RE: RARA-AVIS: Crime Fiction in Cuba

From: Robison Michael R CNIN (
Date: 09 Jan 2002

hi jose,

i gotta apologize for not having read your book. i don't seem to find out who's going to be a guest author until its too late to read them. i did go to amazon and read all the reviews they had on your book. looks like lawrence block and martin cruz smith loved it! and "hardboiled" didn't come up, but you did get tagged with "noir".

i had to smile when i read your comment about cuban crime fiction centering around counterrevolutionaries and assassanation plots. that describes martin cruz smith's _havana bay_ perfectly. have you read his book? did you like it? his descriptions of the city and the people were well-written, although i can't judge accuracy. i especially liked his description of the inner tube fisherman and the practice of... is it "santiera"? thats not it. i'm referring to the belief that parallels haiti's voodoo. as usual, i thought he did a good job with arkady and the police woman, too.

do we have to stick to a discussion of literature? i'm interested in what your life in cuba has been like, and the things you've seen growing up. guess that would be hard to describe in a couple paragraphs, huh? haha. i noticed in the reviews that you were born in 1940, so you've seen a lot, including the pre-castro days. do you remember all the casinos being open? do you remember the fishing contest that resulted in the picture of castro and heming- way together? have you visited the finca vigia, or is it even still open? do stories about hemingway still circulate? the only book by a cuban author that i've read is a biography of hemingway. i believe the author's name was fuentes, but i'm not certain. fuentes was also the name of the pilar's captain, and i think there's an interview with him in the book.

thanks for the recommendations on latin american crime fiction. exposure to a wide range of authors is a big advantage of this group. hopefully will have some of them available.

again, i apologize for mostly talking about USA authors writing about cuban, instead of actual latin american writers. come around again in a few months and i'll have that remedied.

thanks, miker

********************* This answers the remaining questions posed by Manuel Ramos.

In Cuba, the bulk of crime fiction deals with espionage. Ruthless counterrevolutionaries who plot the assassination of national leaders, drink, smoke and cheat on their wives, are neutralized by intelligent, bright and kind-hearted revolutionaries who don't touch the stuff, have quit smoking or are cutting down fast, and love their spouses so much they don't even glance at gorgeous women. But we also have some good novels, of which I will mention two in the next paragraph.

Concerning Latin American crime fiction, I recommend reading the works of Rubem Fonseca (Brazil, "High Art" translated from Portuguese, NY, 1986), Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru, "Who killed Palomino Molero?" translated from Spanish, NY, 1987, and "Death in The Andes" NY 1996), Alejo Carpentier
(Cuba, "The Chase" translated from Spanish, NY 1989) and Paco Ignacio Taibo II (Mexican, "The Shadow of the Shadow" translated from Spanish, NY 1991).
  If you read Spanish, try Rolo Diez (Argentinian living in Mexico, "Luna de Escarlata"), Leonardo Padura (Cuba, "Vientos de Cuaresma") and Daniel Chavarria (Uruguayan living in Cuba, "La Sexta Isla").

On Elliot Steil's (the main character of my novel "Outcast") major personality shift. Perhaps this reflects what I would do should someone try to kill me and fail. I would go after the sob with all I got. Simple as that. Retribution is a human trait only saints lack. I'm no saint.
  Since yesterday I was rather long-winded, today I'm keeping it short.


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