Waldo Frank’s Cuba, Prophetic Island was in many ways prophetic itself. Written at the express invitation of the revolutionary government that had only recently established itself in Havana, the book was expected to be a portrait of Cuba—and a snapshot of the Revolution—similar to other books Frank had written about Latin America and Spain, books the “younger generation, now in command,” had read and admired. The invitation, of course, would not have come if my past work had not revealed simpatia and what to them seemed comprehension of America Hispana. ButSEE DETAILS
Those Cubans who have stayed behind and endured—and endurance has certainly been required!—the vagaries and adversities of the Cuban post-revolutionary experience tend to write from the point of view of within, inside, whereas these other writers tend to offer their readers a view, informed as it may be, from without, looking in, and back at the island.
T.J. English’s Havana Nocturne is not only the story suggested in the subtitle—How the Mob Owned Cuba…and Then Lost It to the Revolution—but the story of how Havana in particular came to earn its reputation as ‘sin city’ during the seven-year U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. And yet the book provides much more than even this. English offers readers information ranging from the origins of The Commission founded by Lucky Luciano and the average schooling (and with it the ‘thug’ nature) of American mobsters, to the “ominous mood in the air”SEE DETAILS
These bells of doom sound often in the history of American foreign policy and if anyone doubts this they could start by reading Bitter Fruit, the extremely well-documented story of the 1954 American conceived, inspired, financed, led and dictated coup in Guatemala that set a precedent for future U.S. efforts at ‘regime change’ throughout the world.
It isn’t as if no dark currents course through this novel. Instead, it’s as if Greene, while allowing brief glimpses of the background for his ‘entertainment’ manages to always deftly turn his readers’ attention away from the dangers lurking in the bush.