FFB: Guest Post by Jeff Meyerson: Killing Castro by Lawrence Block

A special treat this week! A guest post by the widely traveled, read and appreciated
Jeff Meyerson. This is Jeff’s first guest post for Bullhorn.

Killing Castro by Lawrence Block (originally published as Fidel Castro Assassinated as by Lee Duncan in 1961), Hard Case Crime, 2009.

KillingCastroIt would be hard to think of a more “forgotten” book than something you didn’t know existed in the first place, and this one certainly fits the bill. Lawrence Block has called it one of his two books that no one knew he wrote. After Hard Case Crime reprinted several of his early books (mostly mysteries, but not all) they returned this one to print after nearly fifty years and it was well worth it.

As per Block’s Afterwords, he got $1500 from the less than illustrious Monarch Books to pen this one, which was written before the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion. A team of Americans assembles in Tampa, makes their way to Cuba and… yes, succeeds in killing Fidel Castro. At the time I’m sure it seemed possible, and clearly we did try. Turner is the hard-boiled leader of the group, sort of a stripped down Dirty Dozen. One part that made the book fascinating to me was the italicized even numbered chapters, telling the story of Fidel’s rise to power and ultimate takeover of Cuba. For someone who didn’t know many details, I thought he did a very nice job and even if you aren’t a Block fan you should find a lot to enjoy here.

Since this book Hard Case has continued publishing Block, including some hardcover reprints of other early pseudonymous works. They even recreated the old Ace double format of printing two books back to back, only this time in hardback with two new Robert McGinnis covers. I didn’t care too much for 69 Barrow Street (as by Sheldon Lord) to be honest, but Strange Embrace (as by Ben Christopher) is another story. It is a mystery about murders in a theater company that is about to open its pre-Broadway run of a new play that looks to be a sure hit. The producer Johnny Lane has to solve the crimes and try and save his show. Even though I figured out the murderer I thought it was a nice job. When a man takes a taxi from his Fifth Avenue penthouse downtown, gives the cabby a dollar and has him keep the change you know you are a long way from the present.

–  Jeff Meyerson

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The rest of the Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s fine blog Pattinase

About Richard Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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9 Responses to FFB: Guest Post by Jeff Meyerson: Killing Castro by Lawrence Block

  1. Block mentioned in a comment on my blog the other day that STRANGE EMBRACE was a rewrite of an unpublished TV tie-in novel he did for a series called JOHNNY MIDNIGHT that starred Edmond O’Brien. I’d never heard of the TV series, but I’m glad to hear that the book is pretty good. I’ll get around to reading it one of these days.

  2. Jeff Meyerson says:

    That should have been Block’s Afterwords, his book of introductions to his various books available as an ebook. [fixed -R.]

    James, I’d never heard of that O’Brien series either until I read Block’s mention of it. Interesting how the book turned a private eye into a theater producer but kept the penthouse and wisecracking Japanese houseboy.

  3. I’ve ordered KILLING CASTRO. I’ll read anything Lawrence Block. I hope Jeff Meyerson continues to show up to contribute Guest Book Reviews. Jeff is one of the most well-read people I know.

  4. Richard says:

    George, Jeff is welcome to do as many guest shots here as he wishes.

  5. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Thanks. My problem is usually that by the time I think to do the review it’s too late.

  6. Ken Lawrence says:

    Not familiar with Mr. Meyerson, but this is a fine review. I’ve had mixed luck with Block, like the Scudder books but some of his others, not so much. This seems to have an interesting plot, but I wonder about the writing.

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