Raised near San Diego, Mike grew up fishing the rocky shores of Baja. He studied music and won a year-long job with the Mexico State Symphony, with concerts at the glittering Palacio de Bellas Artes and TV performances from Chapultepec Castle. It is said "once the dust of Mexico settles on your heart, you can find rest in no other land," and thus Mike has returned nearly every year, to show friends and family the beauty and the mystery of his favorite places.
Reading the great authors has always been his joy and now comes his own book, Memories of a Musician in Mexico, an homage to Mexico and an honest account of his own troubled path to maturity.
After embattled years as an alcoholic LA musician, Jud has decamped to the shores of La Roquita, Mexico. There he finds simplicity, sympathy, and community, but his inner demons, those of his adopted coutry, and those of the wider world intrude.
Mike's second book and his first work of fiction, El Pescador is an honest portrayal of a man looking for beauty and peace in an imperfect world.
Praise for Memories:
"Reading this book is like watching a film, in which the scenery, music and characters catapault one into the very soul of a magical country. It is sometimes like reading a Rick Steve's travel book written in poetry while a symphony is playing in the background
It is a passionate love letter to Mexico in language rich in sudden poetic surprises and musical overtones." Anonymous writer, Corvallis Oregon
"Wow. Mike Curtis captures this country so wonderfully, so accurately." Correspondent with the Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Memories of a Musician in Mexico" is a fun, well-written read that will enchant readers--especially armchair travelers--who want to experience south-of-the-border culture." Anonymous writer
It is an ideal balance of inviting descriptions of fascinating geographic settings, of diverse intriguing personalities, of varied and unique experiences, while it chronicles heart rending personal and professional growth over the years. Anonymous music professor
Read this book to explore a Mexico that few Americans get to experience. Read this book to accompany an extraordinary musician through a bumpy life of drugs and risks to a life of "health, sobriety, and happiness" Read this book to see the unabashed love Mike has for the land, the culture and the people of Mexico. You understand the almost spiritual nature of his writing as he relives the places and events that make Mike Curtis that man that he is. Read this book to smell the ocean, to taste the mango-on-a-stick, to feel the bustle of La Peñita at night, and the exuberance of the mariachi bands. Mike writes with authority and evocatively about the Mexico that lies deep in his soul.." Anonymous teacher, Cottage Grove, Oregon
He is adept at tapping into a vast literary tradition, that of the spiritual sojourner searching for personal growth across a border that is both a reality and a metaphor.
The fact is, this short, rollicking, rapturous compendium of memories fails, in the end, to positively declare itself; literally, it is neither here nor there, which is not entirely a shortcoming. Containing elements of travelogue, travel guide, ethnography, history, memoir and personal journal, Curtis' book is a sort of literary sampler, dipping its toe into forking streams of thought but never lingering long enough to develop into a full-fledge movement.
The sheer exuberance of Curtis' enthusiasm for his subject matter is enough to carry the reader along. His writing can be graceful and economical. Whether waxing poetic about the colorful, quixotic tumult that is the city of Guanajuato or describing the joyous clash of bands in a public procession, Curtis is able to convey the palpable thrill of a traveler's first encounters.
Memories is always great fun to read - it has that desultory yet seductive quality of an overexcited friend talking you through a slideshow of his awesome vacation.
In Memories of a Musician in Mexico, Curtis succeeds in capturing that country's multivalent, many splendored culture, and every now and then he lays down a line of prose that sings harmoniously from the page." Rick Levin, Eugene Weekly
Praise for Pescador:
"A very good book that pares away the extraneous, the "claptrap" to connect to people, to self, and to Mexico in all its glory…the beautiful and the abysmal. Patricia Mendez, Gringos Bookstore
"This is the story of one man's love affair with Mexico... its beauty, its people, its music and its natural resources. It is also the story of that man's heart-wrenching awareness of the destruction of much of the beauty of Mexico and the world by industrial greed and governmental apathy." Loretta Gallacci, owner, Mazatlán Membership Library
El Pescador, a novel, is every bit a love letter to Mexico's western coast, blemishes and all, as Mike's previous book, a nonfiction memoir about his time in the country. (Two disclosures: I know Mike. And I love Mexico and am a sucker for any work that portrays it accurately.) The moods, flavors, smells and landscapes are authentic and visceral. I wanted to be on a beach drinking a Pacifico with Jud. The plot turns surprisingly dark before it resolves, but what stays with you is the country and a simpler, yet in many ways fuller (the protagonist and, I suspect the author, would say so), way of life. Steve in Ohio.
Full of wisdom, discord and acceptance, this is an amazing book. It strangely speaks to both music and love of landscapes - two things close to my heart. The book moves through cool, upbeat, really down, some salsa. Ultimately Mike Curtis addresses what is really important to write about - the wisdom of peace and simplicity.
Janet in Portland.
The only downside is that it's too short. I loved this book; I wish there were more of it. I live in southern Appalachia and have only been out west a couple of times. I've never been to Mexico. What this book did so hugely well was to take me to Mexico and make me not want to come back. And it wasn't a Mexico that I'd likely find if I went there. It was a Mexico that I could only dream of finding--a real Mexico, a Mexico as lived by someone who knows it and loves it.
How does Mike do that? For one thing, he gets you inside the life of someone who lives close to nature. I've never surf-fished and would never have thought it could be exciting. But let me tell you: there's apparently some thrilling surf-fishing to be had, and in Mike's hands it makes for thrilling reading. Another thing is that Mike occasionally lets the music inside of him come through in his prose. For example, there's a chapter in which the central character riffs on his experience as a jazz musician, and it had me listening for a sound track.
So if you're looking for a book with a solid sense of place that grounds and shapes a well-told story, you will enjoy Mike Curtis's El Pescador! Jud in Tennessee.