Havana (Earl Swagger Series #3)

( 33 )

Overview

High summer in Cuba, 1953, and Havana gleams with possibility. Flush with booming casinos, sex and drugs, Havana is a lucrative paradise for everyone from the Mafia, Domino Sugar, and United Fruit to pimps, porn-makers, and anyone looking to grab a piece of the action - including the Cuban government, which naturally honors the interests of its old ally, Uncle Sam.

Of course, where there's paradise, trouble can't be far behind. Trouble, in this case, makes its entrance in the ...

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Havana (Earl Swagger Series #3)

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Overview

High summer in Cuba, 1953, and Havana gleams with possibility. Flush with booming casinos, sex and drugs, Havana is a lucrative paradise for everyone from the Mafia, Domino Sugar, and United Fruit to pimps, porn-makers, and anyone looking to grab a piece of the action - including the Cuban government, which naturally honors the interests of its old ally, Uncle Sam.

Of course, where there's paradise, trouble can't be far behind. Trouble, in this case, makes its entrance in the terrifically charismatic and silver-tongued form of a young revolutionary named Fidel Castro. The Caribbean is fast becoming a strategic Cold War hub, and Soviet intelligence has taken Castro under its wing. The CIA's response is to send the one man capable of eliminating Castro: the legendary gunfighter and ex-Marine hero Earl Swagger, who proved his lethal talent in the national bestsellers Hot Springs and Pale Horse Coming.

In Cuba, Earl finds himself up to his neck in treacherous ambiguity where the old rules about honor and duty don't apply, and where Earl's target seems to have more guts and good luck than anyone else in Cuba.

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Editorial Reviews

USA Today
Havana's story line bobs and weaves like a prizefighter, taking the reader in many directions, from barely exciting scenes to intense ones. — Nicholas Thomas
The Washington Post
Havana is a thriller fan's dream. — David Morrell
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. Agent, Esther Newberg. (Oct.) Forecast: A number of notable thrillers have recently been set in Havana, including Les Standiford's Havana Run (2003), Thomas Sanchez's King Bongo (2003) and Martin Cruz Smith's Havana Bay (1999). Havana dukes it out with the best of them, and Hunter can expect another richly deserved bestseller. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Fifty years ago the mob was enjoying huge profits from its extensive Cuban enterprises. The only cause for concern is a young lawyer named Fidel Castro. Under the auspices of the CIA, an assassination plot is advanced and an unsuspecting Earl Swagger, a Medal of Honor winner and legendary tough guy, is brought in as the shooter. The Communists are also interested in Fidel, and Speshnev, a KGB operator, is brought in to protect their investment. Earl and Speshnev soon discover their efforts are better directed at neutralizing the mob, the corrupt government, and their respective spy agencies. Narrator William Dufris conveys characters and action convincingly with vocal nuances and exquisite phrasing. Although less violent than Hunter's other works, Havana is a bloody tale, but the story and characters-especially Speshnev-are engaging. Recommended.-Ray Vignovich, West Des Moines P.L. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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. Agent: Esther Newberg/ICM
From the Publisher
"[A] frenzy of action....A thriller fan's dream."

The Washington Post

"Taut and sharp-edged....Raw and graphic."

Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TX)

"Lock and load. Strap yourself in. Earl Swagger is back."

The Denver Post

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781455815432
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 7/26/2011
  • Series: Earl Swagger Series , #3
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Hunter has written fifteen novels. The retired chief film critic for The Washington Post, where he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism, he has also published two collections of film criticism and a nonfiction work. He lives in Maryland.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

It was a perfect O.

It floated from the smoker's mouth, an amazing confabulation, and then caught a small charge of wind and began to drift, widening, bending a little, until at last, high among the buildings, it atomized to wisps, and then nothing.

"How the fug they do that, Lenny?" Frankie Carbine asked.

"It's a machine, Frankie. They have machines for everything now'days. You got a machine there too, Frankie."

It was true. Inside his overcoat was a machine from across the seas, Denmark, a place so far away Frankie couldn't begin to imagine it. Not that he would have tried. Frankie didn't care much for stuff like that.

Anyway, this machine was a gun, just an assortment of tubes and housings and plastic handles and prongs and things that slid in and out. It was a Danish Model 46 9mm submachine gun with a thirty-two-round magazine, though Frankie, not interested either in the technical, didn't know that. Someone who knew guns somewhere in the thing said this was the best gun made for the kind of work the thing did. Frankie had no imagination for the theoretical: he just knew that it was much lighter and more concealable than the old-fashioned tommy guns because its stock was a bent metal shape on hinges — which meant it could be folded and made smaller — and that it fired faster, kicked less and was easier to use. You pointed it, you sprayed, you walked away. That was his job.

