Cuban Affair (DeMille)

The Cuban Affair
Nelson DeMille, 2017
Simon & Schuster
448 pp.

Nelson DeMille’s blistering new novel features an exciting new character—US Army combat veteran Daniel “Mac” MacCormick, now a charter boat captain, who is about to set sail on his most dangerous cruise.

Daniel Graham MacCormick—Mac for short—seems to have a pretty good life.

At age thirty-five he’s living in Key West, owner of a forty-two-foot charter fishing boat, The Maine. Mac served five years in the Army as an infantry officer with two tours in Afghanistan.

He returned with the Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, scars that don’t tan, and a boat with a big bank loan. Truth be told, Mac’s finances are more than a little shaky.

One day, Mac is sitting in the famous Green Parrot Bar in Key West, contemplating his life, and waiting for Carlos, a hotshot Miami lawyer heavily involved with anti-Castro groups. Carlos wants to hire Mac and The Maine for a ten-day fishing tournament to Cuba at the standard rate, but Mac suspects there is more to this and turns it down.

The price then goes up to two million dollars, and Mac agrees to hear the deal, and meet Carlos’s clients—a beautiful Cuban-American woman named Sara Ortega, and a mysterious older Cuban exile, Eduardo Valazquez.

What Mac learns is that there is sixty million American dollars hidden in Cuba by Sara’s grandfather when he fled Castro’s revolution. With the “Cuban Thaw” underway between Havana and Washington, Carlos, Eduardo, and Sara know it’s only a matter of time before someone finds the stash—by accident or on purpose.

And Mac knows if he accepts this job, he’ll walk away rich … or not at all.

Brilliantly written, with his signature humor, fascinating authenticity from his research trip to Cuba, and heart-pounding pace, Nelson DeMille is a true master of the genre. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Aka—Jack Cannon, Kurt Ladner, Brad Matthews, Michael
   Weaver, Ellen Kay
Birth—August 22, 1943
Where—New York, New York, USA
Education—B.A., Hofstra University
Awards—Estabrook Award
Currently—lives on Long Island, New York

Nelson DeMille has a over a dozen bestselling novels to his name and over 30 million books in print worldwide, but his beginnings were not so illustrious. Writing police detective novels in the mid-1970s, DeMille created the pseudonym Jack Cannon: "I used the pen name because I knew I wanted to write better novels under my own name someday," DeMille told fans in a 2000 chat.

Between 1966 and 1969, Nelson DeMille served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. When he came home, he finished his undergraduate studies (in history and political science), then set out to become a novelist. "I wanted to write the great American war novel at the time," DeMille said in an interview with January magazine. "I never really wrote the book, but it got me into the writing process." A friend in the publishing industry suggested he write a series of police detective novels, which he did under a pen name for several years.

Finally DeMille decided to give up his day job as an insurance fraud investigator and commit himself to writing full time—and under his own name. The result was By the Rivers of Babylon (1978), a thriller about terrorism in the Middle East. It was chosen as a Book of the Month Club main selection and helped launch his career. "It was like being knighted," said DeMille, who now serves as a Book of the Month Club judge. "It was a huge break."

DeMille followed it with a stream of bestsellers, including the post-Vietnam courtroom drama Word of Honor (1985) and the Cold War spy-thriller The Charm School (1988) Critics praised DeMille for his sophisticated plotting, meticulous research and compulsively readable style. For many readers, what made DeMille stand out was his sardonic sense of humor, which would eventually produce the wisecracking ex-NYPD officer John Corey, hero of Plum Island (1997) and The Lion's Game (2000).

In 1990 DeMille published The Gold Coast, a Tom Wolfe-style comic satire that was his attempt to write "a book that would be taken seriously." The attempt succeeded, in terms of the critics' response: "In his way, Mr. DeMille is as keen a social satirist as Edith Wharton," wrote The New York Times book reviewer. But he returned to more familiar thrills-and-chills territory in The General's Daughter, which hit no. 1 on The New York Times' Bestseller list and was made into a movie starring John Travolta. Its hero, army investigator Paul Brenner, returned in Up Country (2002), a book inspired in part by DeMille's journey to his old battlegrounds in Vietnam.

DeMille's position in the literary hierarchy may be ambiguous, but his talent is first-rate; there's no questioning his mastery of his chosen form. As a reviewer for the Denver Post put it, "In the rarefied world of the intelligent thriller, authors just don't get any better than Nelson DeMille."

From a Barnes & Noble interview:

• DeMille composes his books in longhand, using soft-lead pencils on legal pads. He says he does this because he can't type, but adds, "I like the process of pencil and paper as opposed to a machine. I think the writing is better when it's done in handwriting."

• In addition to his novels, DeMille has written a play for children based on the classic fairy tale "Rumpelstiltskin."

• DeMille says on his web site that he reads mostly dead authors—"so if I like their books, I don't feel tempted or obligated to write to them." He mentions writing to a living author, Tom Wolfe, when The Bonfire of the Vanities came out; but Wolfe never responded. "I wouldn't expect Hemingway or Steinbeck to write back—they're dead. But Tom Wolfe owes me a letter," DeMille writes.

