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Havana Hardcover – Aug 1 2005

3.3 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Ulverscroft Large Print Books Ltd; Large type edition edition (Aug. 1 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843958694
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843958697
  • Shipping Weight: 789 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,106,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

The field of male fantasy fiction receives a generous literary boost with the publication of Havana, Stephen Hunter's third novel (following Hot Springs and Pale Horse Coming) to feature straight-shooting ex-Marine and Arkansas state policeman Earl Swagger.

Reluctantly leaving his wife and hero-worshipping son at home, Swagger flies off to Cuba in 1953 to act as a bodyguard for "Boss" Harry Etheridge, a rainmaking Southern congressman who proposes investigating the influence of New York gangsters on the Guantanamo Naval Base. Almost as soon as his lungs fill with the humid Caribbean air, Swagger regrets accepting this assignment. Not only must he contend with posturing, backstabbing U.S. intelligence agents, but Boss Harry proves to be both incautiously lustful (forcing Earl to rescue him from a Havana brothel confrontation) and a big target for mobsters who don't want American politicians or anyone else upsetting the profitable criminal equilibrium of Batista-era Cuba. Swagger exacerbates the risk to his longevity by agreeing to help the U.S. government assassinate Cuba's revolutionary darling of the moment, Fidel Castro--a task that will pit this Arkansas lawman against a disenchanted Russian killer who's been charged with protecting and mentoring the 26-year-old agitator.

Given Swagger's well-established weaponry skills, it's hardly surprising that Havana is peppered with tightly choreographed shootouts, both on dusty country roads and in a Zanja Street porno theater full of moaning patrons. That's the male fantasy part; this novel's literary inclination shows in its portrayal of Havana as a richly decadent city full of shiny-fendered Cadillacs, jaded whores, and casinos flushing money onto Florida-bound boats. While Ernest Hemingway and mob boss Meyer Lansky make cameo appearances here, only Castro leaves much of an impression, whether he's bumbling through an attack on a military barracks or defending himself against a father who thinks him lazy, vain, and "womanly" ("I am between opportunities, but I swear to you, I am a man of destiny"). Although Swagger's climactic gunfight tests the limits of credibility, Havana remains an unusually substantive page-turner, expertly blending hostilities with humor and heart. --J. Kingston Pierce --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The term thriller is too pallid for this powerful, satisfying novel in the 1950s-set Earl Swagger series from bestseller Hunter (Time to Hunt; Hot Springs; Pale Horse Coming). At times the book reads as if it were chiseled out of granite, with Arkansas state cop Swagger hewn from the same impenetrable material. Swagger, ex-Marine Medal of Honor winner and legendary gunfighter, is called in by the American government to serve as bodyguard to Congressman Harry Etheridge in his investigation of New York-gangster criminal activity at the American naval base in Cuba. A reluctant Swagger signs on and soon finds himself touring Havana nightspots with a congressman more interested in participating in the city's culture of vice than in rooting out gangsters. Havana in the '50s is a cauldron of competing international government and criminal agencies. The mob, led by Meyer Lansky, vies with the CIA and American business interests bent on controlling the Batista regime and keeping an inexhaustible gusher of cash flowing. Onstage steps doltish, self-centered, failed baseball star Fidel Castro, who is determined to wrest power from the corrupt government and return it to the people. Swagger is drawn into a complicated plot to kill Castro and keep the Cuban money where it belongs-in American pockets. Treachery abounds, but the rocklike Swagger thwarts backstabbing countrymen, the mob and the Russians funding Castro alike. Swagger is beyond tough: "The heavy Colt leaps against his hand, its old powder flashing brightly in the night, and Earl blows a huge 250-grainer through the Indian's chest, evacuating out ounces of lung tissue and oxygenated blood." Hunter's muscular prose is leavened with authentic detail and wit and establishes once and for all that no one working today writes a better gunfight scene.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
After "Hot Springs" and especially after "Pale Horse Coming" I couldn't wait to get a look at the latest of the Earl Swagger novels, "Havana." Unfortunately though, Hunter just didn't deliver in this third installment. In the back of the book, Stephen Hunter acknowledges that A) he was struggling to write this next novel and B) the idea to send Earl to Havana was not his idea. Personally, I believe this shows through in places. At times it almost seemed that Earl didn't fit in with the plot, was kind of made to fit even. Yes, the gunfights and such persist. We even see Earl in the role of "sniper" (see Hunter's incredible book "Point of Impact" for a great sniper novel) but it's not enough to win over a tried and true Stephen Hunter fan. Hunter has done better. The good points though are the return of Frenchy Short, a great character from the first Earl novel, "Hot Springs." The setting for pre-Castro Cuba and the interesting historical twist of including Fidel as a key character are also well done. Unfortunately, Hunter seems to get too caught up with these other characters and misses the fact that it's our hero Earl that we've come to hear about.
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Format: Hardcover
Stephen Hunter has a great knack for country attitudes, good shooting, complex stories and politics.

