Midweek Review: Killing Castro

Each Wednesday, I review my week in reading and look ahead to future reading with a review(s) of (a) book(s) and/or other posts in a feature I call Midweek Review. This week’s second book review (yes, on Thursday morning because I didn’t get to it right away) is:

Author: Lawrence Block
Publication Year: 2009 (original 1961)
Pages: 204
Genre: Crime Thriller
Count for Year: 39

How I discovered

My  brother-in-law. He has me hooked on Hard Case Crime novels. It all started with Somebody Owes Me Some Money by  Donald E. Westlake and has gone downhill from there. I’ve since read The Cutie, also by Westlake, and this will be my third Hard Case Crime novel. I also have six more waiting on the shelf for me. My  brother-in-law has loaned me the other Hard Case Crime novels, but this one, he wouldn’t because it’s Lawrence Block and he has some kind of Lawrence Block obsession. Okay, whatever.

The setup

There were five of them, each prepared to kill, each with his own reasons for accepting what might well be a suicide mission. The pay? $20,000 apiece. The mission? Find a way into Cuba and kill Castro.

— from the Hard Case Crime website

The hook here is that the book was written the year before the Cuban Missile Crisis, with Block having written this under a pen name he never used before or since. Bottom line: Does Block offer us any new insight into Castro? No.

However, he does offer a brief biography of him in between the story of the five men hired to kill him. That alone made the book worth reading to me.

As for the story of the five men, each unsurprisingly come from varied backgrounds: a trained mercenary, a college student set on revenge for his brother who was killed by Castro, an accountant who wants a more exciting life, an ex-Mobster, and a murderer of his girlfriend and lover.

Then as in all pulp fiction, there are the women, whom one or more of the characters lust after and try “to have.” Of course, one knows it’s going to end badly, and it does. To be honest, these parts of the novel were a little too brutal for my tastes. But then again I’m now reading The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larrson, which has its share of brutality too and I’m not as bothered by it because I know it’s going somewhere. The brutality in this book, however, didn’t seem to advance the plot much.

All this said, it’s still worth checking out of the library, especially for the biographical interludes, and for that reason, I’m giving this one a 3 out of 5.

I’ll leave you with a brief tease that was included in the front pages of the book:

Garrison’s eyes opened. He grinned. He was an American businessman on vacation,  a real estate speculator who occasionally took a taxi to look at a piece of property. He stayed in a top hotel, ate at good restaurants, tipped a shade too heavily, drank a little too much, and didn’t speak a damned word of Spanish. Hardly an assassin, or a secret agent, or anything of the sort. They searched his room, of course, but this happened regularly in every Latin American country. It was a matter of form. Actually, it tended to reassure him, since they searched so clumsily that he knew they were not afraid of him. Otherwise they would take pains to be more subtle.

He stood up, naked and hard-muscled, and walked to his window. He’d been careful to get a room with a window facing on the square. The square was La Plaza de Republica, a small park surrounding the Palace of Justice. Parades with Fidel at their head made their way up a broad avenue to the plaza. Then Fidel would speak, orating wildly and magnificently from the steps of the palace. From his window Garrison could see those steps.

With the rifle properly mounted on the window ledge, he could place a bullet in Fidel’s open mouth…

5- Classic, must read
4- Worth
owning a copy
3- Worth picking up at library
2- Worth skimming at the bookstore
1- Worth being a doorstop

If you also have reviewed this book and would like a link to be included here, please leave it in the comments or e-mail me at unfinishedperson (at) gmail (dot) com.

One response to “Midweek Review: Killing Castro

  1. Upon hearing about this book and your review, Castro is ferociously thrusting a large hat pin into a Voodoo doll made into the likeness of the author, Lawrence Block.

    But what he doesn’t realize is that he’s also stabbing into his own thigh.