- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 4 hours and 47 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
- Audible.com Release Date: January 1, 2009
- Language: English
- ASIN: B001OV7RL4
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Killing Castro Audiobook – Unabridged
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The narrative is taut, the language pulpy, the plotting perfect. Drenched in booze, cigarette and cigar smoke, beans and rice and sex, the story moves to its satisfying conclusion. Along the way there are interspersed accounts of Fidel's rise to and abuse of power. And give Block special points for his knowledge of Cuba in general, Havana in particular.
The book underscores Block's persistent and longstanding talent for this sort of writing. He does it now and he could do it then. And no, hitman Turner in this book is not the prototype for Block's current hitman, John Keller. He's his own man and he's got some dangerous partners. Fidel, watch your back.
Like a crime novel, Killing Castro is about the atmosphere and the feel of being there with the five men sent to kill the ruthless Cuban dictator, not about the density of plot, not even about the complexity. The five American men, Garth, Fenton, Garrison, Turner and Hines, plus two Cubans were divided simply enough into three teams, but Garrison, the take-charge guy as Lawrence put it, wasn't very keen on the fact that there were orders to be followed. However slip-shot those orders were, he wasn't the lackey, the one to take orders. So it was no surprise he left.
The men go behind enemy lines in a bid to uproot Castro and thus be rewarded with a substantial bounty. An implicit collapsing of the characters into individual archetypes seem to point toward a dime-store novel (or in some cases, horror novel) approach of character construction and development, but Lawrence does good splitting them up, allowing their interactions to develop in episodes that feels organic and yet looks to be going somewhere, in a plot that eventually leads to that end point of confrontation with Castro himself.
To describe the descriptions as well-written in the crime novel context is something of an understatement. Intricate detail is given, in the places where one would expect intricate detail; the locales from Florida to Cuba were often articulated in the individual street and place names with attention to the accessories of the scenes. In urban and jungle places, where the battles raged, the directions had a clear flow, and it doesn't really stop at any point, Lawrence is relentless with the detail. But the page count isn't the largest of crime novels so the word economy has to be good, given the level of description. Simple and direct seems to be the best way to describe Block's sentences and it works so well, giving off that sweet noir scent.
Added to it all would be the interjecting pieces, a sort of pseudo-narrative that documents Castro's rise of power. Good touch and the pieces surprisingly feel cohesive and in many ways, insightful. Castro's turn to dictatorship actually has a basis, an origin stemming from the terror of guerilla warfare, and it even tells of the psychological value of terror, also emphasized in the other parts of the book as well, namely, the difficult-to-swallow scenes where Maria, one of the freedom fighters who joined up, was forced against her own will.
Not as comprehensive and polished as one would like, even for a crime novel, but the style and shrewd choice of words does the job. For one of Lawrence's lesser works to have enjoyed such a reprinting and editing, it is truly a treat for all the faithful fans, and there is no mincing of words saying that.
However, Lawrence Block did not know this when he wrote "Killing Castro." The book was originally published by Monarch in 1961 as "Fidel Castro Assassinated." Block used the pseudonym Lee Duncan, a moniker adopted for this novel alone.
"Killing Castro" is as much about the journeys, literal and figurative, of five men, as it is about an assassination. Five Americans are offered twenty thousand dollars apiece to kill Castro. That was really a lot of money back in 1961. The loot is to be collected after the fact. Every one of the five has different reasons for slipping into Cuba and risking his life to kill a man relatively unknown to them, except for the media, stories from Cuban exiles, and government statements. It is, after all, only 1961, two years into the revolution and shortly before the Cuban missile crisis. Each man's journey, his motivations and outcome, are what is really exciting and unexpected here. All of these characters are changed by this deadly adventure.
Then one wonders who or what entity is behind the operation? Impoverished Cuban refugees could hardly have scraped together one hundred thousand dollars. So, "who was financing the assassination? Tobacco and sugar planters? Oil refiners? Batista fascists hungry to regain power? Americans unwilling to tolerate a Communist nation ninety miles offshore?"
Interspersed between the narrative are italicized chapters which provide a historical perspective on Castro and the reasons he became involved in the politics of revolution. The history of the man, his years as a student and young revolutionary, are absolutely fascinating - especially as the changes which occur in him are contrasted with those which take place in his prospective killers. However, there are occasions when the author, through the voice of the omniscient observer, makes certain points and allegations which are way too subjective for omniscience, and border on editorializing. I think Block would have been more credible had he used one of his characters to express these personal political views.
I really enjoyed "Killing Castro," and although it is far from the author's best work, it certainly makes for an entertaining read.
Kudos to Hard Case Crime for making this most rare of Lawrence Block's thrillers available.
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I double dipped on this one.Read more