In "Havana" Hunter captures a moment in time when Castro is just emerging (the Yankees having failed to offer him a $500 signing bonus) and Batista is back in power with the help of the American mob.

Just as in "Hot Springs" where Hunter resurrected the great pre-Las Vegas center of gambling and prostitution (matched in that era only by Youngstown), here he reminds us that Havana in the early 1950s was a city of power seekers, tourist pleasures and American and Cuban mobster domination and corruption.

He weaves together a brilliant Soviet agent, Earl Swagger (hated by the Soviet system for his individuality and protagonist of almost half Hunter's novels), the CIA, the American mob, Fidel Castro and the Cuban secret police into a wonderfully complex and constantly intriguing story.

His characterizations of a young Castro are worth the entire book: "Speshnev looked hard at him and, try as he could, only saw a familiar type, thrown up by revolutions and wars the world over. An opportunist with a lazy streak, and also a violent one... No vision beyond the self, but a willingness to use the vernacular of the struggle for his own private careerism." (p. 101)

"He does carry on don't he? He reminds me of a movie star. They get famous too young and they never recover. They always think they're important." Earl Swagger on young Fidel (p 319)

Whether for fun or learning or both, this is a worthwhile novel.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a classic case of male fantasism at its highest. Merely a sequel to HOT SPRINGS, using some of the same characters in a more exotic locale some seven years later, but his "Big Noise" is nastier and on a much grander scale.
Mr. Hunter was winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 and seems on a downhill slide. He does pepper this one with luminaries such as Ernest Hemingway and Desi Arnaz, and the orator/attorney Castro who went on to take Cuba and keep it. He was clearly a man of destiny.
This continuing saga of Earl (a big man like J. Edgar Hoover) shows the sordidness of life in the fifties there. Much of the action takes place at Carnival in 1953.
He had settled down in Arkansas after the fiasco at Hot Springs and even come to terms with the memory of his brutal father -- so much so as to move his wife and son to the family farm and carry on with his life. Teaching his nine-year-old to kill innocent animals, just as his dad had started him on the road to death and destruction, he is lured to another adventure from which he may not return.
Apparently lacking some common sense, he faces down the evil gangsters in a corrupt world of lust, gambling, Russian takeovers, and petty criminals. Triumph, revenge, justification, and retribution were the goals of this gunfighter. The Russians were treacherous, always ready with blackmail. Everybody respects the warrior, right?
I hope Mr. Hunter will move on and get out of this hole he has made. Everybody's a 'pawn in someone else's game' at times. If this man can't be a bonafide hero in his own right, let him rest.
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Format: Hardcover
This was my first experience with Stephen Hunter's fiction writing and with Earl Swagger, and I didn't come away disappointed. Hunter has created a simple, but loveable character in Earl Swagger who -- in his simplicity -- is probably everything that young men aspire to become: A hero. Hunter does a great job of creating a hard-boiled good guy who isn't ham-fisted or cliched. An admirable task.
More than that, Hunter has carefully and successfully walked the tightrope of writing a fictional story using a historical character as an integral figure in the plot. When a lesser author attempts this task, the effort often comes across as forced and incredible, forcing the reader further outside of the imaginary world that's been crafted. Here, however, Hunter's use of Fidel Castro blends perfectly with the story at hand and lends a true depth to the plot.
Prehaps the only shortcoming of this book is that the plot elements are entirely predictable and ordinary. That is not to say that the story itself isn't wonderfully entertaining, only that there wasn't an element to the story that threw me for a loop or kept me on the edge of my seat. In a way, that's perhaps appropriate for a story starring a character that's a wonderfully straightforward as Earl Swagger. The rich characterization makes up for any shortcomings in originality of plot.
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