When ashed what book most influenced his career as a writer, here is what he said:

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I read this book in college, as many of my generation did, and I was surprised to discover that it said things about our world and our society that I thought only I had been thinking about, i.e., the ascendancy of mediocrity. It was a relief to discover that there was an existing philosophy that spoke to my half-formed beliefs and observations.

(Bio and interview from Barnes & Noble.)

Book Reviews
The Cuban Affair is a good-time read—a heart-pounding adventure story with twists and turns, people who aren't who they say they are, and plans that don't go as they're supposed to go.… Nelson DeMille is a top thriller writer but maybe not at the top of his game here. Every author has a best book (for me it's DeMille's 1990 The Gold Coast), and while this is a terrific page-turner, it's not his best. But if you do read it, I promise you'll have good time. Mac and his first mate, Jack Colby, a Vietnam vet, make a winning duo—and would make terrific stars of a new adventure series. One can hope.  MORE…
P.J. Adler - LitLovers

The Cuban Affair feels authentic and real, and it provides knuckle-white tension mixed in with levity.
Associated Press

The opening of The Cuban Affair is dynamite—crisp, funny and dramatic—and the climactic conclusion is masterful action writing, fast, precise and genuinely gripping.
Long Island Newsday

This book has that incredible wit that Nelson DeMille has, and nobody writes characters like Nelson does.
Tampa Bay Times

Nelson DeMille has outdone himself. I thought that Plum Island was one of my favorite thrillers of all time, but I was wrong—DeMille is always going up a gear and The Cuban Affair is going to be one of the top ten thrillers of the year.
Strand Magazine

DeMille’s known for penning hot thrillers (Plum Island, Night Fall), and this one—his 20th—doesn’t disappoint … DeMille keeps it fast-paced, with fascinating details about contemporary Cuba.

(Starred review.) [An] action-packed, relentlessly paced thriller…. A line from the novel perfectly describes this page-turner: "Sex, money, and adventure. Does it get any better than that?"
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review.) [A] timely stay-up-all-night, nail-biting page-turner featuring his iconic tongue-in-cheek, articulate, rhythmic narrative. His affably irreverent protagonist, fantastic believable supporting characters … make this a must-read for his many fans.
Library Journal

This is powerful, mythic stuff.… As the true nature of the charter-boat owner’s job becomes clear … DeMille mounts a long, magnificent sequence with boat chases, helicopter rescues, and tracer fire … in that visceral style the author has mastered.

Old bones and old grudges in contemporary Havana.… In spots the narrative seems to slog through discursive observations, but they are mostly informative and worthwhile, and then the plot picks up energy again.… A good day's work from an old pro.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for The Cuban Affair … then take off on your own:

1. What do you think of Mac? Is he living the good life and enjoying all that Key West has to offer? Or would you say he's a bit of a lost soul? Or perhaps he's taking a well deserved breather? Where does Mac himself think he falls along that spectrum—how does he feel about the direction his life has taken? What is it that convinces Mac to take the job Carlos offers him? Is it the money, the ethics involved, the chance for adventure, or Sara Ortega?

2. What do you think about Mac's relationship with Jack Colby? Why are the two such good friends? Both men were in U.S.-fought wars: how was each affected by his wartime experiences?

3. The purpose of the mission is to return to the rightful owners property deeds and millions of dollars left behind in Cuba. How do you sort out the morality involved in this mission? Mac, who says he's not concerned with moral issues (p. 45), nonetheless, wonders about so-called rightful owners: his understanding is that the Batista government was like (even connected to) the American Mafia … and that "behind every great fortune is a crime." Yet he also acknowledges that "some of this money was probably honestly earned." Certainly Sara's grandfather believes so—and that Castro has no right to any of it. Which point of view is most convincing to you?

4. How much do you know of President Batista and what life was like under his rule? How familiar are you with Fidel Castro's overthrow of Batista? In other words, what do you know about 20th-century Cuban history?

5. How many pairs of Capri pants do you think Sara packed? Why does she always look so good in them … well, in shorts too?

6. What is your reaction to Antonio? Is he who he is because of his own character? Or is he a creation of the "system"?

7. Talk about the so-called thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations. Who would benefit … and who would lose out? Why are Cuban-Americans so opposed to better relations between the two countries?

8. How would you describe the Cuba that Nelson DeMille writes about—its scenic beauty, housing, poverty, bifurcated economy (luxury accommodations for tourists and the elites)? Consider, for example, the shortage of farm laborers because workers prefer less strenuous city jobs to the backbreaking work of farming.

9. What would it be like to live in a politically repressive regime such as Cuba? What do you find most troubling about life under Castro?

10. What do you think the future holds for Cuba and the Cubans—and what do you hope for?

11. SPOILER ALERT: What role does the CIA play in the rescue; in fact, what was their role in the overall mission?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

top of page (summary)

Site by BOOM Boom Supercreative

LitLovers © 2020