Frankie — born Franco Caribinieri forty-three years earlier in Salerno, moved to Brooklyn when four, a common enough trajectory for a midlevel soldier — idly watched as another vaporous O was manufactured and dispatched into the loud air near Times Square, courtesy of the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Camels, said the launching platform, a billboard that sheathed the entire front of the building between 44th and 45th right on Broadway, NO. 1 FOR SMOKING PLEASURE. The hole that belched the ring was cleverly situated at the mouth of the painted face of a movie-star handsome fellow, while over his shoulder some classy blonde dame with lips like roses looked seductively out upon the anonymous masses who hastened by foot, automobile, bus and cab through the great metropolitan space. The air was almost blue with smoke, the people were gray with exhaustion, worry or hurry, the cars were still mostly black except for the cabs which were yellow, and everybody was in a hurry. It was also loud. Honks, squeals, yells, the roar of engines, all of it pounding away. It gave you a headache. Frankie loved it.

He sat in the back seat of a freshly stolen '47 DeSoto, black; he shared the cushion with a teddy bear, a doll and a Lone Ranger comic book. He wore a blue serge pinstriped suit, a black wool overcoat (to keep the gun hidden, not to keep him warm; it was spring and in the sixties) and, because everyone he knew and respected did, a black fedora pulled low over his eyes.

"I wonder, I got time for an Orange Julius?" asked Lenny.

It was an easy reach; the OJ stand was just across the sidewalk from the parked car, sandwiched between two theaters (Roman Holiday at one and Target Zero at the other), a souvenir shop, an entrance to the commercial floors above, and then a shabby bookstore with FRENCH BOOKS in big letters above it.

"No," said Frankie. "You can get an OJ another fuggin' time. I don't want to come out of that place and find you wit' an OJ in your hand and the car turned off."

"Frankie, it's an easy one. You get close, you squeeze, you see brains, you turn, we drive away."

"It's always easy, until it's hard," said Frankie.

Someone tapped on the farside window. It was a kid, Dominic's boy, fifteen, and he'd spotted the mark coming down the street. He made brief eye contact with Frankie, who repaid the gesture with a wink and a smile — the boy loved Frankie, seeing him as one of the coolest guys in New York — and departed.

"Yeah, I got him too," said Lenny. "You see him, Frankie?"

"Yeah, yeah, I got him."

The mark was a tall sprig of a guy in a raincoat. He had two salesman's bags under his arms and two black bags of approximately the same size under his eyes. His name was unimportant, his background meaningless, his identity unworthy of attention. He was hawking California wares in New York territory and he'd found a clown dumb enough to consider buying at quite a discount for being first, only he didn't know that someone in his own little fiefdom had already ratted him out.

It was nothing a great one would be involved in. All that was finished now. Those had been great days, but somehow Frankie never got close to the action; he was just a mechanic on the outskirts, a gun toter for a crew that was affiliated to a mob that was affiliated to a bigger mob. He went, he did, he managed. But once at a club he'd seen them: the great Bennie Siegel, now dead, the great Meyer Lansky, now exiled, the great Lucky Luciano, with the one dead eye, now deported, such movie-star men, men of charisma and grace and beauty, the center of the universe.

There was the romance of the life he loved: the power, the women, the way men made room, the respect, the way people acknowledged your importance. He loved that. He'd never had a fuggin' taste of it, not even a smell; he was just a cheap fug with a gun. So he was waiting outside a dirty-pix store to do a quickie, and get out. Five hundred bucks in the till, a yard for Lenny the driver, that's all.

They watched as the mark slipped into the door beneath the FRENCH BOOKS sign and disappeared.

"I'll smoke a ciggie, Lenny. Let 'em get comfy, get set up, get cool. Then Frankie Carbine transacts his business and we're home by noon."

"A great plan, Frankie."

So Frankie lit another cigarette, and tried to blow smoke rings for a few minutes, and his never quite cohered like the giant masterpieces floating above: another frustration, and the perfect illustration of the life he had as opposed to the life he wanted.

"Okay," he finally said.

"Good luck, killer," said Lenny.

Frankie left the car and walked swiftly to the store, making eye contact with no one. No one noticed him, which was not a bad thing, for he was, he knew, an odd customer: a fellow in a heavy overcoat on a warm day, with one hand deep in his pocket, where it actually slid through the slash in his coat so it could grasp the grip of the Danish submachine gun. His coat hung too straight, because in the other pocket were two more thirty-two-round magazines, each weighing a pound and a half. His hat was too low, like Georgie Raft's in a picture. His suit was dark, he was a glowering death figure, a movie gangster, come to call. But no one noticed. It was New York, after all; who notices such things, when there is so much else to notice?

