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Simon Levack’s Aztec Mystery novels

Aztec crime thrillers

Racy crime thrillers - set in Tenochtitlan, written in London... Author Simon Levack has developed a knack for writing crime fiction based on every-day Aztec life (and death, of course). Now onto his fourth novel, ‘Tribute of Death’ (2007), Simon first devised an Aztec mystery starring Yaotl, a downbeat Aztec hero, in ‘Demon of the Air’ (2004), which won the Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger Award. (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

English author Simon Levack’s fourth Aztec Mystery novel
English author Simon Levack’s fourth Aztec Mystery novel (Click on image to enlarge)

‘We tend to think of the Aztecs [he writes] - when we think of them at all - in rather grand, dramatic terms. All too often, they are presented as builders of pyramids and temples, practitioners of grisly sacrificial rites and players in the final tragedy that saw their civilisation overturned and their magnificent island city devastated. Of course, the Aztecs were these things; but they were also men and women with food to prepare, children to bring up, errands to run, debts to pay and relatives to squabble with. Domestic concerns probably loomed larger in their minds than the great and terrible events that were unfolding around them: in that, of course, they were no different from us...’

The original Florentine Codex - written in Spanish and Náhuatl - is in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence, Italy
The original Florentine Codex - written in Spanish and Náhuatl - is in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence, Italy (Click on image to enlarge)

What makes his novels outstanding is his meticulous research - based largely on close reading of the Florentine Codex, that encyclopaedic source of information on every-day Aztec life, customs and beliefs. In ‘Tribute of Death’, for example, we are enticed into the lives of individual Aztec farmers, warriors, priests, midwives, officials and many others, all influenced by complex calendrical fates, sorcery, superstitions, faith... As a result, we are treated, gently and inconspicuously as the storyline unfolds, to everything from customary Nahua greetings and nicknames to the details of poisonous Aztec plants and traditional midwifery practices.

‘Aztecs’ by Inga Clendinnen
‘Aztecs’ by Inga Clendinnen (Click on image to enlarge)

What first inspired Simon to immerse himself in early 16th. century Aztec society was a chance reading of Inga Clendinnen’s ground-breaking and now classic study ‘Aztecs’, published in 1991. Professor Gordon Brotherston wrote at the time of its publication that “’Aztecs’ begins and ends with the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, the glistening lake city which rose like a dream to the eyes of the Spaniards who first saw it. The energy it contained and which brought about its construction appears remarkable within and beyond the New World, and in order better to understand it Clendinnen takes us deep into the heart of Mexican or Aztec society. Rather than in official belief systems, of the kind painstakingly reconstructed by generations of Americanists, she is interested in what it actually felt like to live in Tenochtitlan, as warrior, priest, mother, or merchant.”

We plan to collaborate with Simon in the future in presenting a balanced perspective on the Aztecs to general audiences of all ages. We wish Simon and Yaotl well...!

NOTE: Simon Levack’s website appears no longer to be in operation (Feb 2015).

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Here's what others have said:

Mexicolore replies: 1. Yes they did.
2. But the word teotl did, which means god(dess)/life force/spirit...
3. With the help of a razor-sharp obsidian knife, it can.
4. Relax and open a can of beans; did you get out of bed the wrong side this morning...?
Mexicolore replies: Thanks for sharing this update with us, Simon.
Mexicolore replies: We share your enthusiasm, Susan. Simon’s website appears (June 2010) to be temporarily down. We’ve written to him to find out more of what he’s up to...