About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Bullfighting Experience in Or the Bull Kills You

The title of Jason Webster’s book, Or the Bull Kills You, tells the reader that the book will involve bullfighting. It is from the traditional saying - either you kill the bull, or the bull kills you.  As I have spent time in Spain nor studied Spanish culture this post is drawn from what Or the Bull Kills You says about bullfighting.

Bullfighting is not a comfortable topic for Canadians. We have no public fights involving animals. Rodeos feature cowboys riding bulls for a few seconds or dropping off horses to grab steers and turn them on their backs. No lawful sport involves the killing of animals.

For those who challenge bullfighting aficionados ask in reply if they are vegetarians and, if not, do they object to how the cattle they eat live and are then killed in slaughterhouses.

The heading to each chapter has a quote about bullfighting.

Some are provocative as in Chapter Two:

            I believe that bullfighting is the most civilized fiesta in the
           world. – Frederico Garcia Lorca

A few are earthy such as Chapter Sixteen:

            He’s got more balls than a blind bullfighter.

Some are more philosophical:

            The only important muscle in bullfighting is the heart
            Augustin de Foxa

Chief Inspector, Max Cámara, who dislikes bullfighting, is forced to examine his thoughts on bullfighting during the investigation through discussions with bullfighters, bullfighting journalists and breeders of bulls for bullfighting. 

He unexpectedly finds himself moved by the combination of drama, ritual, artistry and danger in bullfights. Max states:

And as he watched, for a second, for a moment that was lost almost as soon as it came, something extraordinary happened. It was if the division between Cano and the bull had disappeared, as though for a fleeting instant they had become one single being out there on the sand, unified by their fight and struggle: one entity separated not by their mutual wish to kill each other but almost as if by a kind of tenderness, a passion. It was if, for a brief period of time, matador and bull were brought together and joined through something that felt almost like love. But it was not any kind of love Cámara had ever sensed or been aware of before, nothing he had ever known. And yet it was there, binding them and making them one.

The primary victim Jorge Blanco may have been inspired by a real life matador as set out in an article at the Spain nowandthen website:
    The latest star is José Tomás who returned to the ring in June of
     2007 after an absence of 5 years.  The effect was electrifying as
     half empty arenas were filled and newspapers devoted entire
     pages to his exploits (even El País, Spain's left leaning and
     perhaps most prestigious newspaper, which had virtually
     eliminated bullfighting from its pages). His return started in
     Barcelona and was attended by aficionados and celebrities from
     all over Spain. Inside the plaza there was a capacity 19,000
     crowd, outside about 5,000 protesters.  

As with every current major professional sport there are issues over cheating in the bullfighting business. I do not know why I was surprised but bullfighting’s foundation is honour. When honour is compromised a sport’s integrity is threatened.

Or the Bull Kills You left me far more reflective about bullfighting than I had been before reading the book.


  1. Bill - I tend to see it as the mark of a well-written book if it's got me reflecting on my views about something. That's happened to me several times, and I think books like that help push my thinking. Thanks for sharing these points about bullfighting. No matter what one thinks about it, it's got a long history and deep cultural roots.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I do not read crime fiction looking to be made "reflective" but am usually glad if a book gets me thinking.

  2. Very interesting post, Bill. I had never heard of this author or the series, and it sounds worth looking into. I had not thought much about bullfighting one way or the other. I am against mistreatment of animals but I guess I don't get much exposure to bullfighting.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I think you would find the way bullfighting is addressed in the book intriguing.

  3. I haven't read this author's books. However, at 19, I saw a bullfight in Mexico City, along with some family members who liked it. I didn't.
    Since then, I've become much more aware of mistreatment of animals in many ways,
    but I did stop eating mammals about 12 years ago.
    At 13, my reading of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle," set in a slaughterhouse, caused me to not eat meat for awhile. But not now.
    Our societies in general are being educated about the abuse of animals raised for human consumption. The stories that come to light here have caused more people to stop
    eating meat.
    A recent New York Times special report on a U.S.-taxpayer-funded facility that experiments on how to produce more offspring and cause them to grow more quickly sickened me and so many people that some changes are being made. It was all
    done in the cause of maximizing profits for the meat industry.
    I think we owe decent, humane treatment to animals that live, breathe, feel pain
    and terror.
    That includes bulls, too. And I extend that to the humans who are injured in
    bullfights or in the running of the bulls in Spain. A young man was brutally gored
    recently while doing this, barely survived.
    and many readers.

    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. You are a woman of strong principles. I eat meat and live in a rural area. I have always been aware that animals die to provide that meat.