RE: RARA-AVIS: Crime Fiction in Cuba

From: Jose Latour (
Date: 08 Jan 2002

Hi there, guys:

Glad to be in touch.

To answer Ramos's questions in order. I finished a new novel, Havana Best Friends, in June 2001. Like Outcast, I wrote it in English. My agent will try to sell it in the US soon. HarperCollins UK will publish it next fall. I also penned two other books in Spanish, which later I translated into English. World Series is set in 1958 Havana and deals with the Mafia-controlled American gaming industry here. The Fool depicts corrupt Cuban Intelligence officials that in 1988 recruit an unsuspecting expert in sugar futures. He is sent to Merida, Mexico, to launder drug money through the New York Exchange. This book will soon be released in Italy and Japan. I hope both will get published in the US.

Many years ago I quit worrying over sub-classifications within the genre. We live immersed in cliches and surrounded by artificial boundaries, many of them the result or market forces. Crime literature, which is a broader concept than crime fiction, is as old as literature itself. Crime probably preceded language. Some people argue that "The Odyssey" could be construed as crime literature. Debatable? Yes. "Don Quixote" has many chapters dealing with crime. What about "Crime and Punishment" and
"Hamlet," "Othello" and "Macbeth"? Almost everybody I know agrees that Chandler's "The Simple Art of Murder" and his novel "The Long Goodbye" are first-class contemporary literature.

All this leads me to believe that good crime literature becomes just literature and good crime fiction becomes fiction. Perhaps if the generic concept "literature of adventure" is admittted, what is now considered crime fiction, science fiction, children's fiction, war fiction, etc., could be unified under it. But the market has been segmented to better target readers. Among works of crime fiction we have whodunits, thrillers, police procedurals, spy novels, and so on. And what about the term fiction itself? Many fictional titles are firmly rooted in reality.
  In my opinion, hard-boiled has somewhat different connotations in the American and Canadian cultures and in Latin American cultures. Crime novels and short stories in Latin America have stronger political and social overtones. This stems, I suppose, from our revolutions and frequent coups d' etat, from the fact that many criminals are also ministers, senators, congressmen, chiefs of police and intelligence services, even presidents. Not that such criminals don't exist in the US and Canada, but it appears to me their number is considerably less than in my neck of the woods. I don't know whether or not my novels are hard-boiled. Most readers say they are. I am certain they are not soft. Perhaps they are medium-boiled.

I got carried away. Sorry. I'll leave the other questions for tomorrow.


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