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CUBA LIBRE by Elmore Leonard Kirkus Star


by Elmore Leonard

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-32383-2
Publisher: Delacorte

Leonard goes back to his mots, and modern America's, in this rollicking Cuban western/suspenser, to be published on the 100th anniverary of the U.S.S. Maine's explosion. All Ben Tyler is looking for is to make a few fast dollars. Cowpunching in Arizona hasn't worked, or robbing banks either, so he agrees to join his friend Charlie Burke in exporting a string of horses to Cuba, though he just can't see how they stand to make any money on the deal. Unfortunately, Ben and Charlie have picked a historically bad moment for their tropical excursion: They make port just in time to remember the Maine indeed, and suddenly there are more complications than just paying prohibitive import duties, bribing officials and gobetweens, and holding their buyer--impassive, treacherous, polo-playing sugar baron Roland Boudreanx--to the price he's promised them. The US is determined to free Cuba from Spanish rule, but not so completely that the island will be independent--only enough so that American capitalists can step into the breach. In other words, the three-cornered conflict--which Ben & Co. waste no time adding more corners to--is nothing more than a classic Leonard seam writ large, the perfect background for the easygoing hero's lesser chicanery. Before Ben can begin to finger the goodies, though, a little disagreement between him and a Spanish hussar with easily inflamed honor lands him in prison along with a Marine casualty of the Maine who's been spirited out of the hospital, it seems, for the express purpose of rotting in jail. All would be lost if it weren't for Rollie Boudreaux's wide-awake courtesan Amelia Brown, who's got the world's best motive for breaking Ben out of stir. Carbines blazing, horses snorting, battles raging, the heroes drive the villains to a stalemate--and then prepare to battle each other. Top entertainment from the pro's pro (Out of Sight, 1996, etc.): a million greedy schemes with time-outs for war and sex.