Stephen Hunter has written over twenty novels. The retired chief film critic for The Washington Post, where he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism, he has also published two collections of film criticism and a nonfiction work, American Gunfight. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
Arkansas State Police officer and World War II hero Earl Swagger (Hot Springs; Pale Horse Coming) has a well-earned, larger-than-life reputation for his down-and-dirty campaigns against crime and corruption. When the CIA needs an assassin to deal with a young Cuban revolutionary named Castro, Swagger is recruited and sent to the island nation. Havana in 1953 is an American playground rivaling Las Vegas and Miami. It is ruled by the mob, a coterie of large agricultural industrialists, and a dictator president named Batista. Castro has not yet come to power but is already garnering attention: from the Cuban police, the military, and El Presidente, who consider him an irritant; the U.S. government, which considers him a threat; and the Soviet government, which considers him a potential recruit. Swagger's arrival is the catalyst that sets off a season of international one-upmanship-marked by brutality, political maneuvering, lethal firepower, and espionage-in which no one knows who the enemy is. Hunter has penned a gritty novel of suspense, while perfectly capturing the times and the aura of 1950s Cuba. Recommended for most popular fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/03.]-Thomas Kilpatrick, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. at Carbondale Lib. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The term thriller is too pallid for this powerful, satisfying novel in the 1950s-set Earl Swagger series from bestseller Hunter (Time to Hunt; Hot Springs; Pale Horse Coming). At times the book reads as if it were chiseled out of granite, with Arkansas state cop Swagger hewn from the same impenetrable material. Swagger, ex-Marine Medal of Honor winner and legendary gunfighter, is called in by the American government to serve as bodyguard to Congressman Harry Etheridge in his investigation of New York-gangster criminal activity at the American naval base in Cuba. A reluctant Swagger signs on and soon finds himself touring Havana nightspots with a congressman more interested in participating in the city's culture of vice than in rooting out gangsters. Havana in the '50s is a cauldron of competing international government and criminal agencies. The mob, led by Meyer Lansky, vies with the CIA and American business interests bent on controlling the Batista regime and keeping an inexhaustible gusher of cash flowing. Onstage steps doltish, self-centered, failed baseball star Fidel Castro, who is determined to wrest power from the corrupt government and return it to the people. Swagger is drawn into a complicated plot to kill Castro and keep the Cuban money where it belongs-in American pockets. Treachery abounds, but the rocklike Swagger thwarts backstabbing countrymen, the mob and the Russians funding Castro alike. Swagger is beyond tough: "The heavy Colt leaps against his hand, its old powder flashing brightly in the night, and Earl blows a huge 250-grainer through the Indian's chest, evacuating out ounces of lung tissue and oxygenated blood." 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. Agent, Esther Newberg. (Oct.) Forecast: A number of notable thrillers have recently been set in Havana, including Les Standiford's Havana Run (2003), Thomas Sanchez's King Bongo (2003) and Martin Cruz Smith's Havana Bay (1999). Havana dukes it out with the best of them, and Hunter can expect another richly deserved bestseller. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
[A] frenzy of action....A thriller fan's dream.
-- The Washington Post
Lock and load. Strap yourself in. Earl Swagger is back.
-- The Denver Post
Tout and sharp-edged....Raw and graphic.
-- Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TX)