Set in Cuba during the final months of the Batista regime, Fleming's densely populated second novel is packed with color, violence and history, but the action is sporadic and the narrative meanders. In 2002's The Ivory Coast, a white jazz musician named Deacon ran into some trouble in Las Vegas; now, three years later, he's going by the name of Peter Sloan, working at the Tropicana Hotel in Havana and mooning after his lost love, the beautiful Anita. Coincidentally, Anita is visiting Havana with her current paramour, real estate magnate Nick Calloway. Other characters from The Ivory Coast, including Sloan's benefactor, casino owner Mo Weiner, an associate of mobster Meyer Lansky, mingle with numerous new characters, among them conflicted Luis Cardoso, a Cuban security agent repelled by his government's cruelty; enigmatic Scarfioti, an American government informer; and many revolutionaries, including saintly Carlos "El Gato" Delgado, an associate of Castro, and Nilsa, a female freedom fighter. When Anita is kidnapped by the revolutionaries, Sloan, Calloway and Cardoso set out for the Sierra Maestra with the ransom. A climactic airport gunfight seals the fates of the entire cast. Double crosses and misunderstandings drive this many-layered novel, which is an ambitious near miss. Fleming's evocation of sultry Havana, insight into Cuban politics and society, and exhilarating action scenes are overwhelmed by all the characters who muse and reminisce too readily. As Delgado notes, a "certain amount of self-reflection was a fine thing.... Too much reflection made for poor revolutionaries." It makes for uneven novels, too. Agent, David Vigliano. (Jan. 22) FYI: Fleming is the coauthor of the bestselling A Goomba's Guide to Life and The Goomba's Book of Love with Steven Schirripa (aka Bobby Bacala on The Sopranos); he also coauthored Charles Moose's account of the Beltway sniper attacks, Three Weeks in October. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Havana, with the Batista regime crumbling, is the setting for Fleming's well-made sequel (after Ivory Coast, 2002) about love among the ruins. Pete Deacon may drink too much and think too little, but there's no malice in him. If he ever bothered to articulate a moral imperative, it would take the form of: Don't hurt anyone you don't absolutely have to. In fact, Pete cares about only two things: his trumpet and his woman, except that the beautiful Anita isn't his any longer. After certain disruptive events in Las Vegas (recounted in Ivory Coast), she's been appropriated, in turn, by a mobster and a tycoon: powerful men with aggressive appetites and sufficient mercenaries to guard against frustration. Now, Pete's in Havana, has been for three years, hiding from an assortment of enemies, yearning for his lost love, and experiencing the seductive if debauched atmosphere of a betrayed Cuba buckling at the knees. He's changed his name to Sloan ("Deacon was a guy with trouble behind him"); swapped his trumpet for the coronet ("which was almost a trumpet"), and is blowing it hot with a pretty good jazz band at the glitzy Tropicana. And then one night, of all the casinos in town, in walks Anita on the arm of Nick Calloway, the handsome, hard-edged tycoon with a surprising soft spot. It isn't that he merely covets Anita, he adores her with an intensity matching Pete's. Thus, a triangle: Anita and Pete, star-crossed in the great tradition, and the Gatsbylike Calloway. When Anita is kidnapped by rebels and hurried off into Fidel's hills, an ad hoc band of very strange bedfellows forms itself into an ostensible rescue party. And then suddenly the hills are alive with secret agendas. Amorality runriot, but Fleming does an expert job of glossing it over and dressing it up: rousing entertainment. Agent: David Vigliano