Thursday, August 07, 2008

Book Review Havana Nocturne


Havana Nocturne How The Mob Owned Cuba And Then Lost It To The Revolution, by T.J. English, is a compelling story about life in Cuba when the Mob took control of life, from day to day politics to nighttime activities, both legal and less than. By history's standards, the time span took place over a couple of decades. The United States has been in existence longer by many, many, more years. Be that as it may, the effects can still be felt around the world.

First things first. Although the "Havana Mob" involves people most would refer to as gangsters, the center of operation came from the land of sugar and rum. Bugsy Siegel stuck his head in the door, but died violently for his involvement with a woman less than highly respected by his peers. Lucky Luciano stayed a bit longer, until the United States forced Cuba to send him packing in exile to Italy. How? By threatening sanctions so severe that Cuba really didn't have any choice but to do as ordered if they wanted to maintain relations.

The Havana Mob mostly made their money through nightclubs and casinos. Needless to say, tourism and celebrities who wanted to experience pure pleasure by spending endlessly helped matters considerably. Mambo was also part of the draw.

Some of the names attached to the nightlife are well known. JFK, for example. Sinatra. Ginger Rogers and Desi Arnaz took the opportunity to perform. While English is careful about suggesting how much these performers understood about the men running certain establishments, conspiracy theorists might find more fuel for their fires.

There is clear evidence local government bought into the notion of financial prosperity if they allowed the illegal gambling and sex trade businessmen to continue without running afoul of the law. Some people would call the regular payoff a bribe. Readers can decide for themselves whether or not they agree with the term.

However, a group of citizens decided to try and take matters into their own hands. Chief among these were Che Guevera and a zealot named Fidel Castro. Although formal schooling never quite worked out, the desire for a revolutionary change could not be easily extinguished. Protests were too great in number and too loud to be dismissed.

T. J. English does an impressive job of conveying the exact state of Cuba's union back then. The glittery nightlife is tempered with the violence of doing business when taking the law into one's own hands.

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