Thursday, March 05, 2009

Cuba: Libre or not, here I come

Now that American newspapers are drastically cutting their coverage of foreign news, readers may have to turn elsewhere to gain perspective. They could do worse than crime fiction.

First assignment: Adrian McKinty's new Fifty Grand and Lawrence Block's old Killing Castro, reissued by Hard Case Crime. Block's book is about a Dirty Dozenish gang of assassins who come together to do just what you'd expect from the book's title, and it offers relatively early discussion (the book first appeared in 1961) of where Fidel Castro went wrong. McKinty's is about one person's suffering and manipulation at the hands of a range of antagonists that includes the Cuban government, and he saves his ire for Raul Castro. Neither book is likely to earn its author a friendly reception at a Castrista piss-up.

Read the books back to back, then prepare a book report on both. Samples of each are available by clicking on the titles in the preceding paragraph. And now maybe I'll go read some Leonardo Padura. (Nathan Cain of Independent Crime links to a list of Padura's favorite Cuban novels. The Old Man and the Sea makes the list.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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20 Comments:

Blogger adrian mckinty said...

There's some good books on that list, authors who wouldnt necessarily wish to share a list or the same room with each other. I'd rec Carpentier, Infante and the great R. Arenas: Bestiality, rape, beatings, poverty, murder, HIV, exile, more bestiality and thats only the prologue and chapter 1 of Before Night Falls.

March 05, 2009  
Blogger R. T. Davis said...

Well done! The Hard Case Crime books are wonderful reading experiences. I have been beating the drum every chance I get to tell other readers about the paperback treasures provided by this small publishing enterprise. I wish they were getting more coverage from the media, including the blogosphere.

March 05, 2009  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

And Peter adds another two titles to my ever-growing reading list ...

March 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Who on the last list should not be invited to the same party? I had not heard of some of those authors, and it's interesting to note that several have not been translated into English. Here in the U.S., translation of those books might be literary events, what with our interest in Cuba.

March 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

R.T., in addition to its other virtues (a mix of new books and reprints, a lot of fine books, those colorful covers), Hard Case makes its books available at reasonable prices. It's nice to get an occasional break from the expensive trade paperbacks of the world.

March 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Loren, that's what blogs are for: building up those lists and to-read piles.

March 05, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Arenas referred to Carpentier, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and a few others as stooges of the Castro Brothers. The antipathy was mutual.

March 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sounds as if Padura's list might serve as a useful syllabus on Cuba. I've read one of his crime novels, and it was not at the top of my list. But I was impressed that he was fairly forthright on some matters in ways that might not have pleased doctrinaire Castristas.

March 05, 2009  
Blogger R. T. Davis said...

Gabriel Garcia Marquez may be many things, and he may have been friendly to Castro (which I cannot hold against him though I despise almost everything Castro stands for), but Gabo remains nonetheless an important writer whose work and reputation need not be sullied by someone who seems to have overdosed on sour grapes (i.e., Arenas). And, by the way, since this is a blog about detectives beyond borders, no one should overlook reading Gabo's NEWS OF A KIDNAPPING, a superb nonfiction account of a horrifying crime.

March 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

R.T., in yet another in a series of coincidences, I just bought News of a Kidnapping at a library sale this week.

I know almost nothing about Arenas, but I do begin with sympathy for anyone who was imprisoned for ideological deviation, as he apparently was.

March 05, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

RT

You might be right about Arenas. He takes a bit of a shotgun approach to these things. BNF though is a fabulously angry book.

March 06, 2009  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

For Cuban crime writing, how about my neighbour, Jose Latour?

March 06, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I read a few online biographies of Arenas. He seemed angry at alot of things, both in Cuba and in the U.S. A disillusioned man, he was.

March 06, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John, I hadn't heard of him. This sounds like another incentive to book-shopping for next week.

March 06, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

or a trip to Cuba

March 06, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

More easily done from my native country than from the one where I live.

V-word is a bothersome Central Asian state: noistan

March 06, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I went the Montreal-Havana route and the Mexico City-Havana route but I'm told the Cancun-Havana route is the cheapest, best and most fun for whatever thats worth

March 07, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

One does not normally associate fun with air travel. Do the passengers party on the plane?

March 07, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I dont know, I was told that in Havana. I imagine a whole bunch of half naked drunken spring breakers bumbling onto a plane and forty minutes later they're in Havana going "Dude, where's MTV?"

Still I do hope the embargo goes under Obama - the amount of misinformation on both sides is staggering. I was told by a Miami Cuban (he was told this by his parents) that from his house in Havana you could actually see the coast of Florida across the strait. When you consider that its ninety sea miles to the Tortugas that would really be something if that were possible.

March 07, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Obnoxious spring-breakers are the last thing I need. I'm distressed enough by loudmouth frat-by drunks in Philly.

Maybe Castro's beneficent leadership has given Cubans exceptionally good eyesight.

March 07, 2009  

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