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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Blood on the Saddle

Rafael Reig

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To purchase Blood on the Saddle

Title: Blood on the Saddle
Author: Rafael Reig
Genre: Novel
Written: 2001 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 182 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Blood on the Saddle - US
Blood on the Saddle - UK
Blood on the Saddle - Canada
Überall Blut - Deutschland
Sangre a borbotones - España
  • Spanish title: Sangre a borbotones
  • Translated by Paul Hammond

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Our Assessment:

B : (overly) playful genre-mixing futuristic Spanish noir

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 2/12/2003 Hardy Reich
The Observer . 4/12/2005 Peter Guttridge
The Telegraph . 25/10/2005 Susanna Yager
TLS A 28/10/2005 Chris Moss
Die Zeit A 19/5/2004 Peter Henning

  Review Consensus:

  Enjoyed it, and some very impressed

  From the Reviews:
  • "Überall Blut ist eine intelligent geschriebene und unterhaltsam zu lesende literarische Kuriosität, die man freilich nicht ernster nehmen sollte, als sie sich selbst nimmt." - Hardy Reich, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Blood on the Saddle is not much longer than a novella but Reig manages to pack in deft descriptions of this weird future while providing a homage to Raymond Chandler. Eccentric, dizzying and wonderful." - Peter Guttridge, The Observer

  • "(A) refreshingly unconventional little book which takes the crime novel into a new dimension, mixing science fiction, westerns, fantasy and noir. (...) It's a gloriously absurd spoof, amusing, provocative and occasionally touching." - Susanna Yager, The Telegraph

  • "Rather than solve his cases, however, Clot seems to get lost in them, riding around aimlessly on his bicycle and arriving at the crime scene long after everyone else. Reig's narrative abandons most of the conventions of detective fiction, moving between science fiction, thriller and psychodrama, with set pieces lifted from the spaghetti western. (...) Reig's prose threatens to burst through the confines of the story; his writing fizzes with ideas, hilarious asides, colourful characters and absurdist dialogue. (...) Always entertaining, always provoking, the novel is an antidote to the fatigue we sometimes feel after too much realism and journalism. There is something exhilarating about a fiction that follows none of the usual rules, and we emerge from our visit to this manic fictional universe refreshed and impatient for another ride." - Chris Moss, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Das Resultat ist die nahezu perfekte B-Seite eines klassischen Noir-Romans à la David Goodis oder Cornell Woolrich, ein Trash-Bastard, der sämtliche Register reibungslosen Erzählens zieht und dabei auf seine geplünderten Vorbilder auf geradezu freimütige Weise anspielt. (...) Rafael Reigs literarischer Comicstrip demonstriert, wie raffiniert und kurzweilig das ausgesuchte Spiel mit Zitaten und Verweisen sein kann. Einer überbordenden Fantastik geschuldet, ist dem Spanier eine temporeiche literarische Kuriosität ersten Ranges geglückt." - Peter Henning, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Blood on the Saddle is a lot of things. It's narrated by Carlos Clot, your standard private eye (a loner who had been tossed off the police force (for a strange -- but, in this world, appropriate -- reason) who likes to hit the bottle, plays chess with deceased grand masters, etc.). There's a sci-fi feel to it -- it's set in a Spanish dystopia some time in the near future (they've run out of oil, for example, so everyone bicycles around) and there's a monstrous genetic engineering company, Chopeitia Genomics, looming over everything and involved in sinister things. Even the Western-genre has a place here (and Clot is also like the lone cowboy). And there are also some literary games being played: Clot specialises in missing persons, and of the three cases he gets early in the book one is to find a fictional character who has gone missing from a work-in-progress (yes, a work titled Blood on the Saddle ...).
       Reig gets the hard-boiled tone down right, and there's a decent story with some nice pulpish twists here (Clot is a suspect in some of the deaths that follow, for example). Chopeitia Genomics has something to hide (and something to offer Clot, too), and the crimes and murders (and attempted murders) are fairly clever. Reig also offers an atmospheric thriller: the country really is a very grey American-dominated dump, Clot an appealingly world-weary but dutiful P.I. -- and there's some fun with lost and disembodied heads.
       There's a feel, however, of Reig tossing in whatever he comes up with as it occurs to him, the novel careening from a straightforward noir novel to a literary game to a dystopian social novel. The bits are entertaining and clever enough, but don't fit ideally together, making for a surprisingly unwieldy novel given how short it is.
       One of the fictional characters that pops up complains to Clot:

     - It's the effort. I'll be doggoned if imagining ain't the worst work on earth !
       Too much of Blood on the Saddle also feels like work -- or at least worked over --, Reig running with and juggling too many (though often inspired) ideas. The strain of pulling in -- and making fun of (or ironically commenting on) genres and literary examples (from Chandler to the Western novel) -- can be wearing, impressive though Reig's relentless inventiveness is.
       Blood on the Saddle is good and creative fun, but Reig tries to do a few too many things in it. Still, worth a look.

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Blood on the Saddle: Reviews: Rafael Reig: Other books by Rafael Reig under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Spanish author Rafael Reig was born in 1963.

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