PAPA AND FIDEL by Karl Alexander


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Alexander showed passable daring in his earlier fantasy novel Time After Time (1979)--in which H.G. Wells was pursued by Jack the Ripper--but this time he is out of his depth. His richly misguided attempt to novelize a macho companionship between Hemingway and Fidel Castro back in 1957 shows only one face of the historical Hemingway--that of the master of armaments and the guerrilla strategist of For Whom the Bell Tolls and of Nazi sub-hunter Thomas Hudson of Islands in the Stream. This macho Papa is also afloat on Scotch and writer's block. While the character goes through the outer motions of the writer's life in Cuba, the inner man rings false with every word he thinks or speaks. First, Papa is drinking it up in Havana with New York Times reporter Herbert Mathews, who fails to snag his interest in the brilliant new guerrilla leader Fidel Castro. When Mathews is kidnapped by Batista's secret police, Papa gives chase in a commandeered taxi, rams the cops, lets Mathews escape and is himself imprisoned and brutalized. But Batista himself frees Papa, with apologies. Papa then goes into the hills to meet Fidel, whom he likes, and he and Fidel have a mano a mano quail shoot, which is followed by a firefight and Papa ducking machine-gun bullets. Fidel reads The Bell and finds in Roberto Jordan a keenly knowledgeable guerrilla whose tactics he copies. Castro keeps trying to get Papa to write up the revolution from his point of view for Life--and at last it hits Papa, his "big book": he boils to write a novel about himself and Castro saving Cuba. Meanwhile, Fidel and and Papa are being stalked by a US assassin, and while on a marlin-fishing duel are gunned by a plane and attacked by a sub. Papa finishes the "big book" but then commits suicide to save Miss Mary from a firefight with assassins who are creeping into Finca Vigia--and who steal the manuscript. Dumb? Hemingway would be speechless, with murder his kindest thought.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1989
ISBN: 312-93149-2
Publisher: Tor
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