In “Bas Fond – An urban and suburban tale”, the past of Rio de Janeiro, far from the nickname of “wonderful city”, comes to life. Written by Felipe Benício, the book transports readers to the 1990s, intertwining elements of police and mystery narratives in a plot that reveals a crime capable of shaking Brazilian society rooted in appearances.
The plot follows Mário Mariano, a recently graduated journalist who launches himself into a job at a newspaper on the verge of bankruptcy. His first report, an exclusive story about a prostitute victim of sexual abuse, takes on unexpected proportions as the case unfolds. Amid discoveries about influential figures in the local police, Mário exposes social and power inequalities in the capital.
Inspired by his own experiences, the author, who began his career as a crime reporter, weaves a historical overview of Brazilian journalism. The plot draws vivid details of Rio de Janeiro, allowing even those unfamiliar with the city to walk through the streets of Catete, the neighborhood that once housed the presidential palace.
Felipe Benício intertwines narrative resources such as flashbacks, transporting the audience from the suburbs of Rio to the high society of Belém in the 1960s. Brief chapters alternate narrative perspectives and direct dialogues, reflecting the rawness of reality. Mário Mariano’s journey, however, does not end with “Bas Fond”, preparing to continue with new books that connect the journalist to other key moments in Brazilian history.
The book “Bas Fond – An urban and suburban tale” takes place in the 1990s in Rio de Janeiro, portraying a different perspective of the city. What motivated you to choose this specific period to set the story?
Because I started my career as a journalist at that time, as a police reporter for the defunct newspaper Ultima Hora.
The protagonist, Mário Mariano, is a newly graduated journalist who becomes involved in a complex plot. How did you develop this character and what differentiates him from other protagonists in police narratives?
Mário Mariano is, in fact, an “alter ego” of mine. As I said in the previous question, I started my career at Ultima Hora, which is represented in the plot as the fictional newspaper Primeira Importação. The character is a typical novice journalist from the early 1990s, a time when the country was in recession, with high inflation and limited opportunities in the job market. It is very much the result of what I personally experienced. I think the difference with other protagonists is that the opportunity to excel in the profession falls kind of by chance in his lap, as a result of being on duty on the first day of the year and having the opportunity to interview the addicted call girl the night before looking for the newspaper to denounce what happened.
The work mixes elements of police and mystery narratives. How did you manage to balance these elements to create an engaging and captivating plot?
I had as literary influences to write the book, mainly, Mário Vargas Llosa – the interspersed dialogues – and Garcia Roza, with Chief Espinoza. I tried to bring a bit of both into the story. The first, in a slightly different way, brings flashbacks that show the origin of some characters, but which, in my opinion, go back to the technique of the award-winning Peruvian writer. And the second, in the setting of the plot in Rio de Janeiro, showing some characteristics of the city, specifically in the region of Largo do Machado, Catete and Glória. Garcia Roza worked with Chief Espinoza specifically in Copacabana, placing the character as a police officer in the neighborhood.
Mário Mariano is a reporter who faces challenges in his career and is faced with a crime that exposes social and power inequalities. How do these themes intertwine in the story?
I tried to trace a plot in which the lives of humble and lower-middle-class characters end up intertwined with powerful others. In addition, we have immigrants from other states and even Europe. This ends up bringing a great cultural mix that helped to show a little of what Brazil is, specifically Rio de Janeiro.
You mentioned that the narrative is inspired by your own experiences as a crime reporter. How did this experience influence the creation of the plot and characters?
I had the opportunity to see it in person and also to hear some stories when I worked as a crime reporter, at the beginning of my career as a journalist. Some of them are, of course, romanticized in the book.
“Bas Fond” explores descriptive details of Rio de Janeiro, especially the Catete neighborhood. How did you use the setting to enrich the story and make readers feel immersed in the setting?
Having worked at the defunct Bloch Editores, I frequented the neighborhood a lot in my youth. I tried to bring some references from the place to the universe of the book, trying to show some iconic points of the region, such as Outeiro da Glória, for the plot.
The protagonist Mário Mariano will continue in other books, connecting to key moments in Brazilian history. Can you tell us a little about the plans for this book series?
In this first book, Mário Mariano is a beginner reporter, and works in a decadent newspaper. At the end of the story, he is approached by an experienced journalist to work in a prestigious vehicle. The sequels – which I imagine are one decade apart – will show the evolution of his career. The next book already has a title – High Society – and will work on similar themes, such as high-end prostitution and police corruption, but it will already enter a political field, just a brushstroke at the end of Bas Fond. From there, as Mario Mariano’s career progresses, the idea is to talk about militias, elections, privatizations and, finally, in the book that closes the series, set in the late 2020s, I imagine a dystopia. A story in which Mário Mariano is already retired, but collaborates for a digital native vehicle. Brazil – with the victory of a conservative and reactionary project in the 2022 elections – the character is already mentioned in Bas Fond – becomes a country of castes, with some privileged segments, such as the military, financial market, pastors and militias. Mário Mariano goes after a story and ends up publishing a report that overthrows the government and puts the country back on the democratic path.
In addition to being a writer, you are also a journalist and have a specialization in Corporate Communication. How did your education and professional experience influence your writing and approach to the book?
I believe that I managed to bring the journalistic style of writing to the book, direct and objective, without prejudice to guaranteeing a minimum literary quality.
You mentioned that you worked in communication vehicles such as Ultima Hora, Rádio Manchete and Bloch Editores. How do these writing experiences manifest themselves in the work?
In the novel, there are some characters I’ve lived with during my professional life. They are journalists with whom I had the opportunity to work and also others who became my personal friends and who I keep in touch with until today.
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