Saturday, March 13, 2010

Havana Nocturne by T.J. English

Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution by T.J. English, William Morrow; 2008

Havana Nocturne gives readers a fascinating look into the height of mob life in Cuba, which spanned generations and ended only when Fiedel Castro came to power in 1959.

From orgies with Frank Sinatra and John F. Kennedy to raucous sex with 14-inch penises to gambling to crime, Havana Nocturne details it all.

Read as a timeline, Nocturne is hard to follow. It details how the mob invaded Cuba and why. From there, the reader is taken inside the debaucheries, yet ingenious skills of mob leaders such as Meyer Lansky and Charles "Lucky" Luciano.

The pair displayed a tremendous tenacity for realizing their goal of controlling the world. As the epilogue points out, the mob dread of "a vast criminal state with the power to elect presidents and shape the global economy."

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the book was how close the mob came to realizing that dream. Luciano and Lansky found Cuba the perfect place to start an offshore empire. They ran the island and had the nation's president in the back pocket. Coincidently, had it not been for Castro's equal tenacity for ruling Cuba absolutely, Lansky and Luciano may have succeeded in their dream of spreading mob rule.

English shows an almost fanatical obsession with the mob in order to bring this tale together. The anecdotes and details alone make this book worth reading.

In reviewing the book, Village Voice put it best.

"While Havana Nocturne makes you glad that Batista and his gangster pals ultimately go what they deserved, it also makes you regret never having gotten the chance to soak up a few mojitos while catching the floor show at the old Tropicana."

English details a never-ending party in Havana that you're glad you weren't a part of, but bummed you couldn't have been a fly on the wall for.
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