politics, had had an idea. Or “an idea” as he’d say, finger twitching and all. He had decided that he should create a political party. He resolved to tell his father, who had always been his confidant in serious and manly things. He caught him at one of his usual after meals rest periods in the library that he insisted in calling reading, but mostly consisted of napping after some alcohol and smoking.
“It isn’t so complicated. And I think I have all the cards in my hand. I can’t fail. We have a comfortable financial situation.” Senén explained.
“Even better the sad day when your in-laws…are no longer.”
Senén nodded. That had also crossed his mind, although, of course, he really loved Don Severo and Doña Remedios.
“And Adelina, my wife, is beautiful, and has a sense of style, and all, men and women, adore her, and she’ll be a great asset. And Stephanie…she’s gorgeous, and clever, and so advanced for her age! And…I don’t want to talk about me, but…I’ve always been good with people, studied Law and Politics at a good university, and…”
“Yes, and women have always been after you because they find you irresistible. I know, I know. That’s all true. You aren’t wrong. But I think you’ve forgotten a couple of things.”
“First: your politics. I mean, what is your political option? Any particular ideas you want to promote?”
Senén looked at his father, to see if he was joking. No, he was sitting at his favourite sofa, cigar in right hand, brandy on his left, looking terribly serious.
“Politics? Does it really matter? Whatever will get me where I want to be. I don’t think nowadays political ideas are that very important. I can’t myself see any difference between parties professing to be right or left wing. It’s people and personalities who win elections. The packaging is more important than the product in a consumerist society. With the right image I’m sure I’d make it whatever I decide my political tenets are. Liberal, eco-friendly, because green is very popular at the moment and you have to talk environment all the time, but supporting traditional values, although with respect for diversity. And an emphasis on health and education. Of course we’ll remain flexible. If things don’t work well we can always change our ideas mid-way if that will attract more voters.”
“Oh, I see. Wishy-washy. It will do. Flexibility and adaptability are good when there is neither honesty nor principles.”
Senén again looked at his father, perplexed. He’d never noticed his father’s honesty or integrity in business or politics in the past. And there were some ugly rumours about his personal life, but he’d never wanted to ask. Anyway, you can never trust the word of honour of a politician. Just then, Don Raúl started laughing.
“I’m pulling your leg, Senén. Of course you’re right. Your programme sounds great. I imagine you only want to be a senator. Or MEP…No, not that…Or…let’s not stop there. Why not President? If Reagan and Bush Jr. have been presidents in the USA, why not you? You are definitely far more attractive and younger, dynamic and in better health than Reagan ever was, and if you’d tried I’m sure you’d also have been a better actor. No sweat. And Bush…OK, you aren’t a member of MENSA, but compared to Bush…Einstein ”
Senén laughed and his father did the same. But then he remembered his father had a second but.
“Second?” The mayor looked puzzled, but suddenly remembered. “Oh yes, second. Jesús.”
He’d forgotten Jesús. That was a bit more complicated. A wife with a child out of wedlock, however beautiful, wasn’t much of an ace in a political career, especially one at its very beginning. Particularly in their country that was still a bit…male-centred. Things had improved notably, but…If he’d had a secret son…that would have been different. It would have given him some cache. But Jesús…Maybe if they started a rumour that Jesús was the son of somebody famous, a bullfighter, or a famous singer, or an actor, women would go crazy. But, with such a face nobody would believe it. And, there was the little detail that he didn’t really have any idea whose child he was. Senén had been so taken by Adelina at first that he hadn’t insisted in her telling him who the father was. And now…he needed her and she had the upper hand and knew it. She’d never tell him now. Still…Leaving him with his grandparents at the village was an option, but Adelina would never accept. It wasn’t because of her concern about the child’s welfare. But she wanted to be present if and when his diabolical powers manifested. All mothers complain at some point of their children being little devils, but Adelina wanted full credit if her son was real evil. From the deepest of Senén’s intellectual recesses he extracted a possible solution. Charity. Charity was a good thing for a politician. It showed he had a heart. But one needed to get into the wagon in time, because people’s patience for grand gestures was wearing thin. They could say they had adopted Jesús when his parents, family friends, died. Sorting out the paperwork wouldn’t be that difficult. His father was the mayor after all, and that had some advantages. Of course people in the village knew the truth, but they wouldn’t be staying there once everything was sorted. And people could always be bought. Or silenced, if necessary. He decided to tell Adelina.
She was wearing one of her sexy numbers. Senén wondered, for a second or two, why she’d be wearing that in the middle of the afternoon, but then his hormones took over and he had problems keeping down to business.
“Adelina…I’ve had an idea.”
“Go on. Is it dirty?” She asked, putting her arms around his waist and wrapping herself around him dangerously close.
“Not that kind of idea.” He said, trying to disentangle himself. “I need something to do…Stop that. I’m trying to be serious. No, politics. I was talking to my father. Why not form a political party? We have money, we are the most attractive couple in town…”
“And we have no scruples. Yes, I see. You have a point.” She stopped her advances towards her husband and sat down on the sofa. “Yes, you have enough brains, not that one needs much on that department and…What did your father say?”
“He thinks it’s a good idea. We talked about politics.”
“Oh, that doesn’t matter much nowadays.”
Senén smiled. Adelina and he were in synch in more ways than one.
“But he mentioned Jesús. You wouldn’t want to leave him behind, would you?”
Adelina shook her head.
“You know my feelings on that. We’ve discussed it enough times. I want him near enough to keep watch on any developments.”
“You can’t really believe he’s going to be…special in any way, can you?”
Adelina smiled in a way that always made Senén feel like an idiot.
“OK. Fine. But I came up with an idea that might work and make us look good rather…”
“Than make me look like a slut. OK, shoot.”
“We could say his parents died, they were our friends, and we adopted him out of the kindness of our hearts.”
“But people here…Of course we wouldn’t stay here…Yes, it could work. Great idea! Travelling, meeting all famous people, TV…Must go shopping!”
“Do you think Jesús will mind?”
“Jesús? No. He’ll be happy to leave this place and have a bit of space. More people, more opportunities to go unnoticed in the looks department. And with that story at least he gets to have a father, even if it’s a dead one.”
Don Raúl smiled when Senén told him his idea about Jesús and said he’d sort the paperwork out. Maybe all the education hadn’t been completely wasted after all!
And he’d get rid of Jesús who gave him a chill every time he saw him. Of course he’d go back to being on his own, but it was a small price to pay to not see Jesús again. And he’d be supporting his son’s career. One had to be generous when it came to one’s family. At least that was his excuse.
Everything went notably smoothly and quickly. A morning about a month later they left with their mountains of luggage towards the big city, or, to be more precise, towards the capital. They were very impressed on arrival. They all had an opinion. How many votes! How chic! How many kids! Guaaaaa! That was the beginning of their great adventure in the city.
Thank you all for reading, and please like (if you want), but especially, share, and comment. There are a number of posts I wrote including interviews with characters and all manner of things shortly after publication if you want to read more about it, and links to the book on the side, although a new cover might be coming soon. All feedback greatly appreciated! Ah, and suggestions for the choice of font will also be welcome!