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Havana: An Earl Swagger Novel (Earl Swagger #3)

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  2,213 Ratings  ·  82 Reviews

Outgunning all others in the arena of razor-edged action and sheer guts, New York Times bestselling author Stephen Hunter plunges Earl Swagger deep into a steamy underworld of power, politics, and blood. . . .

Cuba, 1953: The island is on fire.

The Mafia-run casinos are rolling, and it’s just a 30-minute flight from Miami to a world of vice, gam
Paperback, 528 pages
Published July 26th 2011 by Pocket Star (first published October 7th 2003)
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Jason C.
The novel is “Havana” by Stephen Hunter. The novel has 447 total pages and was originally published in hardcover in 2003 by Simon & Schuster, Inc. I decided to read this novel because my grandfather recommended it to me and it seemed like the type of novel I would like. This novel was a New York Times Bestseller.
The main character in the novel is Earl Swagger. He is a World War II Marine veteran who had a very distinguished combat record and received many medals including the Congressional
Aug 11, 2011 DJMikeG rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not quite as good as "Hot Springs" but still an excellent action thriller filled with more plot twists and wild intrigue than you could ever possibly throw a stick at. (Not that you'd ever throw a stick at such things.... unless they were brought to you by Tom Clancy. I've wanted to throw sticks at his books before). Hunter is a master of this sort of writing and while the violence and manly man action is the main attraction, there are beautiful little passages of brilliant description, social c ...more
Not a bad read, but he made caricatures of the main characters. The hero, Earl Swagger, was such a hero - good, faithful, loyal. The bad guys were so vile, dumb & almost comical, in some cases. It was just over the top.

The basic story was kind of interesting; Cuba before Castro took over. At the end of the book are two short articles that Hunter did after researching the area for his book.

For those fans of Bob Lee, we find out why he learned to shoot so well. If you haven't read any other
Mar 21, 2009 Quinn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009-books, action
I really enjoy the way that Stephen Hunter mixes his Earl Swagger character into a story with non-fictional characters. This time Earl Swagger is sent to Cuba before Fidel Castro has taken control. I liked this book, but compared to Pale Horse Coming this book did not measure up.
I am sorry, I just cannot accept the thought of Earl Swagger getting beaten up. Nope, can't do.

This book scores a two for just that.
Bryan Pfahl
Mar 16, 2016 Bryan Pfahl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great Book
Jan 30, 2016 AndyS rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The audio book reader did not fit the book well, so my review may be skewed negatively...
Sara Egbers
Dec 01, 2016 Sara Egbers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thrilling and transporting, as I've come to expect from Stephen Hunter. I am especially partial to the Earl Swagger novels, and have yet to be disappointed. Read this over a period of three days and right in the middle of that time was the death of Fidel Castro, so the novel did feel highly topical to me as I read about the escapades of pre-Revolution Castro bungling his way through Havana, surrounded by a cast of characters consisting of mobsters, sadistic Cuban secret police operatives, a ston ...more
Chris Eastvedt
Mar 21, 2012 Chris Eastvedt rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
Havana… a thriller that wasn’t.

It’s Cuba in the fifties. Castro’s just starting out, trying to make a name for himself and the Mafia (among others) doesn’t like it. With the Cold War in full swing, the Soviet Union sends out a veteran agent to make sure Castro’s revolution succeeds, while the CIA summons their own ex-marine Earl Swagger, to make sure he fails. And thus the games begin.

This wasn’t a particularly bad book, but a thriller is expected to contain certain attributes that this one lack
May 12, 2013 Peter rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-thriller
For background to Stephen Hunter's books, see my review of "Point of Impact."

Richard Hunter’s hero Bob Lee Swagger had a heroic father, Earl Swagger--Marine First Sergeant, Medal of Honor Winner, survivor of five Pacific island invasions in WWII, and Arkansas State trooper murdered in 1955. Several of Bob Lee Swagger series involve Dad, and Hunter has written a three-volume Earl Swagger series: Hot Springs, Pale Horse Coming, and Havana.

In this third of the series the CIA has become concerned a
Terrence Smith
Sep 13, 2016 Terrence Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cortney L. Taton, Joseph Efffenberger
Recommended to Terrence by: Micheal Jacob Carter
I believe that this a really good book, for it takes place in Cuba during 1955, right before the Cuban Revolution. It has certain historical people who made the Cuban Revolution possible. It also has torture methods I have never heard of, and it seems fairly interesting, for I want to write a report on extreme torture methods used by people that made others talk.
Mar 20, 2008 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: completed
Havana is another in the series of the Earl Swagger novels written by Hunter. Swagger is an expert rifleman, a highly decorated World War II hero, a police officer, and an all around tough guy.

In 1953, Swagger is brought to Cuba for the purpose of killing a young upstart revolutionary named Castro. Castro has gained some fame, but in regards to actually running a revolution is little more than an unwashed klutz. The Soviets have imported a mentor for Castro, and this character is by far the mos
Jun 10, 2014 Simon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A disappointment...

