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Exploring the backstory that led to the writing of Graham Greene's beloved satirical spy novel, Our Man Down in Havana evokes this pivotal time and place in the author's life.
When U.S. immigration authorities deported Graham Greene from Puerto Rico in 1954, the British author made an unplanned visit to Havana and discovered that “every vice was permissible and every trade possible” in a Caribbean fleshpot of mafia-run casinos and nude revues. The former MI6 officer had stumbled upon the ideal setting for a comic espionage story. Three years later, he returned in the midst of Fidel Castro’s guerrilla insurgency against a U.S.-backed dictator to begin writing his iconic novel Our Man in Havana. Twelve weeks after its publication, the Cuban Revolution triumphed in January 1959, soon transforming a capitalist playground into a communist stronghold.
Combining biography, history and politics, Our Man Down in Havana investigates the real story behind Greene’s fictional one. This includes his many visits to a pleasure island that became a revolutionary island, turning his chance involvement into a political commitment. His Cuban novel describes an amateur agent who dupes his intelligence chiefs with invented reports about “concrete platforms and unidentifiable pieces of giant machinery". With eerie prescience, Greene’s satirical tale had foretold the Cold War’s most perilous episode, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Exploiting a wealth of archival material and interviews with key protagonists, Our Man Down in Havana delves into the story behind and beyond the author’s prophetic Cuban tale, focusing on one slice of Greene’s manic life: a single novel and its complex history.
“A completely fascinating book, immaculately researched, full of insight and telling detail. A revelation and a delight.” — William Boyd
“... Mr Hull's book is a delicious companion to the tale Greene confected from the incompetence of spooks and an island in turmoil.” — The Economist
“It is the kind of obsessive book I like best — a full-body immersion into Greeneland, which may overwhelm the uninitiated but delight his most committed readers...” — Nicholas Shakespeare, The Spectator
“... often insightful and always meticulous book...” — Financial Times
“Christopher Hull... tells a marvellous story in Our Man Down in Havana, explaining Greene's long and complicated relationship with Cuba. His research is, frankly humbling... The book is vivid and accurate in ways that most other works on Greene simply aren't.” — Richard Greene, Literary Review
“Our Man Down in Havana comes complete with index, informative endnotes and some excellent photographs many of which will not have been seen before. It has been meticulously researched using a wide range of primary and secondary sources of information.” — The Graham Greene Trust Newsletter
“Anybody interested in either Greene or Cuba will find this a splendid read, with a trainspotterly level of detail... The best thing about Hull’s book, however, is also the best thing about Greene’s novel: the resurrection of Batista’s Havana in all its delicious loucheness and horrific violence, a lost city that might not still retain its hold on the world’s collective memory if Graham Greene had not been in such a happily truculent mood at the airport in San Juan.” — Jake Kerridge, The Telegraph
“Christopher Hull... argues convincingly in his fascinating exploration of the history behind Greene’s satirical spy novel...” — New Statesman
“The tale behind Greene's Our Man in Havana (1958) proves riveting...” — The Oldie
“Our Man Down in Havana... conjures the Cuban capital in all its pre-Castro glory.” — Evening Standard