Havana Nocturne by TJ English

(Don’t know whether this counts as a thread on the same topic or not. FTR I started one thread on Batista.)

I recently reread thistrue-crime book I own, a nonfiction account of Cuba (particularly Havana) in the early 1940s and 1950s when the country was practically a mob-run state and American gangsters had President Batista in their pockets. I love it mainly because it’s a country It’s full of lots of anecdotes about gangsters, politicians, tourism and general decadence.

One of the facts I discovered was that Batista apparently became bulimic near the end of his presidency. And that United Fruit was called “El Coloso” in Banes. Also that Meyer Lansky and the former president rarely met in person.

Sidenote: Ever since I found out about the novel The House Of The Scorpion (which some and knowing what I do about his life I wondered whether Nancy Farmer may have taken some of her inspiration for the drug-lord villains of El Patron and the Farmers (hah) from Batista and his Havana Mob. Both men are dictators, born into impoverished rural families in Latin America. Both of them are gangsters (well Batista was practically a mobster himself, paid by Meyer Lansky to let the Mob control the gambling and tourism industries. Basically he was in it deep.) Batista’s Cuba and El Patron’s Opium both had economies based to a large extent on organised crime.

Anyone else own this book or read it?

EDIT: *but I have made references to him in other threads before.

*about a country ruled by mobsters and it’s history which I love. Also I’m a little surprised no-one has started a discussion thread on this book yet.

I read it several years ago and enjoyed it on both entertainment and history levels.

The passage that stuck in my mind was that the Castro rebels who took over the city could for some time be identified by their powerful BO, which they maintained as a badge of honor… being real men of the jungle and not city boys.

EWWW! Though, handy way to tell a revolutionary from a non-revolutionary. :eek:

Also, how true is the idea put forward in the book that the Mob’s real goal was to create a country ruled by organised crime outside US government intervention?

I don’t think there’s any serious challenge to the claim that it was their intent, and that to a certain degree and for a short time, they succeeded.

It’s possible that a few more years spent absorbing the government and building a more effective army/security force, and they would have defeated or held off the rebels and owned the country for decades. Such things are always self-defeating, though, and the Cuban revolution would have long since come and gone in some form.

Would a scenario in which gangsters become a legitimate presence in the country (eg legal narcotics trafficking) ever have been likely to happen? I mean, I assume that gangsters would be receptive to making everything legal.

Late edit to the OP: which some Dopers may have read

I’ve read the book, and found it fascinating.

Cuba was a unique opportunity. It’s conveniently close to the U.S., it had ties to the country that went way back, and it was small enough to be dominated. Then came a venal dictator who was happy to get the cash. It offered a haven for illegal activities, starting with illegal booze, illegal prostitution, and illegal gambling, i.e. illegal in the U.S.

Look at the parallels with Mexico today. The drug cartels run half the country even though the government officially is at war with them. Imagine if they partnered with the cartels. (As it is, there are sufficient complaisant officials to help them along.)

You could make an interesting argument that Castro helped the U.S. immensely by breaking the mob’s power there.

Read it a couple of years ago. Very enjoyable.

I found it interesting how JFK, before becoming president, would make visits to Cuba and how the mob would arrange hookers and orgies for him.

The side of JFK not talked about in historical accounts.

Oh and Lucky Luciano and *Sinatra *were close.

Batista was apparently a neat freak. Not just not liking his houses and rooms uncluttered, either. He was pathologically neat.

Well, no historical account published before 1970 for middle school and below.

Nearly all the serious biographies include JFK’s shenanigans, although some in the middle years are a bit ambiguous and forgiving of the details.

The more inflated claims of mob control etc. also come from suspicious sources - mostly turned bosses and lieutenants looking for a little more ink. Who’s going to contradict them?

IIRC, the particular claims about Kennedy in this book are approximately 94th hand stories. I took none of them seriously. All, some, or none of them could be true but we’re not given any good reason to determine which are which.

Yeah, some of them sound like stories repeated by people who probably were willing to do anything to boost their fame.

EDIT: liking his rooms uncluttured.