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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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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
3.0 out of 5 stars Historical fiction Sept. 28 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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 in a plot to smuggle guns to the Cubans who are fighting the Dons, Spaniards. The story then twists and turns with misstress,sugar mills, dungeons, duels, gun fights, bank robberiers, train explosions, with end never in doubt. Leonard created an unforgetable charector in Rolland Burdreaux, the American Industrialist, an opportunist and yet a realist...A good history lesson witout any clues to how the MAINE really blew up. It will always be a mystry.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Please try again, Mr. Leonard. Sept. 25 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Just because this novel is mediocre shouldn't discourage Elmore Leonard from settings such as Cuba in 1898. I'm a big fan of his tried and true stuff, yet I was chomping at the bit to read this new breed of Leonard. At times the novel is great, but I agree with another reviewer who wondered if Leonard had to meet a deadline: the tail end of the book is just awful. This Leonard work is best ignored. However, I hope ol' Elmore will try similar ideas in works to come.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bringing a portion of Cuba's past to life Feb. 15 2002
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
My motivation for picking up my first Elmore Leonard novel lies with my love for the movies "Out of Sight" and "Get Shorty." Although this novel takes a genre detour, I was pleased with my choice. Leonard did a great job of bringing late 19th century Cuba to life by painting a wonderful contrast between the beauty of the land and the ugliness of politics and human motivation. Ben Tyler isn't the hero I would have hoped for but he was the best that he could be. Pick it up, it won't take long to read, and you'll be glad you did.
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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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Format:Mass Market Paperback
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. While many of the supporting characters are fairly interesting, the main characters don't quite escpae from their penny dreadful roots. The middle of the book, where the plot solidifies and the history and politics are stripped away to reveal a more larcenous heart, is very good, but it leads to a rushed and unsatisfying conclusion where the Spanish-American War oddly becomes only a footnote after many pages of build-up. If you're expecting any real people to show up, try elsewhere.
This makes perfectly acceptable beach reading, but if you want a crime novel with bite, I'd recommend something by Donald Westlake/Richard Stark instead.
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By Galwayk
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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. This just does not sweep you up like his other books. The dialogue limps and you could care less about any of the characters. All a bit cliched - the story way too 'Boy's Own'.
But give him credit for not settling into what is comfortable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read May 29 2001
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Read All the Pretty Horses and then Cuba Libre and tell me they are not nearly the same story. Nonetheless they both rock. Cuba Libre is a fun book, easy to traverse and impossible to put down. The author, also the scribe of Rum Punch, Out of Sight and Get Shorty(among others), has a knack for creating great scenes. Perhaps that is why nearly all of his books have been made into movies. Check it out.
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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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