Rolando Hinojosa is the highly regarded American author of the Klail City Death Trip series. Written in Spanish and English, this series emphasizes the consolations of close family or community bonds in a troublesome world that eludes human understanding. Hinojosa highlights the mysteries of life by fashioning a collage of multiple narrative viewpoints, different cultural identities, various generational time periods, and miscellaneous anecdotal stories that are variously comic and serious. He also experiments with dissimilar types or genres of writing, including police procedurals.
Two of the novels in the Klail City Death Trip series, Partners in Crime (1985) and Ask a Policeman (1998), are detective novels. These novels are noteworthy for how they depart from what readers might commonly expect from such works. Instead of sharply individualistic characters dramatically applying exceptional capabilities, Hinojosa’s police officers are thoroughly human. They tend to approach a case casually, and often they acknowledge the tedium of following routine procedures. They succeed because of or in spite of their human foibles, but equally often they benefit from or are set back by pure luck.
Hinojosa revised the crime novel formula by stressing that societal well-being is maintained less by the heroic actions of extraordinary individuals than by basic forms of everyday cooperation, especially supportive familial interactions. His detectives prevail precisely because they are ordinary people of diverse backgrounds and experiences who have learned how to work well together.
Hinojosa’s career as a novelist has been remarkable. His interest in fiction was stirred when, at the age of fifteen, he was awarded an honorable mention in a creative writing contest. His first published book, Estampas del Valle y otras Obras/Sketches of the Valley, and Other Works (1973; English revision, The Valley, 1983), was awarded the Premio Quinto Sol prize for best novel. His second book, Klail City y sus alrededores (1976; Klail City: A Novel, 1987), received the Casa de las Américas award for best Spanish American novel. In 1982 the Southwest Conference on Latin American Studies selected Hinojosa for the Best Writing in Humanities prize, and in 1998 the University of Illinois honored him with an Alumni Achievement Award. He has also received the Lon Tinkle Lifetime Achievement Award (1998), and in 2006 he was installed in the Texas Literary Hall of Fame.