I arrived at the beginning of the afternoon and walked up and down the street trying to find the doorbell at the plain-looking gate in Jardinópolis, in the countryside of Sao Paulo, Brazil. It didn’t look like the dwelling of a living legend at all, and two different house numbers were engraved on the facade. I opted to try and clap my hands in front of the gate, and soon heard a “just a minute” coming from the back.
I was greeted by Marco Aurélio Lucchetti – AKA “Marquinhos”, Mr. Lucchetti’s son – and by the suspicious looks of four unsociable cats. In the kitchen, there he was, extending his hand in an elegant gesture and opening a warm smile as he asked how my travel had been. I shook his hand and couldn’t help but hug him too. To any writer it is an honor to met Mr. Lucchetti.
Because Lucchetti writes about as much as you and I breathe. The NY Times defined him in 2014 as a “human pulp fiction factory”, and it is hard to disagree. He wrote more than 1,5 thousand books, 300 comics, 25 movie scripts and uncountable articles. I confess that, besides meeting my idol, I wanted to visit him also to, ravenous reader that I am, see the personal library of a human pulp fiction factory.
Marquinhos was the one who took me after coffee to see the library, that began at the end of the hall. I was soon happy enough snooping the bookcases taller than myself, full of titles protected by transparent plastic curtains. That was when Marquinhos turned the lights up and my mind was blown. That “library” I was in was just the entrance to the real one, that took over another house entirely!
Then I finally understood the numbering confusion at the entrance to the house. A neighboring video shop was annexed to the structure to store Lucchetti’s books and personal files. Because Lucchetti is the kind of person that rents two houses, one for him to live in, another for his books to live in.
I asked how many books they had in there and they said they weren’t sure, but that the most recent estimation pointed to 30 thousand books and 70 thousand comics and pulp magazines. I don’t doubt it. I counted no less than 50 2-meter tall metal shelves – several of them with two sides crammed with dictionaries, books about art, music and cinema; literature classics, westerns, sci fi titles, fantasy, detective stories, horror and comics. I felt like I had wandered into the world’s coolest used book store.
We had a break for ham sandwiches and to chat for a few hours about vampires, ghosts, Sherlock Holes, Poe, Hypnosis, zombies, mausoleums, lycanthropy, hard-boiled detectives and femme fatales. At first I thought Lucchetti was born in the wrong country – and century – for a writer who loves the horror and detective genres. After all, how can you dream of mist-taken streets in Brazil, the land of sun and summer? How can you write about detectives wearing long overcoats in a blazing heat that demands shorts and flip-flop sandals? How can you admire the crow in urubu country?
But as I heard the man talking there in front of me I changed my mind, Lucchetti was indeed born in the right place and time. If he came up in England at the end of the 19th century he would be another – excellent – writer from England at the end of the 19th century. But it is precisely because he is a fish out of water that Lucchetti’s perspective is unique. He is a kind of Victorian astronaut hat visits our world wearing an invisible steampunk diving suit. His eyes may glaze upon sunny beaches, but his mind sees a Gothic castle lit by moonlight amid perpetual night as wolves howl in the background. His life would have been easier in other conditions, he faced and still faces great adversities publishing in Brazil, but the selfish side of me was glad that that was not the case. Lucchetti is the outsider, the other, the mutant, the stranger. He is the crow that came to live amid the urubus.
I slept in a room filled with clocks that tick-tacked incessantly – like several others on the hallways and walls all over the house. Nothing that couldn’t be sidestepped by wearing ear plugs – a sleeping trick I picked up from my time as a night shift journalist. The following day, after breakfast, Marquinhos comes from the street with another magazine that came with a Betty Boop doll – they completed 60! – and Lucchetti’s face lit up as an 85 year-old boy as he studied the figure in his hands.
Then it was time to take a look at Lucchetti’s personal files. He showed me even more bookcases, filled with carefully bounded manuscripts of radio plays, scripts, comics, beautiful drawings, collages, piles and piles of unpublished original text. I was stunned by the meticulousness. Every single text had a dated note about when and in what context it was written. An enormous tome in particular had the title, the date and the publisher’s name – including the address at the time of publication – of each and every one of his 1547 published books.
And, on the table, the faithful typewriter Lucchetti uses since the 1950’s. I got a bit emotional when I looked at that pile of metal and plastic. It was a testimony to the human mind’s ability to dream, to travel without leaving your chair, and few minds wondered as much as Lucchetti’s. Amid those piles of fictional work, it became clear to me that the one I had met personally was not Lucchetti, that flesh and bone were only a part of him. The real Lucchetti lives in a Castle of the Mind, and the only way of really meeting him is reading his books.
As I was in the bus back home to Sao Paulo I looked back and saw the late afternoon sky darkening from a yellowed red in the horizon to the black zenith, where the first stars appeared over Jardinópolis. And I thought that, somewhere down there, was Mr. Lucchetti, Marquinhos, the noisy clocks, the Betty Boops, the suspicious cats – some who did eventually venture into my lap during my visit – thousands of books and more than half a century of a life dedicated to writing. I am sure that there will be other visits, but I new then that first one had been special. I understood then that I will never forget the day I visited Mr. Lucchetti’s library.