Simon Mendez has an anger problem, and he’s about to unleash his fury on the Spanish Inquisition.
The Mendez family is on top of the world. An upper-class family in 17th century Spain, they live a secret life – outwardly Catholic by all accounts, but desperately worried that, someday, someone will discover the Jewish traditions that they practice behind closed doors.
Everything comes crashing down when the Inquisition arrests Simon’s father. Incensed, Simon must retaliate with everything he’s got. With his father set to be burned at the stake and a sadistic hometown eager to see it happen, Simon has no time to lose. It will take his sharp wit, brutal weapons and raw courage to strike back hard at the Inquisition – before it’s too late.
Join Simon Mendez in a battle that you will not want to miss!
Targeted Age Group:: 15-20
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I read "Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean," Edward Kritzler's fascinating book on Jewish piracy during the era of the Spanish Inquisition and the Age of Exploration.
The book introduced me the ways in which Jews retaliated against the Inquisition. Some became pirates, raiding Spanish ships that were loaded with treasures mined in the New World. What if there were other ways to fight back? I imagined how a hot-headed teenager might react to the Inquisition's wicked move against his family.
I also wanted to deliver a message: spiritual resistance – thriving and surviving in accordance with our highest ideals, despite powerful enemies who seek our destruction – is the most meaningful form of revenge.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I based the main character, Simon Mendez, partially on a character named Starky, from Neal Shusterman's "Unwind" series. Starky reacts to an oppressive force through violence, and Shusterman initially presents him as a character with whom readers will want to sympathize. Yet, unlike Starky, Simon Mendez has a redemptive side. I used my own connection to my Jewish tradition, and whatever depth I've managed to learn from it, to give Simon a profound, reflective side, as well.
Simon's mother and father are devoted Jewish parents, inspired by my own life experience. Sonia has a tough exterior, when necessary, but knows how to be very loving. I wanted Simon's mother to give him the wise, and often sharply disapproving, life advice that he needs. Diego is a dedicated father who simply does what he needs to do, despite the possible dangers involved.
Alonso Garcia is just a classic bad guy. He's unsympathetic and unchanging. I remember Roald Dahl's sage advice, in an interview published at the end of one of his books: make your villains very, very wicked.
Simon's sisters are strong-minded girls with a deep sense of right and wrong. My own children, at young ages, inspired them; I remember how powerfully they stood their ground whenever they felt wronged. Alma knows how to throw a temper tantrum. Esperanza is more subdued, but will fight back ferociously when provoked.
The bullies were based on real-life bullies from my youth; there was no shortage of examples.
I came up with Pablo simply because I wanted there to be a redeeming, sympathetic character who helped Simon along. I gave him a backstory: he's a person who had real-life experience with members of a normally hated group, and found that individuals in that group are actually normal, good people.
<p>“Hey, marranos!” called Hector. “Everybody heard about what happened last night!”</p>
<p>“Oink, oink!” taunted Ramón. “You’re next!”</p>
<p>Not to be outdone, Hector threw another jeer into the mix: “Can’t wait to bring some bacon and roast it over you, pig!”</p>
<p>Simon stood his ground. The bullies failed to intimidate him. They were big. They were bulky. They were cowards.</p>
<p>Stopping momentarily, Simon offered some words of encouragement to his family. “Did anybody hear something? It sounded like there were some squealing little rats nearby.” He then shrugged. “Ignore them, everyone. They won’t harm us. Let’s just keep going.”</p>
<p>Ramón immediately jumped into Esperanza’s path, and shoved her hard with his right hand.</p>
<p>“Hey!” she shouted in surprise.</p>
<p>“How dare you,” screamed Sonia, “you little-”</p>
<p>Hector leapt in front of her and interrupted her by smacking her in the mouth.</p>
<p>Simon sprang into action. The bullies had asked for it, and they were about to get it. His knuckles knotted with fury as he struck the first blow against Hector’s jaw. The punch left him reeling, spitting teeth.</p>
<p>While a stunned Hector shouted in pain, Simon reached into his coat and pulled out his nunchakus. It was time to teach his tormentors a lesson that they would never forget. He began to approach Ramón as he did so. Esperanza was already in action, putting up a brutal resistance against Ramón’s attacks. She fought the thug desperately; her red fingernails raked his cheek, clawing for his eye. Ramón, now on the defense, briefly managed to shove her away from him.</p>
<p>In that instant, Simon drew close, but Hector was a split-second too fast for him. He delivered a good, swift kick to Simon’s rib cage, knocking him backward and sucking the wind from his lungs. The blow temporarily threw Simon off balance, but he quickly regained his footing. He was now hyperventilating, though; he couldn’t tell whether Hector had actually damaged an internal organ or whether his quick, shallow breaths resulted from the plain shock of being kicked so hard. Either way, it didn’t matter; he needed his composure back – immediately, if not sooner.</p>
<p>Simon deliberately inhaled a deep breath that lasted about two full seconds. Then, he rapidly lunged at his opponent, wielding his nunchakus as he got within striking distance. The weapon felt good in his hands, and even better colliding with the side of Hector’s head. Simon heard something crack, and watched with grim satisfaction as the young brute fell to the ground. His eyes abruptly shut, and no sound came from his mouth.
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