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Cuba Libre

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  3,603 Ratings  ·  189 Reviews
Set on the eve of the Spanish-American War, Elmore Leonard's electrifying novel takes off like a shot. A spellbinding journey into the heart and soul of the Cuban revolution of a hundred years ago, "Cuba Libre" is an explosive mix of high adventure, history brought to life, and a honey of a love story--all with the dead-on dialogue and unforgettable characters that mark El ...more
Hardcover, 343 pages
Published February 1998 by Delacorte Press (first published 1998)
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Jeffrey Keeten
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-old-west
”Tyler arrived with the horses February eighteenth, three days after the battleship Maine blew up in Havana harbor. He saw buzzards floating in the sky the way they do but couldn’t make out what they were after. This was off Morro Castle, the cattle boat streaming black smoke as it came through the narrows.”

 photo U.S.S.20Maine20Wreckage_zpsnlpmv52i.jpg

There are better times in history to visit Cuba than in 1898. The U.S. battleship Maine is nothing, but a pile of wreckage in the harbor. The Spanish are wondering how America will respond.
Apr 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
One of the better offerings from Elmore Leonard : this one is both western and heist, with a lot of historical references about the American intervention in Cuba after the explosion of the Maine in the port of Havana. I know it is a recently published book, but I kept seeing Jimmy Stewart and Lauren Bacall as the main protagonists as I read through the novel. Good cast of secondary characters, and a feeling of inevitability about the progression of the plot: every move apparently unavoidable, fo ...more
Joe Valdez
May 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Cuba Libre was published in 1998 and I'd like to believe that Elmore Leonard changed course from his contemporary crime novels to refute any allegations that he was turning out the same book over and over again. But judging from the grin on my face while reading Leonard's 34th novel, he probably just wanted to have a good time writing a cowboy story, returning to territory he hadn't explored since Valdez Is Coming in 1970. The book is a hell of a soirée, nicely researched and slowly revealing ch ...more
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Oh boy. This is a big favorite in a big way. I didn’t even know what I was getting into here and as it dawned on me, those first few chapters, giddy is the word to describe it.* The Spanish-American War. The USS Maine. The hotbed of Cuba in the history according to Elmore Leonard, which means: well, hell yes, gunrunners and cowboys and a prison break and a train heist and warlords and yellow fever and a pretty kick-ass love story. Wrapped up in so much historical accuracy I read a book’s worth o ...more
Daniel Villines
May 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
It has taken five books learn how devious Leonard can be in telling his stories. I once thought of Leonard as a solid character writer. Every character that he has brought to life has provided hours of entertainment through their unique characteristics. He has never failed to tell a good story.

But I also enjoy books with more than just a good story. I like books that reach out from the page, as Graham Greene often does, with insights to think about and consider:

“The truth has never been of any r
Like his book "The Hot Kid" from 2005, Elmore Leonard's earlier "Cubra Libre" is an entertaining crime novel set in a bygone era. In this case, the time period is the days leading up to and during the Spanish-American War, with the crimes involving smuggling guns to Cuba and absconding with ransom money.

As he did in "The Hot Kid," Leonard in "Cubra Libre" offers up an interesting cast of characters, artfully juggles interrelated storylines, and demonstrates a keen ear for conversation. (There's
Sep 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: adventure-epic
I became intrigued with reading Elmore Leonard's books after watching the first season of "Justified", especially his interview in one of the bonus features. This is the first book I have read. It has a very interesting style, almost a shorthand that allows you to fill the gaps in the narrative.
This story begins with 2 American cowboys contracted to deliver a shipment of horses (and some other stuff), who arrive in Cuba 3 days after the Maine is blown up in Havana's harbor. It's filled with a m
Pamela Mclaren
Let me begin by saying I like Elmore Leonard whether it is in book form for the movies that I have seen. I get his humor, as dark as it can be at times, so its easy to say that I liked this book about a cowboy who is talked into gathering horses to sell in Cuba. He partners with an old friend, who uses the horses (which frankly, don't make anything for them) as cover for gun running. Add into that story is the sinking of the USS Maine and the battle between the "insurrection" and the Guardias an ...more
João Carlos
Apr 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: l2015

