I just finished Mark Gimenez' The Perkand I am conflicted. The book is set here in Fredericksburg, but it's not my Fredericksburg. It's a difficult book to get. It hasn't been published in the US and I think you will see why shortly.
The first sentence reads "She was posing outside the limo with a dozen other girls, like illegal Mexicans waiting for work on L.A. street corners." Which is perfect because that's what the book is about.
A "Perk" is, in Hollywood parlance, a perk of the job. It can be free booze, a stretch limo, or willing young girls to sleep with.
The Perk the book is titled after is Heidi Geisel. Heidi is a sixteen year old German girl. She's so eager to leave her hometown of Fredericksburg that she goes to Austin during the New Years' South By Southwest Film Festival (the first of many divergences from reality) to seduce stars to get a screen test. Her dream is cut short when she's found dead on New Years Day just outside of town.
Four years later, Beck Hardin returns to Fredericksburg. Twenty-four years ago, after his mother's death, Beck was so desperate to leave his German hometown that he accepted a Notre Dame scholarship and became a lawyer in Chicago. After his wife died of cancer, her returns to Fredericksburg to get his father's help to raise his kids. He runs for county judge, and wins because there is a particularly nasty case coming up: The star Football player who will lead Fredericksburg High to a championship assaulted a Hispanic kid. Prosecuting will end the championship run. Not prosecuting will get "the Mexicans all riled up," as one character put it.
The whole book is about this case, with the search for Heidi's killer the B plot. Which makes me wonder why it's called "The Perk"? It should have been titled "Them Damn Racist Germans" or "Them Damn Illegal Mexicans".
See, Gimenez seems to believe, or at least his Fredericksburg friends believe, that all the Hispanics in Fredericksburg, except the children (who were born here to give the illegal parents an "anchor") are illegal. And all it takes is a Federal raid to get rid of them all. They are even able to bulldoze "The Barrio". And the book ends with a Fredericksburg with almost no Hispanics.
Gimenez also believes that the Germans in Fredericksburg have formed a secret cabal to keep things the same as they have always been. While there is an element of truth to that, here it's greatly exaggerated. It reminds me of a Lone Ranger episode where the first sheep farmer comes into cattle country, with Beck Hardin as the Lone Ranger come to bring peace between the parties. But actual peace is achieved simply by deporting the Hispanics, which is probably why the book hasn't been published in the US.
Ultimately, though, the book doesn't pay off for me. The titular plot line isn't actually resolved. The killer never brought to justice, although he does get what's coming to him. But that all happens in the last couple of chapters.
Whatever you do, don't read this book and expect an exact depiction of Fredericksburg and it's citizens.