Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guest Author Max Tomlinson

Our guest author, this week, is Max Tomlinson. Max is fron the Bay Area of California and has traveled extensively throughout South America. 

His debut novel SENDERO, a thriller set in modern-day Peru, got a star from Kirkus. His second in the series, WHO SINGS TO THE DEAD, will be available in December.

In his next book, Max will be shifting his focus to Argentina and dealing with the aftermath of the military takeover in the ‘70s. 

You can visit him, and I hope you will, on his web page: http://maxtomlinson.wordpress.com/

Cara - Tuesday

The Shining Path

“What a frightening thirst for vengeance devours me.”  Osmán Morote (Comrade Nicolas)

Abimael Guzmán dressed as he was when paraded through the streets of Lima in 1992

During the 80s, after an unknown philosophy professor by the name of Abimael Guzmán founded the Shining Path (“Marxism–Leninism is the shining path of the future”), there was a period when it seemed that the Maoist revolutionary movement might well take control of Peru.

Inflation was rampant, as was corruption, and the indigenous Quechua population, along with many demoralized Peruvians, were more than ready for change.

But at what price?

Somehow Chairman Gonzalo (one of Guzman’s noms de guerre) was able to take that deep discontent and turn it into a full-fledged insurgency that lasted twelve years and killed, by modest estimates, 30,000 Peruvians. (Some estimates go as high as 70,000.)

The Cult of Shining Path

The Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) were matched only by their Cambodian counterparts The Khmer Rouge for creative brutality and out-and-out atrocities. Stories of dogs hanging from lampposts in Lima, beheadings for civilian infractions such as adultery, and random bombings with explosives strapped to farm animals only touch upon what the Senderitsas were capable of.

Cult-like activities including free love (but absolutely not ‘love’) and members taking oaths (the cuota) agreeing to their own death once they had killed their share of soldiers and capitalists, only helped raise the Shining Path to a level of notoriety well above your average South American revolutionary group.

Bear in mind that Peruvian government forces battling the insurgents weren’t much better. Accounts of disparados (disappeared ones), political prisons, torture and the wholesale attack on the Quechua people in the Red Zone of the Andes are abundant and many Peruvians regarded the Shining Path as Robin Hoods in ski masks.
Somehow the Peruvian people lived through it all and on September 12, 1992, Abimael Guzmán, a man few people had ever actually seen, was arrested in a Shining Path safe house in Lima. And thus began the decline of the Shining Path.

President Alberto Fujimori (currently in prison for human rights abuses and bribery scandals) was given much of the credit for ending the dirty war. Many Peruvians are willing to forgive the methods he used.

Ironically both men on either side of the struggle are still in prison today. 

President Fujimori during his sentencing.
 In recent years the Shining Path’s numbers have dwindled to 100-300. The odd military-style attack has been carried out against soldiers and political leaders but the main effort has been to provide security for Peru’s drug cartels. It is said that a five percent fee is charged for ‘protecting’ cocaine shipments through the Huallaga Valley, where half the world’s cocaine comes from.

The Peruvian Military destroying a cocaine lab in the Huallaga Valley

Last December Comrade Artemio, one of the last infamous old school terrucos, said the Shining Path were defeated. He requested the Peruvian government grant amnesty to imprisoned members and open talks with the remaining holdouts.

Comrade Artemio prior to his arrest.

But on February 12 of this year Comrade Artemio was captured in a jungle basecamp. After two bullets were removed from his stomach, he too, is in prison.

So, finally—the end of the Shining Path?

Unfortunately, not yet. Just last April, Shining Path rebel leader Martin Palomino (Comrade Gabriel) took responsibility for the kidnapping of three dozen natural gas workers in the coca growing region.

The workers were ultimately set free but only after six soldiers were killed in a shootout.  


  1. I'm thrilled my friend, and former writing group alumna, Max Tomlinson agreed to guest post today.
    His book, Sendero will take you to Peru - but it's not all Machu Pichu or embroidered bags or the turista hangouts - get ready for another side of the Andes.
    Max lives in San Francisco with his wife and dog, sports a ponytail that he refused to cut off while the Republicans were in power and lives just over the hill from me.
    Please welcome Max!

  2. I wish I had something profound to add. All I can think of, concerning the international terrorism spasm that seemed to begin in the 60s and continued through the following decades, is that it would be interesting to be able to see what historians in the next century make of it.

    1. Hi Valerie
      If there is any good news to come out of this it’s that South America is seeing a recovery from the damage done by these kinds of terrorist groups and the political landscape is becoming much more progressive. Not so for other parts of the world however.
      take care, Max

  3. Thanks for a fascinating look into a horrible period.

  4. All that graceful prose and a pony-tail too! I am in awe. Thanks, Max.

    1. thanks for the kind words Jeffrey - Max

  5. Max, it amazes me that Sendero Luminoso keeps morphing into ever more strange and dispicable iterations. I was in Lima when they were active in the 80's and the terror was palpable among the foreigners in my hotel. I will be reading the book and looking forward to the next one later this year. Thanks for the fascinating blog!

    1. Hi Annamaria-
      I put off a Peru trip in the late 80s for the very same reason. Thanks and good luck with INVISIBLE COUNTRY - it looks fascinating. Max

    2. Thank you, Max. We are both writing about Argentina next, at different times. My first, "City of Silver," takes place in the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru. It seems we have been hooked into the same solar system in the cosmic consciousness.

  6. Thank you for the warm welcome, Cara - gracious as always