USS Maine na Baía de Havana 1898

O escritor norte-americano Elmore Leonard (1925 – 2013) escreveu uma novela histórica, nas vésperas da Guerra Hispano-Americana, que decorreu entre 25 de Abril e 12 de Agosto de 1898, entre a Espanha e os Estados Unidos da América, em Cuba, interligando, igualmente, a revolta cubana contra o domínio espanhol e a sua Guerra da Independência.
É o naufrágio misterioso do navio USS Maine a 15 de Fevereiro de 1898 no porto de Havana, numa explosão, por acidente ou por s
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well written historical novel, Cuba Libre describes the island's cities and towns with just enough information to make the reader want to see this country for themselves. I liked the love story involving the southern American cowboy Ben and the beautiful, rebellious Amelia. Though this is a work of fiction, it is very accurate in its details of the Spanish/American war of 1898.

Interesting facts about the sinking of the battleship Maine which I have found on the internet and summarized: 9.40pm
Nov 22, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A "dime novel" from 1860 would cost about $4 today when factoring in inflation, and that's about as much as I paid for this book used. It's about right, all around. This is a quick read, something of a toss-off. It's very standard Leonard -- some of his familiar character-types (the wise old criminal; the dangerous but essentially good guy; the not totally trustworthy lady love interest; the rich but only moderately bad guy) interacting in a series of crosses and double-crosses, set in Cuba arou ...more
Sep 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a cowboy/western book, set in historical Cuba in 1898. The protagonist, Ben Tyler, is taking horses as a cover for smuggling guns to Cuba, and arrives shortly after the sinking of the battleship Maine. He meets various bad guys (Guardia Civil) and a sugar mill plantation owner, along with American newspapermen (it is the time of yellow journalism coverage of Cuba), and the mistress, Amelia Brown, of the plantation owner. Tyler quickly ends up in prison for killing someone, is rescued wit ...more
Jim Fonseca
Sep 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the old days, Cuba Libre by Elmore Leonard would be called a swashbuckler. Ben Tyler, our hero, is a cowboy gone South; in this case, as far south as Cuba. He also has a history of justifiable bank robbery, if there is such a thing. So, in a way, this novel is a western. Ben finds himself shipping horses to Cuba. But unknown to him, under the deck is more than straw and horse droppings. This is an operation smuggling guns to Cuban rebels who have been fighting an endless guerrilla war against ...more
Rosina Lippi
Jan 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, best-beloved
Leonard is the master of many things, but the two that shine here above all others: dialogue, and men with ethics who end up on the wrong side of the law.

I wish he would write more historical fiction -- this is set in Cuba during the Spanish American war -- because he could give McMurtry a run for his money.

There are whole sections here where the scene comes to life because of the absolute perfect pitch of the dialog. It might be said that there is a lull in the structure of the plot towards th
Daniel Simmons
Nov 24, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I like Elmore Leonard, but this was pretty horrendous. Writing a historical novel doesn't mean having your characters spout paragraphs of exposition to show off all the research you've done about yellow journalism, slavery, etc. Leonard's characters are so much more effective when they're speaking softly and carrying big sticks.
Richard White
Fun little beach read with a bit of history thrown in.
Carl R.
Nov 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ben Tyler starts robbing banks to get back some money owed him and just keeps going because It's so easy. Yuma Prison isn't so easy, and when Tyler gets out he finds the offer from Charlie Burke intriguing. They can round up some horses and sell them in Cuba for good money. Tyler does some figuring in his head, calculating passage, feed, and sales price and understands that Charley is really running guns to Cubans rebelling against the Spanish. Burke admits it, but Tyler sees it as an okay way t ...more
Margo Christie
Oct 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers of crime thrillers, fans of fast-paced historical fiction
New Mary-Margo book review: 5 of 5 Stars to Elmore Leonard for "Cuba Libre."
"Obviously the 34th novel of a master story teller, Cuba Libre shines in ways too numerous to mention. For starters, there's the historically-accurate setting of Cuba in the days leading up to the Spanish-American War. The Maine has just mysteriously blown-up. Publicly, the Americans blame the Spanish while, in theories reminiscent of the 2001 World Trade Center disaster, the idea that they blew up their own ship as an e
May 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: western fans, Elmore Leonard fans..
Now, I'm giving this 3 stars only in comparison to Leonard's other books. I've read just about all of them and in comparison to those, this is a 3-star book. Compared to most modern novels (historical fiction or otherwise) this is a 4-star book.

