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3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  274 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
In Uganda in 1977, a particular trainload of coffee, mostly belonging to dictator Idi Amin, is worth six million dollars. As a group of scoundrels and international financiers hijack the train, the double and triple crosses pile up and the comic tension escalates in a brawling brew of buffoons, bumblers, beans and boxcars.
Paperback, 496 pages
Published April 1st 1996 by Mysterious Press (first published 1981)
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Community Reviews

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Jan 29, 2008 Saliotthomas rated it it was amazing
Truly donald Westlake is more than just a thrillers writer,and he show it again with a story in deep black Africa where a band of mercenaries decide to steal the coffe year train and make disapear tousandS of toneS of coffe.

The story is great,all the caractere a perfectly depicted,different; not just adventure but also complexe poloticaly.
Until the end you never guess,
Brooks Jones
Jan 26, 2012 Brooks Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-loans
This one was slow to get going, but once I made it about 20-25% of the way through, the plot picks up and I eagerly zoomed through the rest. In Kahawa, Westlake details the mechanics of a coffee heist (the perps make off with not only the coffee, but also the entire train used to transport it) and imagines what the horrifying regime of Idi Amin must've been like. According to the foreword, this book was extensively researched and the main plot is based on fact, making the entire book seem very r ...more
Nov 15, 2010 J.D. rated it really liked it
A trio of American adventurers, in conjunction with a vicious, corrupt government official and a slick Asian businessman, plan to steal the entire coffee crop of Idi Amin's Uganda, along with the train that's carrying it to market. Ambitious, to be sure, and it takes a writer as talented as Westlake to pull it off this brilliantly.

Donald E. Westlake is probably best known for his comic heist novels. This is a heist story alright, but since it takes place mostly in late-70's Uganda, it's a good
Oct 31, 2014 Nigel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Westlake's big blockbuster commercial international thriller: a heist with aspects much too dark and horrible for Dortmunder but an adventure too exuberant and freewheeling for Parker; instead we get one of those unique Westlake creations full of sly humour and with but with horror and violence lurking not far into the shadows. Mercenaries and corrupt operators and ousted Asian businessmen conspire to rob Idi Amin of a train full of coffee. It's a big, complex operation full of many moving parts ...more
Jordan McPeek
Sep 13, 2012 Jordan McPeek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
Big heist novel about stealing the entire Ugandan coffee crop from Idi Amin - that's enough right there to suck me in. I don't think I've ever read a novel set in east Africa, so it had that freshness right off the bat. It's not just another novel about a serial killer or a bank robber or a mafioso in the big city. Big cast of characters, all sharply drawn, all with different motivations and competing plans. Good fun seeing it all come together and fall apart and head off in all directions, like ...more
Rhonda Nash
Oct 04, 2015 Rhonda Nash rated it really liked it
A return to East Africa is always a pleasure for me, even if the story involves the monstrous Idi engaging, clever caper...and the best part (spoiler alert!) is that Amin loses!
Feb 19, 2010 Sandy rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, africa
A beach read set in Uganda--who knew? This was actually better than I thought it would be. It does have a bit of the white hero thing going on (the author is a western writer) and it's rather implausible (IMHO) but it was entertaining all the same. A motley bunch of mercenaries, businessmen, government officials and people with grudges against Idi Amin plot to steal Amin's $6 million coffee train. Really. So, if you're looking for a fun but trashy novel about Uganda to read, well, this is probab ...more
Dec 01, 2012 Gene rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction

Don't read this book expecting a Dortmunder caper. It's not funny. True, there is Englishman . . . . It is an excellent caper novel, but also reflects on issues of personal and political behavior, sometimes crudely. Idi Amin Dada Idi is one of the characters. Settings are mainly Uganda and Kenya, with some scenes in England and Alaska. It is a richly textured textured fiction. Note that explicit sex and violence are integral to the story.
Jul 06, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Donald E. Westlake only writes two kinds of book, good books and better books. This one belongs to the better variety. Easy to read and often funny but still tense and exciting.
Jul 12, 2011 David rated it it was amazing
If you enjoy capers where a group of shady characters unites to pull a big heist of some kind, start with this oddly titled novel by Donald Westlake. "Kahawa" is Swahilli for "coffee" and this novel, set in late 1970s Uganda, is how a group of rogues attempts to steal an entire trainload of coffee from Idi Amin. It's marvelous fun.
May 03, 2013 Chris rated it really liked it
A surprisingly light adventure set in an intensely grim real life period, Idi Amin's reign in Uganda. Probably wraps up a little too neat, but there's such a depth of real life detail that Westlake gets for the region, from a lakeside village that could have been a contender due to the railways, only to settle for being a smuggler haven.
Jeremy Hornik
Feb 21, 2013 Jeremy Hornik rated it liked it
Caper novel set in Uganda. A lot more expansive-feeling than the Parker novels, which are so tightly focused. There's a fair amount of comedy. Very enjoyable, slightly dated... feels like I should be reading it in a paperback version at someone's beach house in 1985.
Andrew Neal
Jul 10, 2011 Andrew Neal rated it really liked it
While it took me several chapters to get into the flow of the book (and I actually put it down twice and read other books) I really enjoyed it once I got to the meat of the story and figured out how all the various characters played into each others' lives.
Jun 09, 2008 Claudia rated it it was amazing
Very funny adventure. Not one of Don Westlake's Dortmunder series (which are all worth reading), this one feels like a serious story. But you can feel the 'rolling of the eyes' comments from the beginning. Don Westlake is a lot of fun to read.
Terry Cornell
Nov 06, 2012 Terry Cornell rated it really liked it
A great read. Fiction in a historical setting. Some parts seem implausible, and it starts slow setting the background and introducing the characters. The pace picks up mid-book, and the excitement builds. I think it would make a great movie!
Denise M.
Sep 13, 2009 Denise M. marked it as to-read
AKA: Alan Marshall, Alan Marsh, James Blue, Ben Christopher, Edwin West, John B. Allan, Curt Clark, Tucker Coe, P.N. Castor, Timothy J. Culver, J. Morgan Cunningham, Samuel Holt, Judson Jack Carmichael, Richard Stark, Donald E. Westlake
Oct 17, 2009 Edward rated it really liked it
funny, but not as funny as some of his others because of the seriousness of the topic - he says as much in his introduction. Well written and very good characters.
Jul 30, 2012 Teresa rated it liked it
Do no mistake this for a light adventure tale. It is indeed full of daring go, but more violent than I usually like. However I can say that it is a page turner.
Jan 26, 2010 Debbie rated it liked it
I find that I enjoy historical novels or novels depicting different ways of life. The caper was enjoyable, the glimpse into another way of life was intiguing
Sep 06, 2008 Tom rated it really liked it
Recently reread this, which is probably my favorite Westlake. Highly recommended if you're interested in Africa (especially East Africa).
Jul 16, 2010 Sal rated it it was amazing
A fictional story written in the context of real events. A different kind of Westlake book, but a great change of pace.
Chip Hart
Dec 25, 2011 Chip Hart rated it really liked it
One of his better books with a fascinating combination of his dark and light writing. Wish he'd done more like this.
Karen Minyard
Feb 20, 2011 Karen Minyard rated it really liked it
Great suspense. Sufficient real life events added made this even more compelling.
Nov 23, 2010 Steve rated it it was ok
this is a 1981 Uganda based and Idi Amin inspired book..... not my cup of coffee.
Renée Harrell
Sep 04, 2011 Renée Harrell rated it it was amazing
I love this book. Why isn't it a movie?
Brian R. Mcdonald
Jun 12, 2010 Brian R. Mcdonald marked it as books-with-go-references
Said to contain a brief go reference.
Rodger added it
Feb 04, 2016
Kim marked it as to-read
Jan 30, 2016
Frank Derby
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Jan 26, 2016
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Donald E. Westlake (1933-2008) was one of the most prolific and talented authors of American crime fiction. He began his career in the late 1950's, churning out novels for pulp houses—often writing as many as four novels a year under various pseudonyms such as Richard Stark—but soon began publishing under his own name. His most well-known characters were John Dortmunder, an unlucky thief, and a ru ...more
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