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Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba…and Then Lost It to the Revolution

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3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  2,754 Ratings  ·  446 Reviews
In modern-day Havana, the remnants of the glamorous past are everywhere—old hotel-casinos, vintage American cars & flickering neon signs speak of a bygone era that is widely familiar & often romanticized, but little understood. In Havana Nocturne, T.J. English offers a multifaceted true tale of organized crime, political corruption, roaring nightlife, revolution &a ...more
ebook, 432 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published September 6th 2007)
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Community Reviews

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Jason Koivu
May 21, 2016 Jason Koivu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Do you like The Godfather II? Then read this and learn about the real gangsters behind the mob's 1950s invasion of Cuba.

TJ English packs in a lot of information regarding a relatively thin sliver of time, creating in Havana Nocturne the perfect time-capsule history lesson, both exciting and captivating.

English lays out the twisted web that was 1940s/50s Cuba, including the US Navy's WWII deal with Luciano that got the mobster released from prison, Cuban President Batista's friendship with the US
...more
Alexander Santiago
I was always curious as to knowing more about the Mob ties to Cuba, as I knew just tidbits of info; 'Havana Nocturne' lays everything bare from the beginning to virtually that last shakened cocktail in the Mob-run casinos on that fateful New Year's Day of 1959. From Meyer Lansky, the Lower East Side kid who grew to be the brains behind the Mob muscle and brawn, and the brilliant architect of who was very close to making Havana the "Monte Carlo of the Caribbean"; President Fulgencio Batista, the ...more
Thomas
Dec 13, 2009 Thomas rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, history
A brief and engaging account of the Mafia's Cuba enterprises. Not the most useful knowledge to be found, unless you want to impress your husband during video night by pointing out all of the flaws in The Godfather, Part II. Probably not a good way to set the mood, come to think of it, but who needs the mood set?

Zombies come from Haiti, not Cuba. Thus, I cannot explain why they hired one to read this book aloud. I must say, though, that I really didn't mind his style by the time I reached the en
...more
Steven
Oct 03, 2008 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
T.J. English combines a historian's diligence with a crime reporter's appetite for bloody gossip and revealing, sleazy anecdotes. The story of how Lucky Luciano and a cabal of American gangsters worked to turn Havana into a Caribbean Las Vegas (with the help of dictator Fulgencio Batista) has been lying around for decades, waiting to be told properly, and English has done lots of valuable spadework and original reporting. He also fits the gangsters into the political currents of the time. For th ...more
Justin Mitchell
I really enjoyed English's book The Savage City, and I've always been interested in the mob's role in Cuba in the 1950s, mostly because it plays such a pivotal role in The Godfather, Part II, one of my favorite films. English references that film several times, and compares its story to reality, which I found engaging. English has grown as a writer since he wrote Havana Nocturne. A lot of the metaphors he uses are a bit much, such as comparing the nation of Cuba to a "bitch in heat." He seemed t ...more
Beth
Feb 01, 2013 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My interest in Cuba was kindled by a trip that I recently took there. I was struck by the many contradictions I witnessed, and I had a strong sense of a country on the verge of tremendous change. I was very curious to get a better understanding of what had led to the Revolution in the first place, rather than just looking at it as a failed social experiment.

The book details how American mobsters became the dominant economic and political power in Cuba during the 1950s. Much of this centered on
...more
Erik Graff
Sep 19, 2011 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cuba, Castro, Mafia fans
Recommended to Erik by: Barbara Elkin
Shelves: history
A year ago my roommate's mother came on her annual visit with an interesting-looking book about the Mafia in Cuba. This year she returned with the book in hand, intending to leave it with us.

Havana Nocturne traces Cuban history in terms of the Mob from the twenties through the revolution in 1959 to the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. The focus, however, is on 12/1946, the organized crime planning conference at Havana's Hotel Nacional, to early 1959, when the gangsters were thrown out
...more
Clif
Jan 25, 2017 Clif rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Havana Nocturne is a delightful read. It has adventure, revolution, violence, murder, sex, movie stars, the Mob, lavish entertainment, an exotic locale, JFK and Frank Sinatra!

And it's all true.

The book is based on the rise and fall of reclusive Meyer Lansky. Lansky, like many mobsters, came from a squalid youth in a poor section of NYC and found wealth addicting. No scheme was too grand, no hotel large enough. In pre-Castro Cuba it looked like the whole place could be owned what with the corrupt
...more
Alissa Thorne
Mobsters and hookers and spies, oh my!

