Havana Nocturne:

Why Team Castro has survived 11 Presidents and counting


President Fulgencio Batista

This book has it all--the Mob, the Revolution, classic black and white photographs.

T.J. English's new book Havana Nocturne is a great read. It is the story of "how the mob owned Cuba
. . . and then lost it to the Revolution."

Crammed with mob folklore and accounts of the legendary Havana nightlife of the 1950's, Havana Nocture puts the Cuban Revolution in historical and social perspective.

English allows readers to understand (1) why Cuba, the most prosperous country in Latin America, was the only one to sustain a successful Communist Revolution; (2) why the Cuban Revolution was so virulently anti-American; and (3) why it has survived 11 U.S. Presidents.

As in much of Latin America, United States agricultural, mining, oil and manufacturing corporations controlled much of the Cuban economy. However, the Mob made the difference. The Mob owned the gambling empire. It worked hand-in-hand with the fabulously corrupt Batista dictatorship. Together these dirty partners drained millions of dollars from the Cuban economy. They infected the nation with the moral rot of gambling, sex shows, and prostitution.

Resentment of this filthy alliance fueled the Cuban Revolution and kept the flame of memory burning. To Castro, U.S. imperialism meant more than United Fruit. It meant the moral rot of the Mob-government complex.

The hero or anti-hero of the book is Meyer Lansky, who English paints as the financial genius of the Mob and central player in the Havana casino scene. His treatment of Lansky shows the only serious flaw in the book.

Time after time after time, English refers to Lansky as the Jewish mobster. Ethnicity is part of the mob story. A sociologist would have a great thesis explaining how an outsider could rise so high in a predominantly single ethnic enterprise. Had English identified Lansky as Jewish one time, it would have been enough.

The book has two other shortcomings. English uses vulgar language which only detracts from the import of the book.

English misses the sweep of history. The Mob takeover in the 1950's was only a chapter in a continuing history of American attempts to control Cuba. Prior to the Civil War, the Slave Power pressed for the annexation of Cuba, so as to provide for additional Slave states. The Spanish-American war was fought over Cuba. The United States occupied Cuba in 1898 and granted Cuba independence in 1902. However, the United States insisted on the Platt Amendment, abrogated during the time of President Franklin Roosevelt, which gave the United States the right to intervene in Cuba. America kept the Guantanamo Naval Base. The Cuban economy was dominated by American interests. Only the Castro Revolution, broke this chain of domination

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Mob Boss Meyer Lansky

If you like the Mob and conspiracies, you'll love Havana Nocturne. There is the story how Naval intelligence helped spring Lucky Luciano from jail. There is the skinny on the assassinations of Bugsy Segal and Albert Anastasia. There is the double dealing of Frank Sturgis, first Castro's supervisor of gambling, next a CIA double agent, and finally a Watergate burglar. There are the Mob conspiracies to kill Castro and the hint of the Mob conspiracy to kill JFK.

Havana Nocturne is better than fiction. Don't wait for the movie.