Frankie evaded a popcorn cart, slipped behind a nigger working a three-card-monte con on stiffs, smelled hot dogs from another vendor on the street, wished he had time for a chocolate Yoo-Hoo, a favorite of his, and turned into the store.

He had been in such places before and so nothing shocked him, except that every week it seemed they were getting more and more bold in what they sold. The windows had been painted black for privacy, and the interior lit by fluorescent glow, which cast a dead-bone color on everything and dazzled off the cellophane. There was a lot of cellophane, and behind it, flesh, everywhere, saggy and pale and raw, things you could see nowhere else. This broad had oval-shaped nipples, that one bad teeth and stretch marks, this one was a hot piece, the next your mother's mother's sister. Packets of cards lay on tables, sealed but promising whores showing off butts or coochies. The nudist camp stuff occupied its own tables, most of it from Germany, where dumpy blonde dames stood with towels covering their hair-pies, smiling as if photographed at a church picnic. Over on that wall men's magazines sold war atrocity laced with sex, where Japs were torturing busty American nurses behind screaming red headlines like BUNA BLOOD BATH! Behind the counter, reels of 16mm stag movies in boxes blank but for numbers had been filed, and maybe they gave you a glimpse of something you never saw anyplace except Havana, but you had to pay big for it. The smell of disinfectant hung in the air, and a bruiser cruised the aisles looking for dirty boys who were jigging themselves under their clothes; that was never permitted. They had to be tossed.

But Frankie knew the big kid wouldn't stand in his way, not once the fun started. That was the point of a subgun, even a Danish one: it spoke so loud and powerfully, Joes just melted into puddles of nothingness in its presence.

Quickly, Frankie checked the place out, seeing only furtive men locked on what they were considering buying and sneaking home in lunch buckets or briefcases. Nobody would ever admit to being in such a place so no witnesses would come forth and no statements would be signed. That was what was so great.

Frankie edged through the throng, bumping into a guy gazing yearningly at Black Garters magazine, and another, a homo, in the homo section where Male Call seemed to be the big item. At the cash register a surly creep reigned supreme and guarded access to the stag movies; behind that was the window of the office. Frankie might have to pop the creep first before he had a clear shot at the two in the office. He could see them, bent over the new product line from the sample cases. Shit, color! These California pricks had gotten so well established they could print out in color. Frankie's understanding of the business — any business — was limited, but he understood that color was the next big thing in nudie books and pix.

No wonder the big boys were so interested in sending a message to California: deal through us or stay off our turf.

"Hey," said the clerk. "You here to buy or just to poke your pud? Get your goddamned mitts out of your pockets, pally, or take a hike."

Frankie decided the man's fate in a second. It pissed him off to be dismissed so roughly. This fug thinks he's tough?

"Yeah, here's your hike," said Frankie.

He shrugged to spread his coat and raised the muzzle of the gun, his left hand coming around to grab the magazine, clamping down a safety lever behind the magazine housing. The clerk's face went numb and he just froze up, like a guy who sees the car coming and knows there's no point. There wasn't one, either.

Frankie fired. Three shots, but they ripped out in a millionth of a second or so it seemed, that's how fast the fuggin' gun fired. The light — not much was there to begin with, but there was maybe a little — left the clerk's eyes as the bullets speared him, and he said "Thelma!" to Frankie as he slid down.

The moment froze. It was dead silent. Nobody moved, nobody looked, nobody even farted. The echo of the three shots seemed to clang through the smoke and the only noise was the light metallic grind of the spent casings rolling on the floor. The acrid smell of the burned powder overpowered and dissolved the disinfectant stench. The two men at the desk through the window looked at Frankie, who now transacted his day's labor.

He fired through the glass, and watched it fracture into sleet, like the glinty spray of a Flatbush trolley through new snow on a winter afternoon in a long-lost childhood, all chaos and sparkle; and the bullets were like the arrival of a tornado, for as they dissolved the glass, they dissolved what lay behind the glass. The desk erupted in a riot of splinters and dust and smoke and nudie books flew into the air as if seized by a whirlwind.

You couldn't say the two stiffs didn't know what hit them, because Frankie knew they did, in that split second when they'd looked over to him and seen their deaths in his eye. But in another second they were gone, for the bullets bullied them relentlessly, causing them to jerk and twist and lurch. One fell back into his chair and went limp, the other rose, twisted as if on fire, and beat with his hands at the things that tore him up, but then he slid to the ground, his skull hitting the linoleum with a thud.

