Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Killing Castro -- Lawrence Block

It's 1961, not long after the Bay of Pigs fiasco and not long before the missile crisis. Five oddly assorted men are hired by a man named Hiraldo and paid $20,ooo each. Their mission: kill Fidel Castro.

Two of the men go into Cuba together. Turner is wanted for murder in the U.S. and is looking for a way out. Hines is just a kid, but Castro had his brother executed. Hines wants revenge. Their plan: kill Castro with a bomb while he's making a speech.

Two others join a guerilla band. Garth is a lump of muscle with no brain. Fenton has cancer with six months to live and wants to accomplish something before he dies. Their plan is to ambush Castro on the highway.

Garrison is a loner. He has a rifle and a hotel room with a good view of a square where Castro is scheduled to speak.

The fates of the men play out in different ways, sometimes in ways you might not have expected. Interspersed with chapters about the men are italicized chapters giving the history of Castro and his revolution for those who weren't around at the time or who don't remember or who didn't pay attention in history class.

Not Block's best, but it's lean (Block doing a little Hemingway) and fast, and Block is always worth reading. What I wish is that there was a little history of the book included, a short essay on how and why it came to be written, for example. Also, I've heard that there are some minor changes in the text and in the ending. I'd like to know if that's true, and, if it is, what those changes are and why they were made. It would add a lot to the enjoyment of the book for me. But I'm happy to have it as it is. Check it out.


Gerard said...

No fair. You got it early.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to it too, Bill.

But I also like it when an author tells how a book came to be written, as Block did with the recent reprint of his early short stories.


JZID said...

From the Lawrence Block website/newsletter:

6. Speaking of early work---and it's easier to speak of early work than to write something new---Hard Case Crime has KILLING CASTRO on tap for January. This is a very curious book, essentially impossible to find in its original 1961 edition (FIDEL CASTRO ASSASSINATED, by Lee Duncan), and I'll have something to say later on about how it came to be. What strikes me as remarkable is that all these years later Castro's still alive and I'm still writing. Again, advance reviewers have been kinder than I would have guessed.

Bill Crider said...

I guess we'll just have to wait for "later."