I feel like I’m constantly chasing this imaginary thing. There’s for sure a hole inside that I can’t seem to fill with my own self, so I’ve tried just about everything else; tattoos, drugs, alcohol, women, and the beat goes on. Sometimes it’s books. For the last couple years I whine that I’m not reading enough. I’ll bolt through a handful of titles, life happens, and then “Fuck everything.” Then I decide to get back into books and I go go go. Federales is attempt number infinity to fill that void with books.
We find Marcos Camarena at his desk doing Mexican Federal Agent stuff. He’s that grizzled, “getting too old for this shit,” kind of flatfoot with a few days worth of stubble and a rampant hatred for sunlight. Through a pretty dramatic set of events, he gives up his badge, goes into hiding, and then starts working a protection detail for a politician. Camarena has a hole in him, too. He tries his damnedest to fill that hole with booze. There are many sentences devoted to thinking about, purchasing, spilling, smashing, and storing alcohol. However, Marcos finds that human connection, no matter how destructive that connection can be, to be the most rewarding. That human condition, man, what we want and need the most ultimately reigns down our own destruction. That thing in all of us is put through its paces, here.
In one-hundred-four pages, Christopher Irvin drops us off in sweltering, crime-riddled Mexico. We’re following his hero through alleys and isolated beaches, navigating this godforsaken life. At first, admittedly, it all feels kind of cliche until we get to that human connection. Camarena is less of a flat protagonist, and he becomes more human when he and his uncle are being real with each other. That’s where the real tension of the story begins, because Irvin gives us a reason to be committed to Marcos’ well-being. From then on, we’re hooked.
The language is fast-paced and clean. Yet, despite the small page count, there’s a heft to the story. Whether it’s the transition from climax to conclusion, which I will leave for you to experience for yourself, or if it’s the fact that the story is based loosely in reality, Federales hold’s enough weight to leave you wanting more. It’s a debut effort that encapsulates perfectly the frustration of merely being human in a world that needs us to be so much more, to be less broken, to fill those holes within us.