Actor / Director Enrique Castillo Puts Haunting Controversial Immigration Spin to 'La Llorona' In His New Novel

Book Cover Design:  Karina Noelle

Book Tracker Illustration:  Antonio Pelayo

Book Cover Photo: Jimmy Dorantes


Enrique Castillo is celebrating his new published book:  The Dead of Summer during National Hispanic Heritage month.  Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated between September 15th through October 15th – a period where contributions of Chicano, Hispanic and Latino Americans to the group's culture is recognized.   The Dead of Summer is a suspense thriller that at its core is about the violence against immigrant women and the author has a unique and creative way of shedding light to those women who are still waiting for justice.   

Castillo continues to contribute his talents to the Chicano /  Latino community and is an accomplished actor/writer/director who began his career with Luis Valdez’s Teatro Campesino in 1969. In 1978 Enrique made the move to Hollywood and was cast in the hit play Zoot Suit, where he played one of the lead roles opposite Edward James Olmos. Since then he has appeared in over 50 television shows and feature films, working with such notable film directors as Tony Scott, (Déjà Vu) Taylor Hackford, (Blood In-Blood Out) Stephen Frears (The Hi-Lo Country) Wim Wenders (The End of Violence) Gregory Nava (My Family and El Norte) Oliver Stone (Nixon) and Tim Burton (Mars Attacks).

The story of La Llorona (“The Weeping Woman”) is an old traditional spooky story that has been passed down to Chicano / Latino children for generations and is equivalent to the boogey man.   Castillo’s new book creates a unique version or parallel of this folktale that one might hope for.   After all, who wouldn’t want a serial rapist border patrol agent to receive justice in a super natural way?  As such, Castillo gets to be the ultimate spin doctor in creating a haunting story about why La Llorona might weep.

Immigration advocates are all too familiar with stories about corrupt border patrol agents who rape young women immigrants with children nearby. Last year, the Associated Press uncovered about 1,000 officers who lost their badges in a six-year period for rape, sodomy and other sexual assault; sex crimes that included possession of child pornography; or sexual misconduct such as propositioning citizens or having consensual but prohibited on-duty intercourse.

This novel can make for a great foundation towards a Halloween movie because of the meticulous spooky details Castillo used painting a chilling picture when “La Llorona” entered the scene.  [Are you listening, Robert Rodriguez? James Wan? You would be entrusted with a very traditional folktale passed down to numerous generations of Chicanos and Latinos.]  This story is not limited to our community since other versions of the “weeping woman” have spread internationally, and it isn’t a secret how Latinos have become Hollywood’s most important audience as it relates to box office ticket sales.

Interview with Enrique Castillo, author of The Dead of Summer:

Question:  It appears you did a lot of work researching the border areas when writing your novel and you seem extremely familiar with the areas you wrote about. Did you live in any of the areas you wrote about?

Enrique Castillo:  Yes, I was born and raised in the valley in the border town of Calexico. That’s where I spent 18 years there going to school. As I grew up I worked in the agricultural fields there with my father and my brother. Naturally I was very familiar with all the points of interest in the story.  I heard a lot of stories about incidents on the border. 

The scary stories of El Cucuy (Boogeyman) and La Llorona (Weeping Woman), when we would work in the fields migrating north, sometimes we stayed in labor camps and within orchards and a bunch of us kids would get together and do a little camp fire and try to scare each other with those kinds of stories. 

Question:  How long has your new book idea been brewing in your mind before writing it?

Enrique Castillo:  Well I actually wrote it first as a screen play a few years ago.  I did a lot of research for all of those characters that appear in the film going back to their great grandparents for some of them. That’s the work that I do as an actor when I do a role. I do that research to have a good base from which to work with in characterizing the person and making him a living breathing complex human being rather than just a one-dimensional good guy or bad guy. All of that research that I had done for this screen play kind of sat in my files.  And as I would share those stories about the background of the characters with either my wife Bel, or with friends, they would ask if those characters were in the screen play. You have to explain “no” because then the screen play would be too long.  They started asking me if I had thought about writing a novel to include all of that.  …  I went and Googled: “How to write a novel” and I found a website that said “How to write a novel in a 100 days.”  It took me about 2 years to write the screen play, and that 100 days turned into 5 years for the novel. All in all, there is combination of both the screen play and novel in 7 years. …

Question:  Was there a particular border patrol news story you read that helped inspire you to write about corrupt officers?  If so, what story was it?

Enrique Castillo:  I don’t remember all the specifics about it but there was one I remember where the border patrolman had an alliance with somebody across the border and was alerting them as to where the best places to cross were. And then mentioned the amount of money and it was very high per head.   …

The one that most closely parallels what Jack (character in Castillo’s book) is doing in terms of misogyny and cruelty to women, I actually found out about it a couple of weeks after publishing the novel, I came across an article titled the Green Monster.  It was a border patrolman incident in Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley and he was committing the same kinds of crimes against women that Jack (character in the novel) was committing that were very violent and perverted against the women.

Question:  One of the main characters in your novel was a sheriff.  I was hoping the sheriff would not be corrupt like Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio so I was glad that the sheriff was a good character.  What actors can you picture as the sheriff in your book?

Enrique Castillo:  There are so many!  Benjamin Bratt.  Yancy Arias, Nicholas Gonzalez, there are so many. Edgar Ramirez. Thank goodness there is so many to choose from -- that would be nice.

Question:  The foundation of your novel was a screen play you wrote.  Would you like to see your novel turn into a thriller / horror movie?  If so, who would you like to get a copy of your novel and/or movie script?

Enrique Castillo:  It is a higher concept structure than your typical Hollywood film.  I was on the phone with a friend who is a director / producer in the Dominican Republic. He has a contract to produce 5 horror films in the next 5 years and he read it and said he loved it and loved the script.  He recommended a production company to send it to who I believe did The Conjuring.  But the story is a higher concept … so it would need a different approach to it.

Question: Will you be having more book signing events? If so, where?

Enrique Castillo:  The next book signing event will be at the El Velorio event hosted by Antonio Pelayo on November 5, 2016, at Plaza De La Raza located at 3540 N. Mission Road, Los Angeles, CA 90031 beginning at 7pm.  

Click here to listen to the entire author interview of Enrique Castillo regarding his new book.

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