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Cuba Libre Hardcover – January 12, 1998
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Elmore Leonard has a long track record of creating memorable characters--enough to bring life to many movies, the two most notable being Get Shorty and Jackie Brown(based on Leonard's Rum Punch). Both are pretty good movies, but the novels are much better. Today Leonard writes mostly "crime" novels, labeled as such because his characters struggle to be good in a world so full of temptation that some kind of crime is always involved.
Cuba Libre finds Leonard reaching for a broader audience than those which appreciated either his crime novels or the westerns he once wrote, which he accomplishes by combining elements of both. Ben Tyler is a cowboy who robs banks, but only those that contain money of people who owe but won't pay him--he only takes what they owe. Charlie Burke is a businessman who buys horses cheap in the west, then sells them to exporters, while heroine Amelia Brown is the mistress of one of the truly bad men in the novel and struggles with dilemmas similar to those endured by other cast members.
Begining around the time that the Maine is sunk in Havana Harbor and ending when Teddy and others storm San Juan Hill, the story is at its best when its colorful characters are turned loose in one of the novel's colorful settings. If you like Leonard, you'll love Cuba Libre, and if--for some reason--you haven't yet discovered the author, prepare for a real treat.
From School Library Journal
YA-This book has something to interest almost everyone. Set against the rich and compelling backdrop of Cuba during its struggle for independence, the story includes bank robbery, cattle rustling, love, suspense, and action-packed adventure. Realistic, memorable characters come to life in the scheming twists and turns of a complex plot. Leonard writes in an easy-to-follow style; his bad guys are truly BAD, and readers find themselves rooting for the hero and heroine as they hide, the Spanish Civil guards in hot pursuit. The plot is larded with history, beginning with the sinking of the USS Maine in the harbor of Havana, and ending with Roosevelt and his Rough Riders's charge up San Juan Hill. A rare glimpse of the Spanish-American War and the fight for Cuban independence.
Anita Short, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Ben Tyler, a real cowboy, having done time for bank robbery - not his fault, as he had been cheated out of the cost of his livestock and merely withdrew the amount owed to him - at the point of a gun - found himself back in Cuba in 1998. Just after the Maine had been blown up and near the place he had lived a a boy long years ago. In contrast to the greedy, corrupt Spanish officials and psychotic, cruel military authorities and greedy, avaricious dishonest businessmen and long-suffering, honest peasants, Tyler is steady, courageous, resourceful (he is a cowboy), not vengeful, but he takes his due.
Interesting background information about the Maine event and the historical situation in Cuba. Leonard presents some points of view, but leaves it for the reader to decide what he wants to believe was the truth.
I highly recommend this book.