A literary prize of one million euros has lured three Spanish men out of anonymity, to reveal that they are behind ultra-violent Spanish police thrillers marketed as the work of “Elena Ferrante” of Spain.
The men had published under the pseudonym Carmen Mola, which roughly translates to “Carmen’s cool”.
When one of their books won the lucrative Planeta Prize, the trio released the check to the public in a lavish ceremony attended by the King of Spain.
Agustín Martínez, Jorge Díaz and Antonio Mercero had published novels and worked as screenwriters under their real names before meeting to write under the name Mola. Credits include work on the television series “Central Hospital” and “Blind Date”.
Their main character in Carmen Mola’s novels is Detective Elena Blanco, a “peculiar and lonely woman who enjoys grappa, karaoke, classic cars and sex in SUVs,” according to publisher Penguin Random House.
The men, all in their 40s and 50s, denied choosing a female pseudonym to help sell the books. “We didn’t hide behind a woman, we hid behind a name,” Antonio Mercero told Spanish newspaper El País. “I don’t know if a female pseudonym would sell more than a male pseudonym, I have no idea, but I doubt it.”
They had previously claimed in interviews and on their own website that Mola was a teacher in her late forties, telling Spanish newspaper ABC three years ago that they needed anonymity to “protect a sedentary life that has nothing to do with literature “.
The Spanish media noted that the advertising for the books had played on the tensions between the apparent life of the creator and “his” creations.
“No one escaped the idea that the idea of a university professor and mother of three, who gave algebra lessons in the morning and then wrote ultra-violent and macabre novels in the afternoon on spare time, was a great marketing operation. “, Noted the Spanish newspaper El Mundo in an interview with the authors.
Beatriz Gimeno, feminist, writer, activist – and former director of one of Spain’s national equality bodies, the Women’s Institute – attacked men for creating a female character in their advertisement for Carmen’s books Mola, for several years.
“Regardless of using a female pseudonym, these guys have spent years doing interviews. It’s not just the name – it’s the fake profile they used to attract readers and journalists. They are crooks “, she said said on twitter.
Their agent’s website features a photo of a woman, looking away from the camera, on the author’s profile page, above a flattering comparison to Italian literary sensation Ferrante.
Last year, a regional branch of the Women’s Institute recommended one of Mola’s works as part of a selection of books by female authors, including Margaret Atwood, that could “help us understand reality and experiences. women at different periods of history and help raise awareness of rights and freedoms ”.
The Planeta Prize, managed by the publishing house of the same name, is as much a search for potentially lucrative new books as it is recognition of talent.
It is only open to unpublished manuscript submissions, and the winning book must be published by Planeta. In the case of Mola’s new work, which will be released under that name, that means abandoning its current publisher, rival Penguin Random House.
The book that won the award does not feature Blanco. It is a historical thriller, set in 1834 during a cholera epidemic, about a serial killer who dismounts girls, according to Spanish media. A journalist, a police officer and a young woman join forces to try to track him down.