Excerpt from Havana by Stephen Hunter, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Havana

An Earl Swagger Novel

by Stephen Hunter

Havana
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2003, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2005, 480 pages

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"Yes, sir," said Walter, "and I -- "

"Excellent," said Plans. "Now, you are wondering, who is all this about? Well, it's a young Cuban lawyer," said Plans. He pushed a manila envelope over, and Short opened it to find the usual run of documents, plus a photo of a young man with an oval young face, a Spanish darkness, an intensity to eyes that could not yet have seen very much.

He turned it over, said the name aloud, feeling its newness on his tongue: "Castro."

"That's him. Very charismatic, an orator. He might be a problem."

"A problem?" said Roger.

"A problem," said Plans. "People are talking already. I'm getting serious inquiries from our own Caribbean Desk, from all sorts of people at State, from the Brits and the French, from the Mexicans and the Canadians. He was involved in anti-American demonstrations against John Foster in '48 in Colombia. When the Ortodoxo party founder Chiba killed himself, this fellow astutely put himself at the center of the mourning process and got on the radio."

"There are so many of them," said Roger.

"But this one is different. He may be a problem."

He paused.

"Everybody wants this island to stay just the way it is, now that we've reinstated Batista. We don't want any applecarts upset, and we don't want our Red friends taking an interest in this sort of fellow. He's exactly their kind of man; they could play him like a Stradivarius. Too much money has been invested, and too much time has been spent. We can't let this get out of control. If we're not on top of it, it could be on top of us."

"Sir -- ah, I -- "

"Yes, Roger, go on."

"It's just that, well, isn't this a bit, you know, radical? I mean, there might be other methods: we could give him money, I suppose, or recruit him in some way. We could, you know, leverage him with photographs of some sort or other, we could acquire influence with one of his close associates so that we'd always have tabs on him and in some way could control him, why, there must be -- "

"You know, that's what some said in Langley. It's worked in the past, it'll work in the future. That's the American way and everybody's comfortable with it. You're comfortable with it."

"Yes, sir, I -- "

"But maybe just this once, as a kind of test case, we ought to not do the American thing. We ought to make a statement. Nothing bold, nothing flamboyant, nothing cruel, nothing attention-getting. But the right folks would notice: this fellow, he was about to upset applecarts, and then suddenly he was dead. Who? Why, not the Americans, they don't do that...do they? Maybe it's time to add that do they? to the equation."

"Yes, sir."

"That's why I want to go ahead on this thing. I'm approving a budget and it gets tucked into a National Security Working Group, and a senior case officer will run interference at Langley and I'll supervise closely. We'll code-name it Big Noise. I like that. I love thinking up the right code names. I don't think an op can go unless it's got the right damn name. Anyhow, I'm clearing the decks for you on other assignments. You don't have to troll for sources at the country club any more. Though of course you should continue with the damned tennis. You can't just walk away from it and huddle in the office."

"Does this mean I can start winning faster? I'm very tired of throwing a couple of games to keep these people happy."

"Yes, it should get you in the right mood. Kill them, crush them, stamp them out. In the meantime, I want to see you put together a scenario, find the personnel, develop it plausibly, set up a timetable, and we'll run it by the Director and see if we can make it happen. I don't need to tell you how top secret the operation is. That's, of course, why I'm not operating out of the embassy station. You can't keep anything secret in an embassy. Are we together on this? Roger, you're with me now?"

Copyright © 2003 by Stephan Hunter. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

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