Re: RARA-AVIS: Geoffrey Norman/Jose Latour

Date: 12 Jul 2000

<<Just finished Jose Latour's Outcast and felt it was one of the best reads of this year. Did I miss comments about it when it was nominated for an Edgar?>>

I also enjoyed OUTCAST. Especially well-done, I thought, were Latour's insights into day to day Cuban life--the frustrations, cynicism and black humor adopted by Cubans to deal with very real food shortages, insensitive bureaucrats, and dead-end "careers." These factors play important roles in the decision-making process of Latour's main character, Steil, a man who loves his country but can't refuse the chance to emigrate to the US, especially if it means finding out details about his long-lost father. Of course, from there the plot quickly develops into the story of Steil's moral decline in the US; his "toughening-up" into a hard case, his life as a smalltime car thief and then a big time thorn in the side of the crooked stepmother and the corrupt uncle/FBI agent. All in all, a perceptive piece of crime writing told against a criticism of Cuban and US societies. For what it's worth, I think the book could have benefited from leaner writing and less use of journal/diary entries, but that's just me.

For those of you who want to learn more about Cuban detective fiction, there is a very good article in the most recent issue of Hopscotch Magazine (out of Duke). The article has not yet been posted on the magazine's web site
(, but might appear there in the near future. Manuel Ramos

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