A compelling and mind boggling tale of hedonistic paradise hand crafted by gangsters in the city of Havana, Cuba and later seized and crushed by Castro[1]. This historical account alternates from the lives of powerful leaders of organized crime in the era, to the big picture influences of their actions on culture and history. It's possible that a true history buff would find this somewhat lacking in detail, as the style had more of an emphasis on storytellin
...more
Cristobal
Oct 11, 2016 Cristobal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look at the postwar history of Cuba and how thanks to an incredibly corrupt government the US mob started a plan to convert the island into its international center of operations. Interlaced with a brief history of the nascent revolutionary movement that would end up thwarting the mob's advance, the book's writing gives a great overview of the unseen forces that also allowed the revolution to triumph and how its consequences would reverberate in the US.
Malapata
Jul 16, 2014 Malapata rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historia
Una historia de la relación de la mafia de EEUU con Cuba, desde que Lucky Lucciano se entró de incógnito en la isla escapando de su exilio italiano hasta la irrupción de la revolución. Narrada con ritmo y trufada de anécdotas y referencias a El Padrino II, es un libro muy interesante que se lee sin pausa.
Merittlohrsawyer
Mar 21, 2017 Merittlohrsawyer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are traveling to Cuba, this is a very worthwhile read on intersection of U.S./Cuba mob. Absolutely fascinating.
Pete daPixie
Aug 18, 2015 Pete daPixie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
A fairly comprehensive history of twentieth century Cuba and the infiltration of organised crime into the island that ended with the revolution of Fidel Castro in 1959. Written chronologically in essays of around twenty page chapters, the author utilises many previous publications as well as first hand interviews to produce a coherent and well written documentary of 'The Havana Mob'.(2007)
The principal players of 'Lucky' Luciano, Meyer Lansky and Santo Trafficante with a full supporting cast of
...more
Cara
Mar 16, 2015 Cara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I knew that Cuba was a "vacation spot" before Castro came to power (I recall my mom telling me her parents went there at least once) and that Batista was an "oppressive dictator" of some kind (to be fair, there are so many it's hard to keep them straight), but I didn't really know the whole story of the mob involvement in Cuba. This book fills in those details rather nicely. At the end, when Batista flees the country and the mobsters are frantically going from casino to casino to grab all their ...more
Harry Weber
def. not my cup of tea.

the story might be interesting and i'm sure it would've been an excellent read (in a different book) but it wasn't. and this solely owned to the appallingly boring schoolkid-renarration-style english chooses to use.

maybe it's just me, but if i want to read a plain, dry chronicle of the sequence of events i'll read a book on history.

and to Rosh (the guy who recommended this book strongly; advocated it: mate, if u want to have a thrilling cuba novel w partially the same e
...more
GoldGato
Jun 09, 2013 GoldGato rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, autumn, crime
Sinatra. Luciano. Castro. Siegel. Lansky. Che.

Cuba was a second home for the American Mafia. They ruled through their casinos and hotels in Havana, and their revels and greed brought the old corrupt government to a rapid decline. Every name is here, whether it's Frank Sinatra meeting with Lucky Luciano or Meyer Lansky running the island in the name of the almighty dollar. John F. Kennedy also appears, as a young Senator who found the delights of Cuban nightlife very much to his satisfaction.

The
...more
Eric
Sep 01, 2008 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent history of the mafia's time in Cuba. Kennedy, Sinatra, George Raft, Fidel Castro, and many legendary mafia figures are involved in the story. However, the main focus of the history is Meyer Lansky who was the main force behind turning Havana into the mafia's playground. I have only two complaints about the book: 1) I got bogged down in the middle; 2) I'm still not sure how the Castro took over Cuba - which is probably intentional as this is a history of the mafia in Cuba many of whom d ...more
Danielle
May 11, 2013 Danielle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was awesome!!!!!! I loved it! I love history and to include so many facts and details of that time in Cuba, which has been exaggerated in countless movies and books was truly incredible. It is so well written that it transports you back to a time where you feel as though you are right there at the casinos, drinking a mojito and taking in a Cuban show at one of the many hotels. It's not only the story of the Havana Mob, but also Cuba and all the key players who had involvement in the sh ...more
Ken
May 24, 2016 Ken rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book. Was disappointed more wasn't said about the lives of everyday average Cubans and what they saw during this time frame. I also expected more focus on the casinos and entertainment aspect of the mob-owned properties. But I did find the mob history fascinating and now know more about castro's rise to power than I ever cared to know. Well worth the read - I just had different expectations based on another review that I had stumbled across.
Melinda Elizabeth
The Havana Mob and their business interests in Cuba is an interesting glimpse into a time long gone. Focusing on some of the less public mobsters (such as Meyer Lansky), the novel takes us through the late 40's and 50's as the Mob ran some profitable rackets out of Havana.

