Truth to Fiction: The Writing of Mexican Booty

So on to the second Lucy Ripken book, MEXICAN BOOTY, set in New York, Santa Fe, and several locations on the Yucatan Peninsula on Mexico’s Caribbean side.

I started this book after having a conversation about pre-Colombian art forgery with a couple of friends who worked in the Museum of the American Indian, which at that time was on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It has since moved downtown, I believe. But no matter, these friends–married, with two daughters, very much the “real” people basis for the couple in the book who advise Lucy on matters pre-Colombian—got me going. As did a friend’s meeting of a guy in Santa Fe—a single guy, a lawyer from California—with whom she fell in love. I lived in Santa Fe for a short time many years ago, and have passed through the area enough times to sort of know my way around. Throw all that into the mix with a trip we took to Isla Mujeres, off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, from Manhattan, with side trips to Chichen Itza, of course, and you have the basis for the book. Everything else I made up, including the two unusual residential locations—the house in the mountain and the house on the beach. The other characters including the peyote-eating heiress and her no-good sax playing brother, his sleazy part-time girlfriend, the bad guys, and the gallery owner, are all invented, based of course on types or individuals I have met along the way.

Lucy’s skill as a windsurfer reflects the skill one of us possess in real life, so I was able to write about it knowledgeably, although windsurfing, or boardsailing as it is really called, has been supplanted by kite-sailing as the main way to ride the wind on a board. So I guess that dates me, along with some of the techy stuff that has obviously changed drastically even in the few short years since I wrote the book.

As for the plot, with its double and triple crosses and “fake” fakes and so on…well, once again, this is all invention. I know there is a huge market for smuggled pre-Colombian artifacts, and that there are expert forgers out there. That’s all you need, sometimes, to make up a story.

The last time I visited Isla Mujeres there was only one large hotel, abandoned on the shore at the north end of the island, abutting the long sandy main beach that is the primary hang-out for all the low-budget hippie travelers that used to congregate there, since it was beautiful Mexican beachfront and cheap rooms and hotels abounded nearby. It wasn’t quite Ibiza or Phuket or one of those more renowned spots on the vagabond circuit that drew a larger crowd of those in search of the cool place to be, but it was definitely on that circuit.

Also on that hipster vagabond circuit was the lively and beautiful beach town of Playa del Carmen, down the coast not so many miles. Playa del Carmen has since turned into another Cancun only with a little more class—crowded, expensive, and not even remotely off the beaten track. As for Isla Mujeres—well, you’ll have to go and see for yourselves what time has wrought. It is a great spot, and the wonderful ruins of Chichen Itza and the magical coastal parks with their cenotes, wild beaches, and lush jungles are all nearby.

Caribbean and Pacific Mexico are two different worlds, with different cultures, histories, and climates. Don’t be afraid to visit Mexico. This is an amazing country with profound cultural riches, natural beauty of all kinds ranging from volcanoes to rain forests and jungles to beaches with waves, reefs, and endless, empty stretches of sand; great food with myriad regional variations, and generally friendly, engaging people. Two of my stories take place, in part, in Mexico, for a reason: I like it down there very much.



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