Havana by Stephen Hunter
An Earl Swagger Novel

92%

6 Critic Reviews

Stir the pot further with some nasty gangsta types from New York, a pair of singularly focused assassins, a highly resourceful Soviet superspy, a fella named Battista, and it's a wonder anyone gets out alive. Breathlessly violent at times, downright lyrical at others, Hunter's (Pale Horse Coming, 2002, etc.) best yet.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

Havana, the sultry spring of 1953: gambling is expensive, sex is cheap, and death is free.
A half-hour by air from Miami, it's the world's hottest -- and most dangerous -- city. From the plush mobster casinos in Centro to the backstreet brothels on Zanja Street, you can get anything you want, for a price. The city is the linchpin of many empires: the Mafia's, the CIA's, numerous American corporations', El Presidente's, and even the vice lords' of Old Havana. It must be protected at all costs.
But now there's a threat. A young lawyer, a kid named Castro, is giving speeches. He speaks of reform, of change, of self-determination. He speaks of...of revolution even.
This danger must be dealt with. So, into the steamy, sunny climate of corruption come two men, both unafraid, both skilled, both tough as ball bearings. They would be friends in a sane world, for they are so similar in their capabilities and experiences. But now they have to be enemies, because the Cold War is at its apogee: one is American, the other Russian.
The American is named Earl Swagger. A Medal of Honor winner on Iwo Jima, a toughened gunman from adventures in Hot Springs and the swamps of Mississippi, Earl has been conned by two young Old Boys of the CIA to become Our Gun in Havana.
The Russian, Speshnev, also a veteran of tough battles (from Spain in '36 to Berlin in '45, with a few stays in the gulag just for seasoning), has a similar assignment: he too is sent by strategic gamesters to pay attention to that same young orator. But his job is protection, not elimination.
Neither man's assignment will be easy. For, like an orchid hot house, Havana's climate grows spectacular specimens: the wise old mobster king Meyer Lansky, who runs the casinos for his nervous New York sponsors; the syndicate hitman Frankie Carbine, Frankie Horsekiller of the famed Times Square massacre; the secret police officer called Ojos Bellos -- Beautiful Eyes -- for his penchant to interrogate at scalpel point; the beautiful Filipina Jean-Marie Augustine, who knows so much; and even those crew-cut, cheery young CIA fellows on the embassy's Third Floor, behind whose baby-blues and tender faces lurk all manner of deviousness. And everybody wants something.
In Havana, Stephen Hunter has produced a truly epic adventure story, shot-through with violence, eroticism, and the pressures of big money and big politics, set in a legendary time and place. His hero, Earl Swagger, fights his enemies, his superiors, and his own temptations and, in the end, has to decide what is worth killing for -- and what is worth dying for. He knows only one thing for certain: that he's a pawn in somebody else's game. But a pawn with a Colt Super .38 in his shoulder holster and the skill and will to use it fast and well is a formidable man, indeed.
 

About Stephen Hunter

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Stephen Hunter is the author of eighteen novels, including I, Sniper and Point of Impact. In 2003 he won the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism for his work at The Washington Post, where he retired as chief film critic. He has also published two collections of film criticism and a nonfiction work about the attempted assassination of Harry Truman, American Gunfight.
 
Published October 7, 2003 by Simon & Schuster. 480 pages
Genres: History, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Action & Adventure, Literature & Fiction, Crime, Horror. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Havana
All: 6 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Excellent
on May 20 2010

Stir the pot further with some nasty gangsta types from New York, a pair of singularly focused assassins, a highly resourceful Soviet superspy, a fella named Battista, and it's a wonder anyone gets out alive. Breathlessly violent at times, downright lyrical at others, Hunter's (Pale Horse Coming, 2002, etc.) best yet.

Read Full Review of Havana: An Earl Swagger Novel | See more reviews from Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Dec 17 2016

Hunter's muscular prose is leavened with authentic detail and wit and establishes once and for all that no one working today writes a better gunfight scene.

Read Full Review of Havana: An Earl Swagger Novel | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Dec 15 2016

Hunter's muscular prose is leavened with authentic detail and wit and establishes once and for all that no one working today writes a better gunfight scene.

Read Full Review of Havana: An Earl Swagger Novel | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Blog Critics

Good
Reviewed by Mel Odom on Sep 29 2007

The story takes a little while to get started. There’s a lot of backstory to set up, but it’s all important to provide a picture of the political and economic climate of Havana during those years. Hunter obviously did his research well and enjoyed the subject matter.

Read Full Review of Havana: An Earl Swagger Novel | See more reviews from Blog Critics

Book Reporter

Good
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on Jan 22 2011

His style is interesting; he can be extremely funny at times, but when describing Swagger his tone is unrelentingly grim, and appropriately so. The contrasts, the change-ups, help move the story along (not that it needs such assistance).

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Adam B. Vary on Oct 10 2003

...CIA spooks, Mob mooks, and ancient prostitutes – as well as the author’s trademark ripsnorting gunfights. Cameos by Mob king Meyer Lansky and expat Ernest Hemingway (here a blowhard barfly) only add to ”Havana”’s juicy, jolty fun.

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Reader Rating for Havana
75%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 159 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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