by John Keyse-Walker
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Pub Date 05 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 30 Jun 2022
Introducing hardboiled PI Henry Gore, in this pitch-black noir novel set in 1950s revolutionary Cuba.
World-weary American Henry Gore was born in the cold Midwest. But a lucky connection - and a hundred peso bribe - scores him a license to operate as a private investigator in Havana, a place where he can finally get warm. Soon, he's trailing after cheating husbands to finance his permanent vacation in the land of sun, cigars and compliant se�oritas.
But when he snaps the wrong man's photo at a fancy casino, he receives a fist in the face for his troubles - and a dark warning from the Mob. Private dicks are bad for business. If he carries on working, his license will be permanently revoked. Capisci?
No work means no money. No way to eat. No way to pay the rent. Desperate to make ends meet, Henry grabs an offer of work from Fulgencio Batista's military regime with both hands - setting in motion a chain of events with dark and deadly consequences.
With its rum-soaked, revolutionary Caribbean setting, dark humour, glamorous femme fatales and chilling twists, Havana Highwire is crime noir at its finest.
A Note From the Publisher
Average rating from 11 members
My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Severn House for an advanced copy of this new historical mystery.
Mystery books are an interesting way to learn about the world and different cultures. Promise a reader bodies, booze, tough guys and femme fatales, all that factual stuff about the era, the place and the people the book is set in goes down much easier. From mysteries I have learned about Egyptology, art, wine, and being a monk on the British Welch border. After reading Havana Highwire by John Keyse-Walker, I now know a little bit more about Havana, Cuba during the 1950's under the twin thumbs of the mob and the dictator Batista.
Henry Gore is a tired American trying to reinvent himself and his prospects in sunny Havana. Fresh from protecting Uncle Sam from communists in the great state of Maine where he was posted in the service, Henry is trying his hand at being private detective, working divorce cases and anything he can to make a peso. Which is tough as the mob has banned him for all their places on the island, which being the 1950's means everywhere. Short of money, Henry's silent partner gives him an offer. Work for the secret police pretending to be a gunrunner, and approach the revolutionaries with an offer they can't refuse. Which is the same deal they are offering Henry.
The book reads very much like a Black Mask story, though updated for the modern day. I doubt any detective would complain about looking for communists at a military base in Maine, but that helps make Henry Gore interesting. The setting is different, but the characters all fit the noir stereotype, which again is good. The plot gets rolling, and doesn't lose its momentum. The side characters are well developed and the book is funny in spots, brutal and touching in others. A good introduction for a series, and one that I wouldn't mind reading more of.
A fun sunny kind of noir, with dictators, dames, gangsters and Perez Prado. Recommended for people who like their noir in black and white, but have tired of Los Angeles and New York. For readers of T. J. English Havana Nocturne, Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther mystery If the Dead Rise Not and Paul Vidich The Good Assassin.
Havana, Cuba in 1957 is vividly brought to life in the brilliant noir novel, Havana Highwire by John Keyse-Walker.
We first meet the protagonist, Henry Gore, an American born PI, now working in Havana, as he mistimes taking a picture of the philandering husband of his client, is beaten by the staff of the mob run hotel, and then tossed into the street. Out of money, he eventually accepts a job working with Cuban security forces to reveal the identities of a rebel group while posing as a gunrunner. What follows is a novel whose plot takes twists and turns that kept me on my toes and wanting to read more, while our “hero” keeps running into more and more moral quandaries. Well written with well drawn characters, and intricately plotted, Havana Highwire is one of the best noir novels I’ve read in a good while. For lovers of the genre, I highly recommend the book.
My thanks to Severn House and to Netgalley for providing an ARC of this fabulous novel.
This book is a little darker than I usually like but it was so well written and so up my alley otherwise that I couldn't stop reading. In the vein of Raymond Chandler, Eric Ambler, and Graham Greene, Havana Highwire succeeds without parodying any of them. It's not for the squeamish -- a group I normally include myself in -- but it's riveting and a great read. If you like the movie Chinatown, you will probably like Havana Highway.
I want to thank NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy.
John Keyse-Walker historical Cuban Noir, with its extraordinary blend of fact and fiction, immerses the reader in a 1950s Cuba under heavy American influence and the brutal military dictatorship of General Fulgencia Batista and his corrupt reign of murder, oppression and terror. It is 1957, Havana at this time is overrun by brothels, casinos and American mobsters, like Meyer Lansky, it is attracting a huge number of US tourists, high rollers transforming the city into their personal playground. Famous visitors include the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Frank Sinatra, it has a warm, sunny climate that brings American PI Henry Gore to Havana, wanting to escape the cold of home. However, he is violently dissuaded from carrying out his business, and his desperate financial circumstances push him to accept a lucrative assignment for the regime, working for Colonel Ernesto Blanco Rico and the Servicio de Inteligencia Militias (SIM) for 10 000 pesos.
Gore has no idea of what he is getting into, ostensibly he is to help formulate strategies in espionage and counter-espionage, but he is aware that it will be dirty work as he poses as a gun runner to flush out the revolutionaries intent on overthrowing Batista. He is convinced the revolutionaries have not the slightest chance of success, which perhaps helps to keep his conscience at bay. He is intent on securing his business and saving his own skin but the unexpected bloodshed, deceptions and betrayal of trust that follow begin to shift his atttude and perspective. He finds himself a regular at the famous Tropicana with its much desired well known showgirls, one of whom is his point of contact. Matters are further complicated when for the first time in his life he falls in love, but there is a problem, it is with the beautiful American singer and mistress of the powerful Senator Guillermo Bauza, Lola Loring.
This is a atmospheric, gritty and on occasion darky humorous read that exquisitely and vibrantly evokes this brutal and politically turbulent period of 1950s Havana. The author has carried out detailed historical research of the time as is illustrated with rich descriptions throughout this stellar novel. This is not always a easy read with its high death toll and the horrors of a regime with an enormous amount blood on its hands and which is engaged in widespread torture and willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure its survival. This will appeal to historical fiction fans, particularly for those interested in Cuba and its history, it is a wonderfully knowledgeable and informative read with a terrific flawed central protagonist. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.
I wish to thank NetGalley and Severn House for this fabulous, gritty, riveting ARC. It is set in 1950s Havana and written in the style of hard-boiled noir crime novels.
1950s Cuba is under the brutal and corrupt military dictatorship of General Baptista and the influence of American mobsters. Havana is a city in turmoil, known for its showgirls, brothels, casinos, nightclubs, bars, and rum. Vice is unavoidable, and many come looking for sin in the sun. Tourism and gambling money enrich the regime and the mob, but very little trickles down to the ordinary people. For them, living is hard, and poverty is rampant. Many live with the fear of an oppressive regime. Discontent is growing in these turbulent times. The desire for revolution is growing, and those suspected of stirring up rebellion will meet a violent end by gunfire. Those are the lucky ones. The even more unfortunate are imprisoned in dark cells to be tortured to get them to name others.
Henry Gore spent three years of military service working in Maine. He has now decided he wants some change, to get away from cold winters and live in a place of sunshine and warmth. He contacts a friend in Florida who works as a private eye hoping for employment. His friend cannot employ him but puts him in touch with a private eye in Havana. Henry gets the job and a license. His Cuban partner does as little work as possible. Despite this, Henry is confident his work will be easy and his life pleasant. He will get cases from American wives who employ him to follow their errant, unfaithful husbands who are in Havana to pick up compliant women. He is to follow and photograph the couples for proof in divorce cases.
One evening, Henry follows an amorous, unfaithful husband and a woman to a nightclub run by gangsters. He is noticed photographing the couple, beaten up, and threatened to have his detective license revoked and worse if he is ever caught doing this type of work in Havana again. Recovering in his apartment, unable to pay his rent, he befriends a young street boy who sleeps outside his doorway. The boy runs errands for Henry and makes himself useful.
Henry needs to find some way to make money. A showgirl acts as his contact with some powerful men. He accepts a lucrative job working for the regime from General Blanco Rico. His assignment is to infiltrate the revolutionaries while acting as a gun runner. He meets the local revolutionaries who are much in need of weapons to overthrow Baptista. The group consists of several idealistic university students and a professor. Henry's proposed deal to sell them weapons poses no threat to his conscience as he sees their revolution has no hope for success. He is working mainly as a mercenary with the prime aim of making money.
He lands in deep trouble as he eventually finds himself working for both sides with no moral obligation to either side. The showgirl who introduced Henry to government agents has fallen under suspicion and is being brutally tortured. Henry has fallen in love with an American farm girl, now performing at the Tropicana nightclub, and who is the mistress of a Cuban senator. His goal is to get his money for selling arms, return to the United States with the woman, raise a family, and help his sister financially. Tragedy occurs, and more is to follow.
The gun-running scheme goes afoul. The exchange of guns to the revolutionaries ends in a bloody gun battle with deaths on the government side and more deaths among the poorly prepared and badly armed revolutionaries. The slaughter was horrifying and disturbing to read. I had to wonder where were Fidel and Che when all this was taking place.
Henry manages to escape from the carnage but now has to account for his actions to General Blanco Rico and explain how the money belonging to the government has gone missing. He is forced to view a grim, heart-rending scene of a friend being brutally tortured and has to think fast to avoid the same fate. Will he be permitted to live and return home?
