Spanish author and journalist, born in 1951. Before his first full-length novel, The Fencing Master (El maestro de esgrima) appeared in 1988, Reverte had worked for over twenty years as a war correspondent. Even now, he frequently returns to his experiences in Western Sahara, the Lebanon and Bosnia in the weekly columns he writes for El Semanal.

Several hundred of these pieces have now been published in two collections, Patente de corso (Letters Patent, 1998) and Con ánimo de ofender (With Intent to Offend, 2001). Unfortunately for the Anglophone enthusiast of his novels, neither has been translated, despite illustrating many of the same preoccupations he's brought to his books.

His childhood growing up surrounded by the naval heritage of Cartagena has left him with a deep respect for history, and a savage disdain for those who ignore it. The villains of The Seville Communion have a get rich quick scheme in mind which will mean demolishing a medieval church in the heart of old Seville.

Since we're talking about villains, these sharp-suited financiers aren't to be confused with Reverte's rich parade of small-time crooks. Reverte finds a certain dignity in the honest thief, not the gangsters of today but the old-fashioned pickpocket or find-the-lady huckster. The trio who provide one of The Seville Communion's many subplots - a con man, an ex-boxer and the raddled flamenco singer - belong to the same literary Thieves' Guild as scene-stealing Jacobean murderers and some well-meaning gold robbers in a Mini.

Reverte, unincidentally, sat on the panel of a late-night radio programme La ley de la calle (The Law of the Street) for several years in the early 1990s, alongside assorted ex-cons, hookers and pimps. He recalls much more fellow-feeling with his panellists than with the executives who cancelled the show.

Despite his concern for Spain's past - his delight in 1998 at the success of an exhibition on Philip II is almost palpable (as is his regretful glee in dreaming up the suitable Boschian punishments for people who leave graffiti on the walls of El Escorial) - he's a long way from your average nostalgic imperialist. He recognises that Spain was built by Castilians, Basques, Galicians, Catalans and don't sue me if I've missed out your home province, and wishes the Castilians, Basques, Galicians et cetera would recognise it too. On top of his regular work, he's written a series of short novels about Captain Alatriste, set in Spain's sixteenth-century Golden Age.

Reverte's heroes, be they unscrupulous book-dealers or Vatican envoys, all adhere in their way to his code of chivalry - there's much of his own character in Don Jaime Astarloa, the ageing maestro de esgrima who's struggling to keep up a sense of honour fading from Spanish society, whether he realises it or not.

His women, on the other hand, can be his more unforgettable creations. The Revertean woman is alluring and mysterious, with an agenda of her own. There's Tánger Soto of La carta esférica (The Nautical Chart), who pulls the unemployed sailor - a Cartagena boy - into her Tintin-esque quest to find a sunken treasure galleon. There's Adela de Otero, who appears at Don Jaime's door one midnight to be taught his patented, unstoppable two-hundred-ducat thrust. El club Dumas (The Dumas Club) offers two for the price of one: Liana Taillefer, his take on Milady de Winter of The Three Musketeers, and Irene Adler, the girl with green eyes who shows an unerring ability to show up in the hero's path and is probably the part Milla Jovovich was born to play.

Roman Polanski, however, chose to cast his pushing-forty wife Emmannuelle Seigner when he filmed the book as The Ninth Gate, and we shan't even go into what he did to the plot.

Reverte's bibliophilia underlies his novels too, most concretely in The Dumas Club where Lucas Corso (bafflingly renamed Dean by Polanski) is commissioned to track down three copies of a book which will supposedly summon the devil. La tabla de Flandés (The Flanders Panel) contains a similar mystery depending on a chess game depicted in the aforementioned panel by a Flemish Old Master, which appears to reveal the truth about the Dukes of Burgundy. The formula's earnt him comparisons to Umberto Eco, and an assured position at the top of the bestseller charts every other year.

Most of his books acknowledge their literary inspiration in some way - Dumas, of course, owes much to Alexandre Dumas and Sherlock Holmes, and to the less well-known swashbuckler Rafael Sabatini. Sea-stories ancient and modern are deep in the veins of The Nautical Chart.

As of 2002, The Nautical Chart is the newest of his books to appear in English, but Spanish-speakers can treat themselves to his very latest, La reina del Sur, (The Queen of the South). Drawing its inspiration from Mexican narcocorridos - a fusion of traditional ballads with lyrics about the drug trade - the titular Queen is Teresa Mendoza Chávez, a Mexican housewife who becomes drawn into the trade to take revenge on a top narcotraficante for the death of her husband. Enmesh her in smuggling over the Straits of Gibraltar, imprison her in El Puerto de Santa María when one of her deals goes wrong, teach her to read while she's behind bars, and bingo! You've got yourself a Countess of Monte Cristo.

Oh, and the books?

  • 1986, El húsar (The Hussar)
  • 1988, El maestro de esgrima (The Fencing Master)
  • 1990, La tabla de Flandés (The Flanders Panel)
  • 1993, El club Dumas (The Dumas Club)
  • 1994, Territorio comanche (Comanche Territory, his fictionalised memoir of reporting from Bosnia)
  • 1995, La piel del tambor (The Drumhead, but appears in English as The Seville Communion)
  • 1996, El capitán Alatriste (Captain Alatriste)
  • 1997, Limpieza de sangre (Cleanliness of Blood, the preoccupation of The Spanish Inquisition; Alatriste #2)
  • 1998, El sol de Breda (The Sun of Breda, Alatriste #3)
  • 1998, Patente de corso (Letters Patent, his 1993-98 journalism)
  • 1999, La sombra del aguila (The Eagle's Shadow)
  • 2000, La carta esférica (The Nautical Chart)
  • 2001, El oro del rey (The King's Gold, Alatriste #4)
  • 2002, Con ánimo de ofender (With Intent to Offend, journalism 1998-2001)
  • 2002, La reina del Sur (The Queen of the South)
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