The Great American

Overview

The Great American is the story of one man's search for love, justice, and redemption in the maelstrom of revolutionary Cuba. William Morgan, a dyed-in-the-wool marine from Ohio, is first introduced as a typical yanqui out to have a good time in the fleshpots of pre-Castro Havana. By story's end, he has become a noble, tragic figure, Zhivago-like in his pursuit of goodness and in his surrender to the enthrallment of a great passion. When Morgan arrives in Havana, he finds that his best friend has been killed ...
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Overview

The Great American is the story of one man's search for love, justice, and redemption in the maelstrom of revolutionary Cuba. William Morgan, a dyed-in-the-wool marine from Ohio, is first introduced as a typical yanqui out to have a good time in the fleshpots of pre-Castro Havana. By story's end, he has become a noble, tragic figure, Zhivago-like in his pursuit of goodness and in his surrender to the enthrallment of a great passion. When Morgan arrives in Havana, he finds that his best friend has been killed during an attack on the Presidential Palace. Morgan links up with the anti-Batista underground and falls in love with Laura, a revolutionary and the daughter of a prominent family. When their group fails at an attempt to assassinate the dictator, Morgan is spirited away to the mountains by a CIA agent. Believing that Laura is dead, Morgan refashions himself as a committed revolutionary, rising to the highest rank, comandante, in the Second Front of the Escambray. He becomes a friend and saves the life of Che Guevara and joins forces with Castro's army. The day that Batista flees Cuba, Morgan learns that Laura is still alive. Although he is married and his wife pregnant, in the heady days of Castro's revolutionary triumph, Morgan resumes his love affair with Laura. Soon Morgan's attraction to the revolution goes sour and his alliances begin to shift, ultimately pitting him against Castro, who had made the American his confidante and right-hand man. Morgan's disillusionment is total and he throws himself into the fray of conspiracy against the new government. His life and freedom - and his family's - are at stake as he participates in a plot to assassinate Castro, entrapping himself in the winding sheet of betrayal and murder.

From the widely lauded author of The Killing of the Saints comes a sweeping novel of a man's search for love and redemption in the maelstrom of revolutionary Cuba. Energized by the ardor of his revolutionary lover, an ex-Marine joins the cause of those seeking to free Cuba from Batista's tyranny. 400 pp. National author publicity. 17,500 print.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his second novel, Abella (The Killing of the Saints) displays a fascinating, often unintentionally amusing lack of control over such primary elements as character development, plot structure and style. His protagonist, an AWOL American marine named William Morgan, becomes an unlikely hero of the Cuban Revolution, though he sees more action in the bedroom than on the battlefield. His chief credentials as the legendary Yanqui Commandante are a failed attempt to assassinate Batista and months spent wandering aimlessly through the mountains with a ragged band of soldiers, the tedium broken by occasional firefights and polemical meetings with Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. Ironically, Morgan is a better soldier than lover. He initially falls for Laura, a beautiful revolutionary who is shot and presumably killed in Havana. While in the mountains, he discovers Irma, a missionary who becomes his wife. He eventually betrays her, telling himself that anyone who wants him so badly can't be worth having. Both women exist primarily to express inordinate devotion to their hero. Negotiating the jungle of hyperbole, endless metaphors and adjective traffic jams-not to mention the author's attempt to show Morgan's elementary Spanish by having him speak only in the infinitive ("You want to want to mean")-will distract most readers from any petty concerns about plot, structure and character. Morgan is a jumble of self-pity and simpleminded notions about romance, politics, psychology and religion. So is the novel. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Cuban-born Abella's (The Killing of the Saints, LJ 9/1/91) second novel is set amid the drama of the overthrow of Cuban dictator Batista and the rise of Castro. William Morgan, an AWOL marine, comes looking for fun with a Cuban pal but is quickly caught up in the fight to topple Batista. Love also plays a central role, as the idealistic Morgan is driven by his often conflicting loves for Laura and Irma. The novel makes several direct references to Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago, but this novel is not of the same caliber. Abella excels when he incorporates witchcraft scenes, Morgan's awkward use of Spanish, and the complexity of the Castro revolution, especially as these relate to U.S. interests. But while an action novel with a conscience is to be appreciated, Morgan's political-religious soul searching often intrudes. Look for this romantic novel possibly to resurface as a film.-Rebecca Sturm Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights
Kirkus Reviews
A labored second thriller by Abella (The Killing of the Saints, 1991), this set in revolutionary Cuba and featuring double agents and corruption, ambushes and betrayals, lurid sex, and an innocent American protagonist seemingly fated to be disillusioned by all the causes that he's embraced.

It's 1957, and William Morgan, an AWOL marine, has arrived in Havana just days after a failed attack on the life of the corrupt President Batista. William is inadvertently sucked into the pervasive political chaos when he kills one of a gang of men beating up a prostitute. The dead man turns out to be a police sergeant, and William, on the run, accepts the help of the mysterious Max Weinberg, who may or may not be working for the CIA. He also falls madly in love with a young revolutionary named Laura, who convinces him that he must kill Batista. And so, at a black-tie affair at the Havana Yacht Club, he aims at the president, but, of all the rotten luck, young Senator Kennedy's head gets in the way "as though prefiguring the fate that will befall him." Laura is killed in the aftermath, but William escapes, casting his lot with the rebels. Believing that he has to atone for his failure and for Laura's death, he leads small bands of rebels in guerrilla warfare, rubs shoulders with Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, and meets Irma, a young Christian missionary from California. William, who distrusts Castro, rationalizes that he is fighting against Batista, rather than for Castro, but his personal beliefs are soon overwhelmed by Castro and his supporters, who transform William into a symbol of the revolution. Then he discovers that Castro and Laura have had a fling, that Laura may not be dead, and that he is caught between warring conspiracies.

A contrived hero and a myopic view of an otherwise interesting historical moment add up to an unconvincing thriller.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743205481
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 3/1/2000
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 1.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

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