By Lawrence Block
Hard Case Crime
As a writer, Lawrence Block may be the stingiest man in the world. He never wastes a word. His writing is lean and crisp, evoking images swiftly and pushing his narrative along at such a smooth, even pace it becomes seductive. After you’ve read a few of his books, you soon come to realize that in his hands, you are assured a completely satisfying reading experience.
The year is 1961 and Fidel Castro, a one time lawyer and revolutionary hero of the people, is now Cuba’s reigning dictator. Five American mercenaries are recruited by a secret Cuban refugee organization to kill the bearded one. For this deed they will split one hundred thousand dollars. What follows next is a fast paced thriller throughout which Block offers up the actual history of Fidel Castro and his rise to power. It is a marvelous counterpoint against which he paints the characters of five very different men and their motives for taking the job.
Hines, the youngest, is looking for revenge. Fenton, an accountant, is dying of cancer and has nothing to lose. Garth is a mindless bruiser just looking for his next pay check while Turner is trying to escape the law. That leaves the only professional in the bunch, Garrison, a cool, pragmatic killer methodically going through familiar motions. Block’s genius is painting all of them in vivid detail quickly and effortlessly. It’s that economy of words again. A few paragraphs and all five suddenly come to life.
I found it particularly appropriate that Hard Case Crime would reprint this classic thriller at a time when Castro’s health is waning and the world waits to witness the final chapter in his notorious life. I wonder if it will be as dramatic as Block’s book?