From Publishers Weekly
William Morgan, an American who made his way to the front line of Castro's revolution in Cuba, gets thorough and entertaining treatment in this biography. Largely unknown in the U.S., his story is filled with the suspense of a blockbuster war movie, offering new and insightful perspective into the political climate of 1950s Cuba. From Morgan's Ohio beginnings, Shetterly quickly moves to his life in rebel camps in Cuba's mountains, which Shettterly describes exquisitely, and quite viscerally. Deftly weaving together a considerable amount of research to set the scene, he uses his findings to paint an intriguing and nuanced portrait of Morgan as well as the political tensions of the time. In fact, in addition to Morgan's story, there's a fascinating subplot about how Castro and the revolutionaries did not enter the revolution with a clear Communist platform, but slowly evolved that way from internal and external forces. Issues of nationalism and the role of journalism play a large role in the book, turning the intriguing story of one man into a thoughtful examination of 20th-century Cuban history. (Aug. 10)
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Only two foreigners were elevated to the rank of commandante (equivalent to major) during the war to oust the Batista regime from Cuba. One was the Argentine Ernesto "Che" Guevara; the other was the American William Morgan. Guevara now, of course, has the status of a secular saint in Cuba and is still revered as a revolutionary icon four decades after his execution in Bolivia. Morgan, on the other hand, apparently became disillusioned as the Castro government embraced communism, and he was executed as an "agent of imperialism" in 1961. Shetterly tells both Morgan's story and the stories of many other brave individuals who fought Batista and then Castro as it became clear that his promises of freedom and democracy were a cruel hoax. Like Guevara, Morgan was a rather rootless adventurer. Although his political views were somewhat inchoate, he clearly was dedicated to the ideals of political democracy and individual freedom. His experiences and the experiences of others profiled here illustrate the broader tragedy of those who fought for a truly free Cuba and saw their hopes betrayed. Freeman, Jay Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved