Reader reviews for Havana Nocturne

The author would have readers believe that Cuba's heyday as the playround of the East Coast is inextricably tied with the rise of Fidel Castro. It just ain't so. The mob casinos run by Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano just happend to be in play when Castro sets out to take down the government of dictator Batista. There is lots of information about the casinos the mob owned, and who ran them and how much money they made, but not much else. If you've always been dying to know more about Meyer Lansky, then this is the book for you. For all else, it's a skip.
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great history,great read
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A great listen--the audiobook narrator sounds kinda mafioso. Learned a lot about American organized crime history, Caribbean history, Castro, Cuban politics, the 1950s tourism and entertainment worlds, and even JFK (Havana orgy and conspiracy theories)--all through the lens of the American mobsters and the Havana casinos they owned. Followed it up by watching Sydney Pollack's "Havana" w/Robert Redford about the week leading up to Castro & the revolution's arrival in Havana on New Year's 1958/1959...movie can be tedious but seems to get the details and vibe right.
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Since the bootlegging operations of the 1920s, American mobsters had their eyes on Cuba as a haven for gambling operations. After a few false starts, Meyer Lansky and his associates finally made of go of it in Havana between 1952 and 1959, and his gambling enterprise thrived with the help of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista.It all started with a 1946 sit-down in Havana among many of the biggest gangsters in the United States. It was at this meeting that a plan was hatched to do big business in Cuba. Little by little, the mob gained traction in Cuban gambling operations, and they began to build major casinos. Meanwhile, Fidel Castro was making a name for himself and vowing to bring down the president and his gangster cronies.It was good for the gangsters while it lasted, but they should have taken Castro and his guerrillas more seriously. Tensions among the Cuban people were rising and talk of a revolution was in the air. Tourist bookings were down in the 1958 season, and the mob began looking for other Caribbean islands to operate on. In early 1959, the rebels took over Cuba, Batista fled, and the casinos were done. Gangsters scrambled to get their money and get out before it was too late. Cuba was changed overnight, and the mob presence in Havana was finished.This was a fun way to learn more about Cuban history and the lead-up to Fidel Castro’s takeover of Cuba. The book covers details of the mob’s involvement in Cuba and Cuban politics and economics, the political backdrop of the country, and Castro’s background. In addition, English takes the reader through the life and times of the elite in 1950s Havana. He expertly recounts the culture and the fast times, highlighting the music, the entertainment, the nightlife, the celebrities, and the iniquitous elements. The writing and the research are excellent.
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A well-researched and deftly written history of how organized crime got a foothold in Havana but was ousted by the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. Meyer Lansky, Santo Trafficante and other American mobsters subverted the Cuban government with sex, celebrities, and money - plenty of money. As T. J. English puts it: "The dream was that Havana would be a party that never ended. Instead, it turned out to be one of the great hangovers of all time."
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Very interesting read - it gives a thorough history of the mob involvement on the island, and how that affected the revolution. It stays away from the titillating and focuses on Meyer Lansky, almost as an anti-hero.
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Having been born in 1973 and grown up in Australia, I’ve never really known that much about Cuba. From film and television I knew that smoking Cuban cigars was naughty because the U.S. had a trade embargo with them and any country that wanted to be friends with the U.S. respected that. From the same sources, I knew that there were many Cubans in Florida and that the media reported them to be mostly rabidly anti-Castro. I knew that people routinely risked the seas to escape from Cuba in a similar way that my best friend in high school had escaped from Communist Poland. But at the same time I was vaguely aware that perhaps once Castro had been a man of more democratic principles, loved by the Cubans before they came to fear that they may disappear at night never to be heard from again. After all, activists both trendy and genuine wore T-shirts with Castro’s once-partner’s face on it and Streisand listed Guevara as one of her father figures in the live version of “Poppa can you hear me” alongside Gandhi. The implication was that, as in so many places around the world, the U.S. had had some role to play in the making of their monster to the South.The focus of Havana Nocturne is the mob in Cuba and their attempt to create their ultimate haven, within easy reach of everything that was good in America and without any thought for the Cuban people living in fear and poverty outside their Casino walls. T. J. English expertly, and necessarily, weaves the stories of the mob and the revolution together to create a thoroughly engrossing read that connects the dots so deliberately left unconnected for so many years. He leaves aside the demonization of any one of his true characters and, without pulling any punches, shows us flawed human beings and gives us greed, revenge and human failing as the ultimate culprits in the mess that is Cuba.I’ll feel a lot more educated about the whole issue now as the U.S. begins to deal with a post-Castro Cuba. Whether this tiny country can recover from their decades of corruption, trade sanctions and U.S. meddling will be a test with international relevance.
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It is rather interesting. I had no idea that the Mob had been involved in Cuba; in fact, I knew nothing about Cuba and its relationship with the US so it was quite interesting to learn how the relationship could have been so much different now, if only the US govt and the mobsters had picked a different horse to back, or perhaps if Castro had been killed in one of his early coup attempts. Anyway, it was a slow read because none of the politics, or the mob relations or the characters involved were familiar to me. But it was enlightening in how it explained the background to the current US-Cuba relations.
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