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Cuba Libre [Mass Market Paperback]

Elmore Leonard
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)

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Mass Market Paperback, Jan. 12 1999 --  
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Book Description

Jan. 12 1999
He came to Cuba to make a killing.

She came to find a purpose.  

And on an island overrun with passion and violence, they each found
something to live for.

On a hot night in Havana Harbor, U.S.  marines sleep on the deck of the USS Maine as the sound of rumba music drifts across the water.  Then, in a flash, the Maine is blown to pieces.  Now a bloody carnaval of war, nations, and schemers is exploding on the dusty, sugar-rich island some dared call--Cuba Libre.

Welcome to Cuba, 1898--where the insurrectos are in the hills, the rich are partying in Havana, and Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders are about to come ashore.  Into the melee an American cowboy arrives with a scheme to sell horses and run guns, earning himself a date with a firing squad--until a rich man's mistress saves his skin.  Now Amelia Brown and Ben Tyler are riding for their lives, fighting side by side--for revenge, for love, and honor.

This rip-roaring jaunt into history sizzles with the passion of lovers, the violence of nations, and the wild courage of freedom fighters crying out to their firing squads: "Viva Cuba Libre!"

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From Amazon

Elmore Leonard has a long track record of creating memorable characters--enough to bring life to many movies, the two most notable being Get Shorty and Jackie Brown(based on Leonard's Rum Punch). Both are pretty good movies, but the novels are much better. Today Leonard writes mostly "crime" novels, labeled as such because his characters struggle to be good in a world so full of temptation that some kind of crime is always involved.

Cuba Libre finds Leonard reaching for a broader audience than those which appreciated either his crime novels or the westerns he once wrote, which he accomplishes by combining elements of both. Ben Tyler is a cowboy who robs banks, but only those that contain money of people who owe but won't pay him--he only takes what they owe. Charlie Burke is a businessman who buys horses cheap in the west, then sells them to exporters, while heroine Amelia Brown is the mistress of one of the truly bad men in the novel and struggles with dilemmas similar to those endured by other cast members.

Begining around the time that the Maine is sunk in Havana Harbor and ending when Teddy and others storm San Juan Hill, the story is at its best when its colorful characters are turned loose in one of the novel's colorful settings. If you like Leonard, you'll love Cuba Libre, and if--for some reason--you haven't yet discovered the author, prepare for a real treat. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

