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Killing Che: A Novel Hardcover – April 3, 2007

4.9 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this ambitious, meticulous thriller, Pfarrer's first novel, set in 1967, CIA officer Paul Hoyle travels to Bolivia to participate in an operation to eliminate the leftist revolutionary Che Guevara. As Hoyle descends deeper and deeper into a web of suspect alliances and unsavory types, he begins to have doubts about his mission. His admiration for Guevara is one problem. Another comes in the form of a romance with Maria Agular, who works for a government ministry. Unfortunately, this romance never rises above cliché ("not only did they delight in making love, they enjoyed each other's company"). Far more convincing is Guevara's relationship with his lover "Tania" (Heidi Tamara Vünke). Pfarrer, an ex-Navy Seal and author of the memoir Warrior Soul, is unwilling or unable to give the iconic figure of Guevara a personal life that feels lived in or comfortable. Still, the action moves forward at a brisk pace, and the research never overwhelms the reader. If the novel falters somewhat in the last pages, it's precisely because of the failure to fully imagine Guevara the private individual. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* CIA "contractors" get the least desirable jobs, and Paul Hoyle gets the least of the least. It's 1967, and the cold war is hot in many places, but Hoyle is in the Bolivian bush to verify the identity of two bodies found in the jungle. Then he meets Smith, who arrives to crush a Communist guerrilla movement, and he learns that their target is the charismatic Che Guevara. Author Pfarrer, a successful screenwriter of action films, is also a former Navy SEAL, and he has written a superior first novel. It has fully fleshed characters, both real and fictional, plenty of action, a tender but fated love affair, interesting bits of tradecraft from spying and soldiering, beaucoup betrayals, an authentic-sounding realpolitik, and a palpable sense of jungle warfare and immoral Third World government. His Che, based on Che's diaries and much other research, is almost as fascinating as the legend of Che: a skinny, asthma-ridden man with messianic tendencies and a gift for leadership. Hoyle wears his honor on his sleeve, and the reader is left to hope that he emerges with his skin. Thomas Gaughan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (April 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400063930
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400063932
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,199,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Former Navy SEAL Chuck Pfarrer's memoir, "Warrior Soul", is one of the most well-written, fascinating, modern military reads out there, and his debut novel is just as enjoyable.

An historical fiction account of the hunting down of revolutionary and guerilla warfare legend Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, "Killing Che" is the type of novel that would make a great movie as well. Pfarrer brings his extensive tradecraft knowledge to bear, and his experience as a longtime SEAL operator helps give the whole book a heightened sense of realism.

Pfarrer's descriptions imerse you right into the heart of the Bolivian jungle-forests, giving you a genuine sense of what it was like for both the guerillas and the agents trying to find them, and his characters - both real and fictional - are very human and rounded out.

It's an intelligent, interesting read that isn't too technical, a well-paced read that has action without being action-packed.

This is the kind of novel you want to read again over time, and I look forward to Pfarrer's next work.
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By Crusader on December 17, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not at all what I'd expected from an ex-SEAL. Great touch with the intrigue, but even better in describing human thoughts, emotions, and interactions. I'll definitely be putting Pfarrar at the top of my favorite authors. I think my wife would like this book as much as I do. Not your usual hard action book, though it has that, too.

I read a couple of books a week usually. I'd put this as number one for the year.

Just superb.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book should give any rebel pause for thought. The hardest thing for them to do is to stop fighting. There are always wrongs to make right and battles to fight. Here was a military genius with a lack of political reality. Once he had helped Castro and Rauel take Cuba he was a threat. As a hero among the people, Castro's grip on power could have been undone. The tenacity and focus of this man was tremendous. His only fault was trusting his mentor, Castro, and trying to liberate people who did not want to be liberated or to share his dream. He was double crossed with help from those who otherwise would have never worked together on any common exploit. Che's downfall was desired by too many. A lesson for all would be heros of the people. If you are their leader ,make sure they are following you.
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Format: Paperback
Bolivia, 1967: Paul Hoyle, an ex-CIA paramilitary with experience in Laos, Vietnam and various Latin American hot spots, is now employed as a "contractor." The problem? A dangerously effective group of rebels, perhaps Communists infiltrating from Argentina, have ambushed and destroyed a government convoy traveling in a more than usually inhospitable and poverty-stricken part of central Bolivia. The CIA, in an all-too familiar role, protecting multinationals and propping up a corrupt but pro-American regime, are immediately interested. When it becomes clear that this is not a home-grown operation, but is led by the formidable, charismatic Che Guevara, their interest turns to passion. KILLING CHE is a gut-wrenching tale of espionage, betrayal and military adventure. Terrifying firefights and numbing slogs through jungle feel like the real thing. What makes this novel exceptional--besides the author's brilliantly evocative descriptions of land and people--is the effortless telling from multiple POVs. Besides the burned-out career soldier Hoyle, there is Tania, an East German/Cuban triple-agent and one time lover of Guevara's. There are many other characters, too, all complex and fully realized. The masterstroke, however, may be the portrait of the heroic true believer, Che Guevara. The author, Chuck Pfarrer, has two earlier novels and several successful action screenplays to his credit, but it is his resume as an ex-Navy SEAL (as well as the mountains of research that so obviously went into this novel) that make him absolutely qualified to handle his subject. Don't miss this one, or start it at night, as I did. KILLING CHE is almost impossible to put down.
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Format: Paperback
This was simply one helluva good read. Using mostly factual material, Pfarrer spins a yarn better than Harold Robbins did in his peak years in books like "The Carpetbaggers" and "The Adventurers." That's saying something, but it gets better. Not only does he breathe life back into the legendary revolutionary, Che Guevara, but I'm betting the farm that his fictional hero, Paul Hoyle, will one day be mentioned in the same breath with Hemingway's heroes, Robert Jordan and Frederic Henry. Hoyle is made that real, and the ill-fated affair with his own Maria will surely touch the hardest of hearts. Hoyle is a character worth remembering, and perhaps re-visiting. Pfarrer has taken history and turned it into lasting art. Bravo! - Tim Bazzett, author of "Soldier Boy: At Play in the ASA"
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Format: Hardcover
Chuck Pfarrer has produced a beautifully written and exhaustively researched historical novel that follows a barely fictional CIA contract agent, Paul Hoyle, on his mission to engineer the liquidation of Che Guevara during his ill-fated 1967 insurgency in Bolivia. In Paul Hoyle, Pfarrer has written a noir character worthy of Hammett or Chandler, a good soldier with scant ethical compunctions who, as his time in Bolivia unfolds, learns that the United States is backing a horribly corrupt government and that he has been sent to kill perhaps the most decent man in Bolivia.

The education of Paul Hoyle begins when he falls in love with Maria Agular, the mistress of a Bolivian government official. "[Hoyle] knew he had compromised Maria by becoming her lover; in the trade, this was his handle, the means by which he could control her. ...But he did not control her--yet. Rather, what he had done was to allow her in."

Pfarrer paints a canvas similar to the movie "Syriana" in which unspeakable atrocities are committed and millions of people are robbed of fundamental freedoms because no one has the big picture. The world of espionage is powered by the belief that policy makers understand the long term global effects of their policies. This is what allows functionaries like Paul Hoyle to sacrifice their morals, the lives and reputations of others, and even their own lives in the service of their country. Falling in love with a source is a potentially lethal complication. Hoyle's "affection for [Maria] was a liability; intelligence officers are meant to use people, compromise them, coerce them, exploit them, and discard them... . Maria's life and Hoyle's were nothing. They were...mere flyspecks on a vast, intricate machine... .
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