Havana Highwire

Mysterious Book Report No. 497

By John Dwaine McKenna

Havana Highwire, (Severn, $28.99, 224 pages, ISBN 978-0-7278-5073-7), by John Keyse-Walker, takes place in 1957—a couple years before Fidel Castro came to town and imposed a whole new kind of tyranny, serfdom, and perpetual poverty on the island—at a time Cuba was in the thrall of a dictator named Fulgencio Batista . . . who’d gone into business with the Mafia.  His partners, the infamous Myer Lansky, and his henchman, Santo Trafficante, had turned Havana into a wide open mecca of gambling, luxury hotels and illicit sex, where anything goes.

That’s when we meet Private Investigator Henry Gore.  With a degree in English history, he was made an Officer and trained in counterespionage by the Air Force during the Korean Conflict.  But instead of going away to war, Henry spent his enlistment in the cold and snowy woods of Maine, a place he hated because he couldn’t stand cold weather.  After his enlistment was up, he headed south, looking for someplace “where it never snows,” and winds up in Havana, Cuba, hoping to use his military experience to make a living as a PI by snooping on cheating American husbands.  He takes a Cuban partner named Ramón Mercado, because local clients are hard to find, but when his first case—following a philandering Midwestern salesman—runs afoul of the Mafia, it earns him a severe beating.  He’s told to knock it off . . . or else.  Then, behind in his rent and suffering from hunger, he’s offered a job by Senator Guillermo Bauza, who acts as a go-between for the government and the Mob.  The Senator hires the beleaguered PI to act as a gunrunner, selling arms to the rebels who are trying to overthrow the Batista Government, because Cuban law enforcement officials are too corrupt to be trusted.  It’s an assignment that’s complicated, dangerous and life-threatening.  So much so that it appears Henry Gore probably won’t survive in this thrilling and noirish crime fiction novel, which captures the life and times of pre-Castro Cuba with stunning accuracy and near-complete command!


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