YA-This book has something to interest almost everyone. Set against the rich and compelling backdrop of Cuba during its struggle for independence, the story includes bank robbery, cattle rustling, love, suspense, and action-packed adventure. Realistic, memorable characters come to life in the scheming twists and turns of a complex plot. Leonard writes in an easy-to-follow style; his bad guys are truly BAD, and readers find themselves rooting for the hero and heroine as they hide, the Spanish Civil guards in hot pursuit. The plot is larded with history, beginning with the sinking of the USS Maine in the harbor of Havana, and ending with Roosevelt and his Rough Riders's charge up San Juan Hill. A rare glimpse of the Spanish-American War and the fight for Cuban independence.
Anita Short, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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TYLER ARRIVED WITH THE HORSES February eighteenth, three days after the battleship Maine blew up in Havana harbor. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Leonard Libre Nov. 10 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I believe that at the end of the day, Elmore Leonard will be considered by many as one of the best novelists of this generation. His prose is tight; his characters are multi dimensional and speak in compressed, vivid dialogue. When Charley Burke asks Ben Tyler, having just been released from the Arizona State Prison at Rosemary, Arizona in 1898, if he learned anything following his incarceration for bank robbery and the ensuing, relentless pursuit of the posse, Ben tells him "Yes. Next time I need more fresh horses."
Charley, Ben, the lovely Amelia, her evil keeper, the Spanish captors and the homeric insurrectionists (ocassionally they swap moralities), all coalesce on the island of Cuba a few days after the USS Maine is blown up in the harbor.
This is Leanord at his best: Colorfully, flawed characters, women who love hard, oftentimes for the wrong man, evildoers with streaks of decency, downtrodden individuals with streaks of evil, fabulous booty that's chased, followed, captured, lost, gained, lost again, regained, and the type of dialogue that from time to time makes you put the book down, repeat the line to yourself, and smile.
Just like Hammet, Chandler, DeMille, and Parker, you have to first like Leonard. If you do, this is a master at the heighth of his craft. Enjoy.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good for a bit. Feb. 28 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I found Cuba Libre to be a mixed bag. It started out kind of slow. I didn't feel very compelled to care about the main character, Ben Tyler. But as the story moved along, I became more interested. By the end of the 2nd chapter (out of 26), I felt myself getting pulled in. Its setting and mood really made the book feel authentic to turn of the century Cuba.
There were some chapters that dragged or weren't of much interest. But the story was deep enough that none of that mattered much. The middle of the story involves a large amount of ransom money for a fake kidnapping, and the heroes' pursuit of said money. Things start getting exciting, as everyone in the story has their own seperate scheme. It builds and builds and then.....
...it ends. It ends badly. Not badly as in bad for the characters, but bad as in shoddy writing. I firmly believe Leonard had some sort of deadline and had to wrap the novel up in an hour. There's really no other explanation.
So, overall, what you get in Cuba Libre is a pretty good story with a bad ending. It would make a pretty good film if they would change the ending so that it had a tangible climax. Except I just know the producers would cast Matthew McConaughey, or Mark Wahlberg, or Ben Affleck, or someone else that wouldn't fit at all.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Close, But No Cigar Feb. 23 2001
Format:Paperback
I really wanted to give this book the entire five stars. It has so much going for it: the physical setting of Cuba, one of the most vibrant and complex cultures on earth, the historical setting of the late 1890's, a time of tremendous impact and upheavals throughout the western hemisphere, and finally, unforgettable characters. The flawed but fundamentally decent cowboy hero, the amoral but fearless heroine, the engaging young Marine sharpshooter from the Indian Territory, and the heroic and devious mulatto plantation foreman are some of the most vivid, well-written characters one could wish for in a swashbuckling adventure novel. Unfortunately, the underlying plot device - the pursuit of ill-gotten loot - is not worthy of the setting, the period, or the characters. It's definitely a worthwhile read, but you can't help but wish that Mr. Leonard had done just a bit better with it. Still, for a long plane flight (or, as in my case, a two week jaunt through back-country Honduras) this book would be great company.
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By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Audio Cassette
To me, the strength of Elmore Leonard has always been in his dialogue. He has an ability to capture the venacular that is almost unsurpassed, and his crime novels "ring" true with an amazing resonance as a consequence. When we hear those cadences and accents, we know the real nature of the characters and their thoughts in a subliminal and subconscious way. Moving this "crime story" to Cuba during the Spanish American war means that the currency of the dialogue is lost on us. So the book becomes dependent on the plot and characterizations to entertain us. Both areas are a little stronger than usual for Mr. Leonard, but not as strong as they should be. The descriptions of the geographic settings are much better than Mr. Leonard usually does, and that element greatly improves this book.
The book's concept is an intriguing one. Take some Americans in Cuba who are directly and indirectly involved in the Spanish-American War, and use that plot complication to develop their relationships and characters. The execution unfortunately falls short of the full potential of the concept.
The Americans and Cuban revolutionaries are pretty cynically "in it for the money" whenever there is any to be made. Their sense of honor is most seriously engaged when they are not being treated fairly in business dealings. Ho hum!
The book's action begins with the American battleship, Maine, recently sunk in Havana's harbor. Two Americans have arrived ostensibly to sell some horses and cattle, but really to smuggle in weapons for the Cuban revolutionaries who oppose the Spanish. Things start to go wrong when the Spanish offend one of the Americans, leading to a shooting. Matters get worse when the horse buyer reneges on his offer of full payment.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars no wonder it comes in supermarket novel format...
i read "cuba libre" because a friend left it behind after moving away from my city and i'd never read an elmore leonard novel, though i'd heard of him many times... Read more
Published on Oct. 3 2002 by private__
3.0 out of 5 stars Historical fiction
Typical Elmore Leonard's crime genre, set against Spanish American war of 1898. Ben Tyler, a gun runner from Arizona is enticed by his friend Charlie Burke to bring horses to Cuba... Read more
Published on Sept. 28 2002 by Vijay B. Kumar
2.0 out of 5 stars Please try again, Mr. Leonard.
Just because this novel is mediocre shouldn't discourage Elmore Leonard from settings such as Cuba in 1898. Read more
Published on Sept. 25 2002 by Quickhappy
4.0 out of 5 stars Bringing a portion of Cuba's past to life
My motivation for picking up my first Elmore Leonard novel lies with my love for the movies "Out of Sight" and "Get Shorty. Read more
Published on Feb. 15 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining in Spurts and Unsatisfying in the End
I'm not a huge fan of Mr. Leonard's work, but I like a good historical novel and a good crime novel, so I gave this a whirl. Read more
Published on Aug. 17 2001 by sdelmonte@aol.com
2.0 out of 5 stars If you have not read Leonard before this should not be ...
the on you start with. If you have you'll be disappointed. I read the first two hundred pages on a flight to Las Vegas and didn't bother with the other half on the way back. Read more
Published on June 26 2001 by Galwayk
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read
Read All the Pretty Horses and then Cuba Libre and tell me they are not nearly the same story. Nonetheless they both rock. Read more
Published on May 29 2001
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time on this boring and poorly written book
It's difficult to say what the worst feature of this book is. But it's probably the uninspired dialogue. Or it might be the superficial and banal characters. Read more
Published on Oct. 17 2000
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fun Western
I had just finished reading a collection of some of Elmore Leonard's older westerns (written in the fifties!) when this book was published. Read more
Published on Sept. 9 2000 by Brian Glass
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