Well detailed and paced, the book provides enough of the legal and political components to give a good background to the rising revolution soon to hit Cuba, and enough Mob gossip to make it a very interesting read.
Kit Fox
Oct 27, 2009 Kit Fox rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Looking for some crazy-ass stories about how the Mob turned Cuba into a degenerate gambler's wet dream in the 1950s? Then look no further. Santo Trafficante organized an orgy for JFK and three prostitutes! "Superman," he of the 14-inch shvantz, was actually queer! The daiquiri was invented in Cuba! Learn all this and more. I really need to check out the rest of this author's crime books too.
Amber
May 07, 2017 Amber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Super fascinating look at Havana before the revolution. How much the mob actually controlled and the bastion of hedonism that existed in Havana pre-1959 was incredibly fascinating. The American education system does not share much about Cuba's history except for "it belonged to Spain, then we set them free, then stuff happened, then Communism." After traveling to Cuba in January, I felt incredibly crippled with a lack of historical knowledge of the island, which is what precipitated my reading o ...more
Robert S
"If I could only live to see it, to be there with you. What I wouldn't give for twenty more years! Here we are, protected, free to make our profits without Kefauver, the g-d Justice Department and the F.B.I. ninety miles away, in partnership with a friendly government. Ninety miles! It's nothing! Just one small step, looking for a man who wants to be President of the United States, and having the cash to make it possible. Michael, we're bigger than U.S. Steel."
- Hyman Roth, The Godfather Part II
...more
Sean Kottke
Jun 10, 2017 Sean Kottke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
The title tells it all. For lovers of true crime and political drama alike. It's a salacious, heady read, and the arrival of the Revolution hits like a hurricane hangover. This was a great pairing with A Planet for Rent, and a great primer on the context for the Cuban Revolution. I'm eager and anxious to witness the opening up of Cuba to American tourism and business; how well will the Cuban government be able to balance an impulse to return to the bad old days of capitalist exploitation against ...more
Clifton
Jun 07, 2017 Clifton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Because last year I was in Cuba in many of the places English writes about, his account of the nefarious Havana Mob, the nasty dictator Batista, and the equally murderous 26th of July Movement and its leader, Fidel Castro, was interesting. This true crime/history story is well told, but there is no one to admire among all these crooks and monsters. Never the less, it is a story that needs to be told. I hope the Cuban people will enjoy the freedom of democracy and the lifting of the U.S. embargo ...more
Jeremy
Mar 17, 2017 Jeremy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is just a great read, and a very educational one. English is a great storyteller, but he also documents his stories, and indicates whether there is uncertainty MOST of the time. He also isn't grinding axes, for or against gangsters, Batista, Castro, prostitution, gambling...for the most part, he lets these vivid characters and themes sprawl out in his prose. The time period is roughly 1920-1959, with greater attention to the period 1952-1959.
He tracks the rise of Batista, and the rise of A
...more
Anita
Mar 05, 2017 Anita rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
read maybe around 2010?
Booknerd Fraser
Interesting combination of Mafia and Cuban history. Probably a bit more waited to the former, but English is a crime writer.
Julie
Dec 22, 2013 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julie by: Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Wow.

Now, having said that I will try to give a sense of how great I think this book was without giving too much away. I will start by saying that this was as well-written as it was well-researched ~ both top-notch. TJ English understands the weight and flow of choosing just the right words while also getting to the point. He did away with a lot of fictional folklore that has been in all of our heads for far too long. He also brought some gems to light that I had never thought of before. Altogeth
...more
Jeff Bobin
Jan 18, 2017 Jeff Bobin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, book-club
Interesting look at the history of Cuba before Castro came to power and role of organized crime.

I learned a lot about Cuba and the mob in the US in this period.
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T. J. English is an author, journalist and screenwriter with an emphasis on organized crime, the criminal underworld, and the criminal justice system. Many of his books have been New York Times bestsellers, including THE SAVAGE CITY, HAVANA NOCTURNE, PADDY WHACKED, and his most recent book WHERE THE BODIES WERE BURIED. In 2013, a collection of his journalism was published under the title WHITEY'S ...more
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