For the longest time, Bandido, by Ilan Stavans, was on my mind. One of those books I always meant to order, but never quite got around to doing. The price was a little daunting, $16.75 Cdn. Then by good luck, I found out about a $10 Chapters Canada coupon that could be magically redeemed. It seemed right; so in reality, this slim paperback was only $6. I was a little puzzled by its size, if I were a lit student, I would feel rather cheated by a 142 page paperback with no photo insert and 30 lines per page.

But as the saying goes...

Bandido is crammed with all sorts of interesting facts and commentary on Oscar. Of the four Thompson biographies, only Peter Whitmer's book, When the Going Gets Weird, portrays Oscar as more than a Quixotic sidekick. Bandido is a nice complement to any gonzo collection or anyone seeking out literary info on Acosta. It has a timeline, index and extensive bibliography.

Stavans portrays Acosta as a man plagued by many demons - from the ulcers that started when he was only 18, to racism, religion, and constant insecurity. A three dimensional figure leaps from the pages as the author draws from American and Mexican literary sources. The crazed attorney from FLLV is replaced by a complex and passionate man, a el superhombre de bronce. In our thinking, a man of great stature and character.

I found reading about Oscar's health problems rather distressing. In addition to the ulcers, he also had a stroke in the 1950s and apparently had a weak heart. Like HST's writing, Oscar's often blurred the lines between fact and reality, and he renamed several people and places.

Bandido offers all sorts of explanations for Oscar's disappearance in 1974*. He may have had a heart attack; died in a drug deal gone bad, or perhaps, as Oscar's sister Anita believes, killed by American agents. Oscar's FBI file was closed in 1973, although the reason for the closing was censored.

It is a little comforting to know that many people feel that Oscar's life will be constantly shrouded in mystery. It's implied that that was the way he would have liked it. For those who feared back then that Oscar was merely HST's shadow and partner in lunacy, time has proven that he was an author and activist in his own right.

Insteresting facts from Bandido

  • Dr. Serbin in Autobiography was a real person.
  • Many people debate how fluent Oscar's Spanish was, but most agree he spoke it very well.
  • In his will, Oscar dropped "Zeta" and it simply reads, "Oscar Acosta"

*This is sometimes given incorrectly as 1971, possibly from a typo on the back of the Vintage pbk of Cockroach People.

Page added Jun-23-99