When I received a free review copy of James Bruno’s Havana Queen, I looked forward to reading it. Already familiar with Bruno’s writing skills from the time he served as head of the political section of the American Embassy in Hanoi in the late 1990s, I knew for sure he would know what he was talking about in a story of international intrigue. The only question in my mind, having not read any of his previous fiction, was whether or not he could translate the skill in drafting compelling analytical reports into a credible work of fiction.
I need not have worried. He batted a clean thousand. In this nail-biting story, FBI agent Nick Castillo, a Cuban-American immigrant, finds himself in the middle of momentous events in the failing socialist state as forces for change imperil the Castro regime. With the kind of knowledge only an insider could possess, combined with a skill in weaving a story that reads like it could have been ripped from the Washington Post, Bruno introduces us to anti-communist revolutionaries, brutal dictators scrambling for power, moles inside our own government, and scheming and murder that spans continents.
Havana Queen engages all the reader’s senses – from its gritty portrayal of Havana’s slums to the sterile confines of Washington cubicles where spies and bureaucrats go about their seemingly mundane tasks; often with deadly outcomes.
If you’re a fan of the international thriller written with authority and credibility, don’t miss this book. It will leave you panting and wanting more.
1. What is the one book you want us to read (title, genre, and availability).
Rebels on the Mountain: Historical Fiction available in all ebook formats on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.
2. Give us a one sentence synopsis.
Nick Andrews, a U.S. Army spy assigned to unwrap the mystery of diplomatic failures in Cuba, avoids being entrapped in Castro’s Revolution until he is forced to bury his friends and fight.
3. Who are the main characters and who would you like to see portray them in a movie?
Nick Andrews: A U.S. Army Ranger and Korean War Veteran who has made a career of reconnaissance patrols behind the Iron Curtain – possibly portrayed by Stephen Amell
Lucia Comas: An American-educated, island-born mulata, daughter of the second wife of don Carlos Comas, a Cuba sugar plantation owner, and love interest of Nick Andrews – possibly portrayed by Christina Milian
Emma Regan: An American socialite whose husband, a retired pediatrician operates a free clinic on the sugar plantation she inherited, and sister to the don Carlos Comas’ second wife Sigourney Weaver
Fidel Castro: The charismatic leader of the revolution that overthrew the Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista – possibly portrayed by Jsu Garcia
Che Guevara: The Argentinian doctor who became one of Castro’s most notorious lieutenants and his executioner following Fidel’s rise to power – possibly portrayed by Guillermo Diaz
Ernest Hemingway: Nobel Prize winning author and Havana resident who mingled freely in the halls of power in Havana and purportedly supported Castro’s revolution – possibly portrayed by William Hurt
4. Tell us about the story, but please don’t reveal too much.
Nick Andrews uses the cover of a pleasure trip with friends, the Regans – a retired doctor and his socialite wife who own an estate in Cuba – to infiltrate the island from its halls of power in Havana to the rebel camp in the mountains at the eastern end of the island. Unexpectedly, he rekindles a childhood crush with the island-born niece of the Regans, and makes friends with a loyal Fidelista rebel. Romance, rum, rumba, and revolution layer themselves into a thrilling tale of intrigue, action, and suspense.
5. What inspired you to write this book and how long did it take?
I was slated to pilot a vessel from Galveston Bay to the Chesapeake, with a stop in Havana, when I was a young sailor, but the trip was canceled due to several factors including the fall of the Batista government in Cuba. I suppose that I never let go of the disappointment of missing that adventure. Thus, I followed events in Cuba closely and studied the history of the island and its people during the intervening fifty years. I spent another two years cataloging and studying my research, and another year and a half to write and edit the manuscript.
6. What other books have you written?
Dream Pirates – Fiction for young readers with impaired reading skills and new English speakers
WordPerfect: Creative Applications – Technical manual
Infantry School: A Soldier’s Journal – Personal memoir
Vietnam: A Soldier’s Journal – Personal memoir
Trifles: Literary Dessert – A collection of short stories to be published soon
7. Which authors inspired you, your style?
Ernest Hemingway: Voice
Mark Twain: Irony
Charles Dickens: Memorable characters
8. Where can we learn more about you and your books?
Http://www.jackdurish.com contains my personal blog as well as my biography, a synopsis of all my books and links to them, and recommended websites for anyone interested in reading
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
I am currently working on my second novel featuring Nick Andrews as a young soldier in the Korean War. Also, I have been posting to my blog a series of articles built from my research into Cuba with special emphasis on the love-hate relationship between the island and the United States. Most expect a change in US-Cuban relations when Fidel Castro dies, and Americans will begin looking forward to visiting this Caribbean paradise which has been off limits for so many years.