In conclusion, there are suggestions for plans for Henry if he survives. Highly recommended! I can't wait for the next book in the series.
Blurb: "With its rum-soaked, revolutionary Caribbean setting, dark humour, glamorous femme fatales and chilling twists, Havana Highwire is crime noir at its finest."
I couldn't agree more. This is without a doubt the best crime noir I've read in quite some time. The story of a cynical American in a corrupted foreign land trying to make a dollar (or peso) is such a classic genre trope that it's almost shocking to see it done in such an original fashion.
I could easily imagine Havana Highwire as a 1950s film starring Robert Mitchum, Dick Powell, or Humphrey Bogart in the role of Henry Gore... a regular guy who gets in over his head and has to reevaluate his moral compass. But at the same time it's unpredictable. You think you know where it's going, you see the twist coming a mile away except that most of the time it doesn't just twist, it twists around again and bites back. Great stuff!
Reminiscent of classic authors like James M. Cain (Double Indemnity; The Postman Always Rings Twice) and Dorothy B. Hughes (Ride the Pink Horse) and films like Out of the Past and The Killers; the kind of story where even the winners somehow end up losing.
***There is some violence (not overly explicit but descriptive), sexual situations, and a few four-letter-words including an F-bomb or three.
I received this from Netgalley.com.
Set in 1950's Havana, ️American Henry Gore is a down on his luck PI desperately needing warmer weather and a way to make some money, then he is dragged into the battle between the Cuban warring factions.
"I stick my neck out for nobody. The world-weary response I’d rehearsed dozens of times since I had seen Bogart say it in the movies."
Such a great read, classic noir style. Wonderful sense of the era, really bad guys and some humorous yet poignant dark moments.
This is as Noir as Noir gets and it’s absolutely brilliant.
Set in 50s Cuba, at the time of Meyer Lansky, Havana is a bubbling Tropicana being enjoyed and spoilt by American money. The Rum, the women, the clubs,
It’s all popping off.
But in the background there is a discontent, the locals are planning to fight back against the oppression of the government.
Enter Henry Gore, a down on his luck PI, from America, with no money, and no work he is dragged into the battle between the warring factions.
This is genuinely one of the finest reads of the year, and up there with any of the best Noir I’ve read.
The sense of place, the Rum, the women, the bad guys and poor little Benny, it’s full of humour, yet the dark outcome is quite superb.
Paced perfectly, it was hard not to keep reading, so good is the book and the style of writing.
It appears there may be more to come and I certainly hope there is,
From Good reads:
Dark, gritty and atmospheric giving a real feel of which I imagine 1950's Havana to be. Our PI, Henry is a troubled but lovable soul who I hope to see more of
1957 Havana Cuba - american Henry Gore is trying to earn a living as a private investigator. Most of his assignments are errant husbands coming to Cuba to cheat on their wives. His current customer demands a photograph of her husband with his mistress as evidence.
This is the Cuba run by Fulgencio Batista. The mafia run the hotels and clubs. Corruption is rife with the USA also having their fingers in the pie. Henry is persuaded that photos are not an option. Badly beaten he is helped back to his rented room by a very young, homeless boy named Benny.
Henry's mostly missing partner Moncho Mercado introduces him to senator Bauza. At the nightclub is an american young woman - Lola Loring ( who Henry later learns is Fannie Knutson from Indiana ). Bauza gets Henry to meet with colonel Ernesto Blanco Rico who heads the secret police, who want to destroy any attempt at a revolution by the Cuban people.
Rico offers to pay Henry based on the fact he was involved with special investigations with the USA airforce, to get information on the leaders of the revolutionary forces.
Henry misses his younger sister Janet now living with relatives in New Jersey, since their parents were killed by a drunk driver. However Henry wants to make a living in Cuba, particularly as he becomes attracted to Fannie, made more dangerous as she is Bauza's mistress.
An exciting story, sometimes makes for an uneasy read for the way that people wishing for a revolution were treated by the authorities. There could well be a follow up book as in 1958 Castro led the successful revolution thanks to the USSR and why the USA were so angry.
The author has written three books set in the british virgin islands and featuring the policeman Teddy Creque.
Very definitely recommended.
Havana in the 1950s was a dangerous place, something Henry Gore learns in this atmospheric mystery about a man who gets in over his head. Gore get a PI license in Havana but finds himself working for SIM identifying the opposed to the Batista regime. But wait- the Mafia is also controlling events in Cuba. Falling in love is risky too. No spoilers from me. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. It's a slim novel packed with imagery (some gory) and a fast paced plot. Perfect for fans of historical noir!
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