Basically this is a western/crime story set in late 19th century Cuba. Even though it is set in the middle of the Spanish American War, the plot could very well be shifted to the Old West. In fact, it reminded me of those Zapata Spaghetti Westerns that ta
Jun 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Having tried to read this novel once before in the past (and failing to finish), I decided to pick it up and give it another try after reading Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation in which she puts the Spanish-American War and the destruction of the USS Maine in historical perspective. I enjoyed the novel, but felt that in the pantheon of Elmore Leonard novels, this one probably falls toward the bottom. I personally have always enjoyed his urban crime novels to his weste
Sam Johnson
Jul 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
One his best. If you're wary or thinking, "Elmore Leonard . . . historical fiction . . . what?" don't panic. It's Elmore Leonard through and through. Mantanzas, Cuba could be Detroit and the characters all talk, act, and think like they do in his mainland American settings. This one has terrific dialogue as well as terrific pauses ("He thought about that and looked at her again") and six or seven characters trying to think one step ahead of each other. I read this when it was first published and ...more
Michael Kubat
Jan 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was my first foray into Elmore Leonard's writing, until I found out that he wrote Hombre, which I know in its movie version (Paul Newman, et al).

Tough reading actually, poring through the complexities of his characters, and dealing with the meaninglessness of so many of the deaths. I did not mind the slow-mo plot: quite the contrary, it gave me an opportunity to experience the flavor of the characters and the rich description of the setting. I think I will go and get some more...
The setting - Cuba at the outset of the Spanish-American War is an entertaining history lesson. The descriptions of Cuba - multi-ethnic, colonial, brutal, in turmoil - are really well done. The laconic horseman turned bank robber turned horse trader Tyler is an appealing character, as is the too good to be true Amelia - gun toting, leper helping woman with a seedy past.

I particularly like the way the passages describing the writing processes of Neely Tucker, the Chicago war correspondent, viola
This is one book that would probably make a better movie than a book. Never engaged me in the characters or the story. Scenery was the only thing that stands out. My first Elmore Leonard and not sure I need to find anymore of his works.
Carla Remy
While I endlessly adore Elmore Leonard, historical novels about wars are not my thing.
Nancy Cook  Lauer
A classic! I love learning history with a sugar coating.
This is what I’m talking about!

Before starting Cuba Libre, I abandoned The Vatican Princess as rapey romance drivel masquerading as historical fiction about Lucrezia Borgia. A full review on that one will come as soon as I finish my alternate selection for my reading challenge book-about-an-interesting-woman category, so I can make that a twofer review.

After I tossed The Vatican Princess aside in disgust, I picked up #11 on my 2017 Reading Challenge, a book in a genre I don’t normally read. Cuba
Charles Puskas
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Elmore Leonard crafts a suspenseful plot with crisp dialogue about Cuban unrest before and during Spanish-American war (1898). There are likable cowboys (Burke & Tyler) of checkered backgrounds trading horses & smuggling in weapons for insurgents in Cuba under Spanish oppression, trading with successful but corrupt New Orleans businessman (Roland Boudreaux, who wants the horses) & his US girlfriend & Cuban foreman (Amelia & Victor, who want the weapons). A dangerous mission w ...more
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the breakneck plot, the dashing, if morally compromised, protagonists, the sense of place, and the precision of the lexicon (sending me to the dictionary for numerous nautical and horse-related words, for example). I also enjoyed the humorous portrayal of the minor character Neely, a journalist, through whom Leonard both put on and poked fun at flowery language. Leonard broadcast the twist at the end, however, a little too overtly for my taste, undermining its effectiveness as a plot d ...more
Bill Arnold
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a fervent Elmore Leonard fan, in all honesty, I generally 5 star all his books. But in this instance I truly rate it such. Set in Cuba at the onset of the Spanish American War the colorful assortment of Leonardesque characters face life or death interactions set against the approaching global challenges facing this beautiful island. As always, superbly crafted characters, snappy dialogue, and plenty of action. Mr. Leonard did his research on this snapshot of history!
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Elmore John Leonard lived in Dallas, Oklahoma City and Memphis before settling in Detroit in 1935. After serving in the navy, he studied English literature at the University of Detroit where he entered a short story competition. His earliest published novels in the 1950s were westerns, but Leonard went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into m ...more
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