Again, silence. Each man lay still. Then not still: as if dams had been burst, a sudden torrent of blood began to empty from each penetrated man, from a dozen new orifices. So much, so fast; it soaked them, running from broken face to burned shirt to twisted arm to splayed fingers to hard floor, spreading in a satiny pool. Frankie squirted them again, to make sure.

He turned, realizing the gun was empty, and hit a little lever to drop the one mag. Neatly he fitted another one in, felt it snap in place. Then he looked up.

This was not working out.

There before him, with a stunned look on his face and a copy of Gal Leg in his hand, a uniformed New York City policeman stood in stupefaction equal to Frankie's. The two armed men faced each other.

"NO!" Frankie screamed, imploring the cop to cooperate as he knew clipping cops led to career difficulties, but the cop refused to cooperate, and his hand went inside his double-breasted coat and tugged the cop Colt out, and Frankie watched, as it seemed to be taking forever. He should have smacked him hard in the head with the gun barrel, but he didn't think fast enough, and about an hour later the cop got the revolver unlimbered, actually paused to cock the hammer with his thumb, and raised it onto Frankie, who again screamed "NO!" except that the word was lost in the thunder of the gun. It fired so fast, it slithered and twitched like a snake in his hands, desperate to escape.

The cop fell sideways and back, the revolver clattering to the ground. He too immediately began to issue copious amounts of liquid from new openings.

This was the one that unlocked the frozen customers. Now, frantically, they broke for the door, fighting each other to escape the madman's bullets. Someone broke the black painted window and rolled out, admitting a sudden piercing blaze of fresh light, which in turn caught the smoke and dust heaving in the air, glinted off of tits and coochies. The panic was contagious, for now it struck Frankie, and he too lost control and ran, as if fleeing a mad gunman, utterly forgetting the fact that he was the mad gunman.

Again, it took a while. But eventually, the passage cleared and Frankie stepped out.

He saw two things immediately.

The first is that there was no Lenny and no car and the second was that there was a horse.

It wasn't a cowboy horse at all, though for just a second that's what he thought, because cowboys were all over the place on the television now. It was a police horse, and on its back was a policeman and it cantered through traffic down Broadway, right at him, amid a screech of horns, and the screams of people who dived this way and that.

Fug, thought Frankie.

The officer on horseback had possibly himself seen a lot of television, for he had his gun drawn and he leaned over the neck of the plunging horse and began to fire at Frankie. Of course on the television or in the movies, somebody always falls, usually shot in the arm or shoulder, when this one is pulled off, but in real life nothing at all happened as the bullets went wild, though Frankie had a impression in his peripheral vision of a window breaking.

Onward, onward rode the horseman, though nobody knew the reason why. Possibly it was stupidity, possibly heroic will, possibly an accident, he just rode right at Frankie through the traffic, cut between cars to the sidewalk and cantered on as if to crush Frankie to the pavement.

Frankie watched in horror, seeing the wide red eyes of the animal, filled with fear, the lather of foamy sweat, hearing the clatter of the iron-shod hooves against the pavement, and the heavy, labored breathing of the animal which was, he now saw, immense compared to him, and just about to squish him like a bug.

He never made the decision because there wasn't a decision to be made, but Frankie found himself the sole proprietor of a rather angry Danish machine gun, which in about two seconds flat emptied itself into the raging animal. He himself heard nothing, for shooters in battle conditions rarely do. He felt the gun, however, shivering as it devoured its magazine, and sensed the spray of spent cartridges as they were spat from the breech this way and that, hot like pieces of fresh popcorn.

The animal was hit across the chest, and, opened up in the process of the slaughter, it reared back in pain and panic, flipping its tiny rider to the pavement with a shudder. Then, huge and whinnying piteously, it fell to its forelegs, awash in blood from the sundered chest, and from its mouth and nose where blood from its lungs had overwhelmed its throat and nasal tubes. It thrashed, tried to rise because it had no clear concept of the death that now stalked through its body, and then its great head slid forward and it was still.

"Fungola!" cursed Frankie, tossing the empty gun. He looked and prayed for Lenny but Lenny had long since quit the field. Sirens arose and it seemed that several brave citizens were pointing at him.

"You killed a horse!" a lady spat.

Frankie did not think it the right time to offer explanations, and turned toward an alley and began to run like holy hell.

