HAVANA by Stephen Hunter
Kirkus Star


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Fidel Castro is young and feckless, Earl Swagger is deadly and indomitable, Havana is Dodge City revisited—and as action fiction goes, it doesn't get any better than this.

There's Arkansas State Trooper Earl Swagger, Congressional Medal of Honor winner for extraordinary behavior on Iwo Jima during WWII, doing family stuff when a gaggle of suits turns up on his front porch. At its head is the Honorable Harrison J. Etheridge, breathing hard at the prospect of lubricious infidelity in Havana's famed brothels and needing an expert bodyguard to keep him safe while he goes about it. Before he can say “inuxurious,” Earl finds himself drafted and crossing the Caribbean to debark in more complex trouble than he could possibly have imagined. That's because Earl, a pearl among gunslingers, is a bit out of his depth geopolitically. Which is another way of saying he's thoroughly unaware that Cuba (1953) is about to become a serious target of opportunity in the intensifying Cold War between the USSR and the US. Case in point: that idealistic, impossibly naïve, charismatic young lawyer Castro, who the KGB sees as exploitable. And who the CIA sees as expendable—a force counterproductive to the well-being of Domino Sugar, United Fruit, and hence the best interests of the US government. So wouldn't it be great if, since he's in Cuba anyway, a person as “heroic, capable, and patriotic” as ex-sniper Swagger could see his way clear to doing something nice for his country. (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.) Stir the pot further with some nasty gangsta types from New York, a pair of singularly focused assassins, a highly resourceful Soviet superspy, a fella named Battista, and it's a wonder anyone gets out alive.

Breathlessly violent at times, downright lyrical at others, Hunter's (Pale Horse Coming, 2002, etc.) best yet.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-7432-3808-7
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2003


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