The Successor is a political thriller written by Roderic Ai Camp, published in 1993. The story revolves around the political situation in Mexico in the 90’s. Though the novel is fictional it seems like it Camp was much inspired by the political conditions of Mexico and this is reflected in the novel.
Kent Cornett is the protagonist of the novel who is a U.S. college professor conducting a research on the on going Presidential elections in Mexico. The professor soon learns that the candidates who are to succeed the current president have their own dark secrets and propaganda. Roderic handles the subject of the novel with proficiency and provides an insight in to the political situation in Mexico in the 1990’s. He is able to do justice to the novel because of his deep understanding of Mexican history and culture.
The protagonist of the novel is much like Camp and it is through him that the ideas of the author are conveyed to the reader. Since Camp has a keen interest in “Mexican politics, comparative elites, political recruitment, church-state relations, and civil military affairs” (Claremont McKenna), he is able to manipulate the political situation of Mexico in the 90’s according to his needs to fit the scenarios in his novel.
When Cornett discovers the secrets, one of the would-be successors becomes his enemy turning his life upside down. After that he lives under constant threat from the successors and is only able to survive with the help of an American ambassador, who is also the brother of Gina, a beautiful divorce whom Cornett loves.
The theme of tyranny and control is dominant in the novel. Political allegory can also be found in the novel as the political events that take place in the novel reflect one event or another that took place in the political situation of Mexico. The element of love and sacrifice can also be found in the story.
The affection that Cornett shares with Gina is genuine and the kindness that Gina shows toward Cornett is humane. It is Gina who convinces her brother to help Camp and it is because of this help that Camp is able to survive the dangerous situation that he is in.
The novel begins with a tyrannical situation in which a woman is being brutally tortured by a person who appears to be strong and is content controlling the weak. This shows that this character is power hungry and does not hesitate torturing the weak to get total control over things.
The woman who is being tortured by this person appears to be helpless and weak. She is tied down and is already injured. This reflects the helpless population of Mexico that was ruled by tyrants for a long time. This also symbolizes the helplessness of the Mexican population during the long rule of PRI, the revolutionary party. No mercy is shown to this woman even when she begs and when she tries to escape she is repressed.
This indicates the brutal repression of the Mexican government of the protesting students who wanted to reform the political situation. The first chapter ends with the death of the woman who was being tortured. This is exactly how the then government took care of the protestors which resulted in the Tlateloco Massacre. At least 130 people were killed that day and many were arrested (Cevallos). This shows absolute tyranny and the need for power and total control.
Another thing observed in the novel is that everyone who tries to help Cornett is brutally murdered. All the murders in the novel are connected to each other and well planned, for instance the murder of Antonio Ramirez and the prominent politician. They show that these people are being killed for a reason and it is no ordinary man doing it.
It doesn’t take long for Cornett to realize that these murders are being carried out by someone powerful and strong and the reason behind these murders is nothing else but to secure more power and control. There is however, no proof of this because of the well organization of these crimes. This is similar to the increase in the organized crime in the 80’s and 90’s.
The novel is also full of political allegory and each event in the novel is well organized. For instance, Camp writes in chapter two that, “The situation in Mexico was deteriorating quickly…Economic disaster after disaster brought the conservatives into ascendancy” (Camp 5). This reflects the economic crisis Mexico faced in 1994, due to the increased trafficking of drugs.
This was mainly blamed on Salina, the then President of Mexico who was accused of being personally involved in making drug trafficking a big business and when he left the office in 1994, the country face a financial crisis as the currency collapsed (Noble).
As a result the crime rapidly increased along with the opposition to the PRI (Noble). The public opposition to PRI is showed in the novel as opposition that arises after the murder of the politician in chapter nineteen in which Roderic reads the headlines “prominent politician murdered at home” (Camp 225).
The detail given in the novel about the Mexican government cannot be ignored as it is very insightful and reveals that the author knows what he is talking about. The dominant themes in the book are of tyranny, control, power, love, and political allegory. The book can be compared to George Orwell’s Animal Farm which reflects the political situation of Russia.
However, the Successor fails to compete with animal farm as it often falls flat on dialogue and odd plot twists. Though the novel is fictional the reader can not avoid the fact that it is based on true events.
Despite of the well planned plot and its association with factual events of Mexico, it fails to grip the attention of the user. However, the book does contain a lot of information about the politics of Mexico in the 90’s and before and he also gives a detailed account of the politicians and culture of Mexico.
The novel can also be applied to the political situation of Mexico in the 21st century because Camp has such deep understanding of the culture political system of Mexico, that he was able to capture the state and its people as they were, as they are, and as they will be in future. Overall, the novel is very informative and well researched. It is one of the best fictional works that gives such a detailed and well laid out account of Mexico and its political situation.
Camp, Roderic Ai. The Successor. Mexico City: University of New Mexico Press, 1993.
Cevallos, Diego. “tleteloco Massacre.” 1 October 2008. IPS. 7 October 2010
Claremont McKenna. “Roderic Ai Camp.” 2010. Claremont McKenna College. 7 October 2010
Noble, John. Mexico, Volume 10. Nexico City: Lonely Planet, 2006.