Copyright © 2003 by Stephen Hunter

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 33 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(12)

4 Star

(11)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2003

    Swagger At His Best

    Once again,Stephen Hunter,the author,has kept me from getting to sleep on time. Like Hot Springs;Pale Hoese Coming and Black Light,Mr.Hunter continues the Swagger story.I always say that Hot Springs is Hunter's best but maybe that was because that was my introduction to Swagger and his clan....TRUST ME! Once you start HAVANA you will not be able to put the book down.I know that's a cliche but I MEAN IT....Great action and suspense throughout.Early 1950's pre-revolution times are described well...Go get this book...NOW!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Great thriller

    In 1953, the don¿t say his name boss arrives in Havana with a dossier on a charismatic threat to the currently American supported dictator. He orders Roger St. Johns Evans and Walter Short to eliminate Fidel Castro before he causes problems like regime changing and Communist government building. Walter suggests they use Earl Swagger of Arkansas on the assignment.<P> The Boss sends a loyalist to Siberia to reassign 4715 from the North Pole road building to mentoring Castro in Cuba. Speshan takes a shower for the first in seemingly centuries before, he, the former and perhaps future 4715, travels to Havana to indoctrinate Castro.<P> Though he only wants to go hunting with his son, when the Feds come recruiting, Earl accepts the mission and journeys to Cuba. However, nothing is quite like it seems and instead of a simple job, Earl is caught in global politics with little hope of expediting himself from this mess.<P> This is a powerful historical thriller that brings to life the era just before Castro takes over Cuba. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, but contains much humor (Bill and Ted?). Earl is a great protagonist who also serves as a role model for a caring nurturing yet all male man. Stephen Hunter escorts readers back five decades in Havana in a numero uno tale.<P> Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2013

    Another good yarn from Stephen Hunter

    This is the third of the Earl Swagger series, although not his third book of the Earl, Bob Lee and Ray Cruz. Father, son and grandson. Well written, believable characters, great background work keeping this and all the other of Hunter's novels in a historical perspective.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2012

    Solid, entertaining read

    My first book by this author. I'll definitely be reading more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2005

    The last 100 pages made up for the first 350

    I'm a big fan of Hunter and the Swagger series. However, this one was disappointing. Hunter writes that his agent comes up to him and says ' Swagger in Havanna '. Hunter decides to write a book about it. He should haver said ' What else ya got?'. I was on the verge of putting the book down before the last 100 pages really got me. Hunter knows how to write action. But between the action scenes, the Havanna story line falters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2004

    Predictable and hokey

    This was the first Stephen Hunter book I read and it will surely be my last. I am sure his other books are better, but this book left such a bad taste in my mouth that I won't waste my time with any of the others. Everything about this book was hokey -- even Earl 'Swagger's' name. Everything Earl did was perfect and right, and everything the other characters did was stupid and wrong. You can predict what will happen in every scene -- many of which were so unbelievable that they were laughable. I've seen Mr. Hunter speak and he is quite entertaining and articulate, but this book was a big disappointment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2004

    Hunter Flops On This One

    I'm a huge Hunter fan, but this was a little much. The Earl thing has been played out to the max, and Hunter seems to have let that Pulitzer go to his head. He threw in countless big words that didn't add much to the relatively simple story. This book wasn't near as captivating as all of his previous works. Good insight on 1950s Cuba, but pretty predictable. Worth the paperback price, but not 20+ bucks for the hardcover

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2004

    A STRONG VOCAL PERFORMANCE

    Listeners can almost taste and feel the hustle of 1950s Havana in these superb vocal characterizations rendered by voice actor William Dufris. A master of phrasing and intonation he brings vibrant life to this powerful story. Hero Earl Swagger, topnotch gunfighter and former Marine Medal of Honor recipient, is as tough as they come. He'll need all the strength and prowess he can muster when the government asks him to protect a Congressman whose mission it is to check on purported wrong doings at an American naval base. Remember, this is Havana in the 1950s - Fidel Castro is in power, gang lords thrive, and every stripe of criminal activity is taking place. Rather than doing much investigation our Congressman seems more intent on sampling all the temptations Havana has to offer, little knowing that Swagger also has a mission - to dispose of Castro. Stephen Hunter writes as strongly and chillingly as he did in 'Hot Springs' and 'Pale Horse Coming.' William Dufris is his vocal equal.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2003

    No Cigar on this one

    I knew better than to buy a book when I know how it ends. Castro can't die, so what is the point? Since I have enjoyed every other Hunter book, I opted to buy - big mistake. The book is extremely predictable and some of the jams for our hero are laughable in their solution. This is the first dud for Mr. Hunter and it is a big one. Save your money or stop by the library. In either case, a waste of time... and money.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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