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AFTER HAVANA by Charles Fleming

AFTER HAVANA

By Charles Fleming

Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 2004
ISBN: 0-312-30748-9
Publisher: Minotaur

Havana, with the Batista regime crumbling, is the setting for Fleming’s well-made sequel (after Ivory Coast, 2002) about love among the ruins.

Pete Deacon may drink too much and think too little, but there's no malice in him. If he ever bothered to articulate a moral imperative, it would take the form of: Don't hurt anyone you don't absolutely have to. In fact, Pete cares about only two things: his trumpet and his woman, except that the beautiful Anita isn't his any longer. After certain disruptive events in Las Vegas (recounted in Ivory Coast), she's been appropriated, in turn, by a mobster and a tycoon: powerful men with aggressive appetites and sufficient mercenaries to guard against frustration. Now, Pete’s in Havana, has been for three years, hiding from an assortment of enemies, yearning for his lost love, and experiencing the seductive if debauched atmosphere of a betrayed Cuba buckling at the knees. He’s changed his name to Sloan (“Deacon was a guy with trouble behind him”); swapped his trumpet for the coronet (“which was almost a trumpet”), and is blowing it hot with a pretty good jazz band at the glitzy Tropicana. And then one night, of all the casinos in town, in walks Anita on the arm of Nick Calloway, the handsome, hard-edged tycoon with a surprising soft spot. It isn’t that he merely covets Anita, he adores her with an intensity matching Pete’s. Thus, a triangle: Anita and Pete, star-crossed in the great tradition, and the Gatsbylike Calloway. When Anita is kidnapped by rebels and hurried off into Fidel’s hills, an ad hoc band of very strange bedfellows forms itself into an ostensible rescue party. And then suddenly the hills are alive with secret agendas.

Amorality run riot, but Fleming does an expert job of glossing it over and dressing it up: rousing entertainment.