PLAYING FOR THE DEVIL’S FIRE
A Novel for Young Adults
Cloth $16.95 / 9781941026298
Paper $11.95 / 9781941026304
E-book $11.95 / 9781941026311
Publishes February 2016
The bittersweet odyssey of a boy coming of age through a landscape broken by drugs, crime, and corruption.
In Playing for the Devil’s Fire, we ride a young Mexican boy’s emotional helter-skelter as he gradually understands the hopelessness of his battle against evil. Through the hero Boli and his luchador sidekick El Chicano Estrada, Phillippe Diederich has found a brilliant way of going behind the headlines to show that the Mexican tragedy is about real people.
—Alan Riding, author of Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans
Phillippe Diederich’s Playing for the Devil’s Fire is a frightening and gripping story of what happens when evil takes control of a small town. Boli, a baker’s son, gives us a firsthand understanding about the long plague of Mexico’s drug wars, the disappearances of those willing to speak out, and the helplessness common people feel when their leaders choose money over justice. Boli’s friendship with El Chicano Estrada, an itinerant masked luchador, recalls the same odd and deep bond Huck and Jim formed in Twain’s great book. The stakes are just as high here for a child whose heart is just as good.
—Tony D’Souza, author of Whiteman and Mule
Phillippe Diederich, in his debut young adult novel, creates Boli, a 12-year-old boy who becomes our unwitting guide into the terrible tragedy of Mexico’s Narco Wars. Boli, his father and his mother, his sister Gabriela and the demented grandmother live in the tiny town of Izayoc, which in Nahuatl means the place of tears. The mountains around Izayoc had long protected their pueblo from the on-going drug wars that were roiling the rest of Mexico. That is, until the first sentence of the book:
It was a hot Sunday morning when we discovered the severed head of Enrique Quintanilla propped on the ledge of one of the cement planters in the plaza.
Then everything changes. Not apocalyptic changes, like phalanxes of men riding on horses with stingers for tails—but subtle ones. Poor neighbor boys turn up with brand-new SUVs with fancy girls hanging off them. Boli’s parents leave for Toluca, never arrive at their destination, and never come home. No one will talk about it. The priest starts saying mass in Latin. And then a washed-out masked wrestler turns up one day, a man only interested in finding his next meal. Boli hopes to inspire the luchador to set out with him to find his parents.
“Playing for the Devil’s Fire," says Diederich, "is a novel born from my nostalgia and deep sorrow for Mexico. I wanted to put a face to the statistics we hear about, to the over 60,000 to 100,000 deaths in the so-called war on drugs that has ravaged the country. I wanted to address the corruption and the senseless narco violence that is tearing the country apart. I chose the point of view of a 12-year-old boy because I have a 12-year-old son, and because when I was that age, I experienced some crazy adventures with my friends in the outskirts of Mexico City.“
Phillippe Diederich, born in the Dominican Republic, grew up in Mexico City. He worked there for half of a decade as a photojournalist, traveling through the country extensively and witnessing the terrible tragedies of the Drug Wars. He thinks of Mexico as his home—as his country.