This is the fourth novel of Pedro Juan Gutiérrez that has been translated into English (as far as I know) and it has all the hallmarks that Gutiérrez is known for: Havana, sex and a rollicking good time. Set in Havana in the mid 1950s during the Battista regime, when the Mafia controlled the casinos and when the city itself was known as - at least according to Fidel Castro - as ‘the whore of America’ - a man who may or may not be British novelist Graham Greene arrives in Havana looking for a good time. He heads to the Shanghai Theater and after becoming completely enthralled by the wild sex acts there, decides to visit the dressing room of Charity, a transvestite who performed at the show, also looking for a good time. Much to his horror, he and Charity discover a dead body in the dressing room and the next day, the newspapers finger Greene as the culprit.
But there is a twist here. The man everyone thinks is the novelist Graham Greene is not Greene but a man named George Greene. A case of mistaken identity - and a willing case at that. The real Graham Greene has just finished the manuscript of his novel “The Quiet American” and is living on the Mediterranean island of Capri. Word reaches him that he has been accused of murder in Havana and is told to remain quiet and disappear, since according to his agent, it “could be good for sales” of his books. Greene decides to head to Havana instead and what unfolds is nothing short of hilarious.
Essentially a reworking of Graham Greene’s novel “Our Man in Havana”, the story takes on the characteristics of a mid-1950s espionage novel, complete with KGB and FBI agents and a rogue organization dedicated to eradicating escaped Nazi war criminals throughout Latin America. It is a satire, obviously, written as a fictional account on what inspired Greene to write his novel “Our Man in Havana.” Over all, though, it is a portrait of a city before the Revolution, complete with its wild night life, sex acts, prostitutes, and Mafia control - a time when the city was essentially a playground for world travelers, especially Americans.
Those who have read Gutiérrez’s previous novels (“The Dirty Havana Trilogy”, “Tropical Animal” and “The Insatiable Spiderman”) are going to love this. His style is straightforward and candid (he is known as “the Bukowski of Havana”) and it is quite humorous at times. Highly recommended.