Manuel Vázquez Montalbán Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Manuel Vázquez Montalbán was one of the leading Spanish authors and intellectuals of the second half of the twentieth century. He was not only a keen observer of Spanish society, particularly during the period of transition from the Franco dictatorship to a modern European democracy, but also a severe critic of modern global politics, economics, and popular culture. His detective series around his alter ego, the private investigator Pepe Carvalho, therefore serves both as a stepping-stone in the development of detective fiction in Spain, more or less nonexistent during the Franco regime, and as an appropriate device for the investigation of modern Spanish social history.

Not surprising considering Vázquez Montalbán’s family background, his investigation into Spanish social history was somewhat slanted to the left of the political spectrum, focusing on the mainly clandestine, Franco-fascist pockets still not only in existence but also very influential in Spanish business and politics during and after the transition. In this respect, the Carvalho series offers a perspective very similar to that of the German detective novel immediately after World War II. In his later works in the Carvalho series, Vázquez Montalbán widened the scope of his detective’s investigations, both geographically and thematically, from Spain to all of Europe, until in his last, posthumously published work, Milenio Carvalho (2004; the Carvalho millennium), his critical purview included global famine, international terrorism, and the economic devastation of developing countries.

The Carvalho series is thus a fortuitous combination of the best of hard-boiled detective fiction in the mold of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novels with mainstream political fiction. After brief experimentations, Vázquez Montalbán rejected postmodernist metafictional prose techniques for a neorealist approach.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Bayo Belenguer, Susana. Theory, Genre, and Memory in the Carvalho Series of Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2001. A thorough study of the Carvalho series, based mainly on critical and narrative theory.

Cate-Arriès, Francie. “Lost in the Language of Culture: Manuel Vázquez Montalbán’s Novel of Detection.” Revista de estudios hispánicos 22, no. 3 (1988): 47-56. A brief survey of Vázquez Montalbán’s detective fiction to around 1988, including the author’s most distinguished novels in the Carvalho series.

Colmeiro, José F. “The Hispanic (Dis)Connection: Some Leads and a Few Missing Links.” Journal of Popular Culture 34, no. 4 (Spring, 2001): 49-64. Prompted by the celebrations of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Carvalho series, Colmeiro points out the disconnection of Spanish detective fiction from the British and French models, and the idiosyncratic development of the genre in Spain and Latin America.

Colmeiro, José F. “The Spanish Connection: Detective Fiction After Franco.” Journal of Popular Culture 28, no. 1 (Summer, 1994): 151-161. A concise, informative article on detective fiction in Spain after the death of Franco, devoting substantial attention to Vázquez Montalbán.

Hart, Patricia, ed. The Spanish Sleuth: The Detective in Spanish Fiction. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1987. A collection of historical/critical essays on Spanish detective fiction and individual authors, including Hart’s essay on Vázquez Montalbán.

Puvogel, Sandra. “Pepe Carvalho and Spain: A Look at Manuel Vázquez Montalbán’s Detective Fiction.” Monographic Review/Revista Monográfica 3, nos. 1-2 (1987): 261-267. A brief essay on the author in the context of Spanish history and culture.