CUBAN PASSAGE by Norman Lewis


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A crisp, old-fashioned coming-of-age adventure set in late-1950s Cuba--where British teenager Dick Frazer will weather a family crisis, take action against a voodoo-villain, and end up in the midst of rebel-guerrilla action. Dick's father is off on an extended business trip; Dick (a longtime problem child) and his beauteous mother have stayed behind in Havana. And, to Dick's slowly growing horror, his mum seems to be falling beneath the spell of rich, shady Juan Stilson, a power-broker who may also be a cult leader specializing in hypnosis and drugs. What can Dick do to free his mother from Stilson's hypnotic/narcotic/sexual thrall? Well, first he builds up his courage--by running off to hang out around the harbor with ""layabout"" Jerry Carmichael (who says, ""Let's face it: right now, you're a bit of a wimp""). Dick roughs it, helps Jerry to save a wounded rebel/fugitive, and is soon hatching a murder plan: he'll shoot Stilson--in a fake accident--during an upcoming hunting expedition. But when the time comes, things take a weird turn: Stilson sees what Dick is up to and hypnotizes him, attempting to exorcise Dick's lethal urges by having him go through with a mock-shooting--a hypno-charade which goes awry, ending up with Stilson shot. And though Dick is truly innocent (Stilson dies, in fact, of a rebel-strangulation that follows the shooting), he looks very guilty: he is arrested and jailed; the Embassy tries in vain to get him released; Dick winds up with a desperate crew of political prisoners. . . just as the rebel forces start causing widespread panic. So, while Dick and a fellow-prisoner escape, Jerry is using his rebel contacts to try to rescue him--which leads to brisk action, happy endings (Dick's parents reconcile), and one ironic, sad final twist. True, the nature of Dick's transformation here remains a little blurry. But the atmosphere and dialogue are splendid, the historical background is wisely underplayed, and this is solid, wry action-entertainment-with obvious, strong YA appeal.

Pub Date: May 17th, 1982
Publisher: Pantheon