Also at the Louis de Bernieres talk (see below), a member of the audience asked him about the extreme brutality that appears in some of his books. He agreed that, especially earlier in his career, this seemed to be something he had to write about, the capacity of man for brutality against his fellow man.
There is one passage in Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord which has stayed with me ever since I read it. I've only read it once and I won't read it again. I've re-read the novel since, but had to skip that passage. It is the most traumatic piece of writing I've ever encountered (and remember, I've read Blood Meridian half a dozen times). It involves the death of the female lead in the most revolting circumstances, and it is described in forensic detail, no adjectives, no adverbs, no fancy description, just the cold facts. When I finished reading it I had to stop what I was doing, get up and walk about. I couldn't read on.
In his answer to the question, Louis mentioned that same passage, and clearly it had the same effect on him. After he wrote it, he said, he couldn't touch the novel for two weeks. The questioner, too, said that this was the passage she particularly meant when she asked the question. It is a remarkable piece of writing.