Havana didn't really do it for me at all. All the characters, including the brief and almost gratuitous appearances by a young Bib-Lee are very two-dimensional and wooden; and the use of the Castro character is more a gimmick than a useful part of the plot. It would have been better if the identity of the Castro character had not been revealed until the end so that there was more an element of uncertainly about his survival. As someone else said in another review, all the char
Nik Markevicius
Apr 15, 2012 Nik Markevicius rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like action movies like Die Hard and action shows like 24, give Stephen Hunter a chance. This is an early Cold War book, it's s mafia book, amd the good guys and bad guys are clearly defined. The supporting cast is where the mystery and ambiguity comes in, making the reader who who is on whose side, what the goals of each side are, and indeed, how many sides are on this polygon. Hunter thoroughly accomplishes this feat; I never felt lost or confused.

The writing's pretty good, too. Don't
Apr 02, 2015 Dtt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
HAVANA is another entertaining thriller, showcasing the workmanlike qualities of Stephen Hunter's writing -- the easy-going voice, the vibrant attention to locale and time, the tight pacing.

This one is set in Batista's Cuba, and takes place in the Earl Swagger time line of the Swagger family cosmology. As with most of Hunter's other novels, the author seamlessly weaves actual historical figures into the narrative: Ernest Hemingway, mobster Meyer Lansky, a callow and vainglorious Fidel Castro.

Oct 23, 2013 Randy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

High summer in Cuba, 1953, and Havana gleams with possibility. Flush with booming casinos, sex and drugs, Havana is a lucrative paradise for everyone from the Mafia, Domino Sugar, and United Fruit to pimps, porn-makers, and anyone looking to grab a piece of the action - including the Cuban government, which naturally honors the interests of its old ally, Uncle Sam.

Of course, where there's paradise, trouble can't be far behind. Trouble, in this case, makes its entrance in the terrifically charis

Sep 21, 2013 Wayne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adults only
Recommended to Wayne by: Goodreads
This was the third book by Stephen Hunter with Earl Swagger as its leading subject. This book like the others was based upon true events. It was about Cuba before the communist revolution and the factors that caused the revolution. Cuba under the then Cuban dictator was corrupt. It was run by the the criminal element. Prostitution, gambling and drugs flourished. This lead to the people revolting. Unfortunately they went from the frying pan into the fire, that being communism. Earl, with much dou ...more
Carl Alves
Jul 17, 2016 Carl Alves rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In Havana, Earl Swagger has been given the task by the US government to accompany a corrupt American politician as his bodyguard as he investigates criminal activity in Cuba. The politician goes about taking part in all of Havana’s illegal activities instead of trying to stop it. One of the characters in this book is Meyer Lansky, who is running Mafia led activities in Cuba. Swagger gets involved in a plot to kill a young Fidel Castro, who is threatening American interests in the country.

Just ab
Jan 04, 2013 Austin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I do all my "reading" through listening to audio books. I loved the Earl Swagger books! I thought that Stephen Hunter did very well writing the time period. You just couldn't help but have the utmost respect for Earl. The only problem was the first two books had the same reader and he was perfect as the voice of Earl, very deep and rich a very masculine voice. But then this book they changed the reader. THEY RUINED THE BOOK!!! The writing was great but the reader was was pretty much the anti Ear ...more
Edwin Battistella
It’s Cuba in 1953. Battista and Bacardi are in charge along with the CIA and the mob. Everybody’s nervous though because change is in the air. Enter a steely teetotaling war hero (the return of the improbably named Earl Swagger), a wily KGB agent with a heart of gold, a trigger happy gunman. Throw in a whoring Congressman, a couple of CIA schemers, a torturer, a mysterious Portuguese woman, and a surprisingly human young Fidel Castro (oh, and a Hemmingway cameo). It sounds like a potboiler, but ...more
Aug 29, 2008 Chompa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an entertaining read. I'm a huge fan of Earl Swagger from "Hot Springs", but the second book featuring him was a little bit of a disappointment.

This one was a good read and largely because it focused on so many of the supporting characters. The old Russian spy, Frenchy (from Hot Springs), the horny senator from Arkansas, the Ivy League CIA officer, the violent mafia gunner, the sadistic Cuban torturer, etc. Oh yeah, and a young Fidel Castro too.

Hunter painted a picture of Cuba during
Apr 01, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a great character Swagger is. All American hero, hopelessly square and a straight shooter. Literally and figuratively. Surround him with a delighful potpourri of mafia, commies, sadists, crooked politicians, prostitutes and double agents and somehow, SOMEHOW, he comes through it all and back to the sanity that is rural Arkansas.

Add to that a Swagger-loving Rusky who is getting the young Fidel Castro up and going and you have a great adventure. The duplicity and cruelty of the other charact
Feb 22, 2016 Chuck rated it really liked it
I have had a passion lately for Stephen Hunter books and although I enjoyed this book about Cuba in the fifties, it was not among my favorites. It was well researched and gave the feel of the fifties Cuba with its mobsters, Castro revolutionaries, U. S. government cronies and, of course, Earl Swagger. It started sentimentally and it ended similarly, but in between was a cast of ruthless characters that I think I saw in the "Texas Chainsaw Murders". In any case Hunter can keep you awake at all ho ...more
Oct 25, 2016 Nukes rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Human interactions are controlled by self interests. Any one has a price. One can be friend or foe depending on what one brings to the table.
Then comes Earl Swagger who will only do something if his conscience wills it. And when he dicides to do something, woe unto you if you happen to be on the business end of his gun(s).

It is amazing the way Stephen hunter pumps Roger until you feel he is unassailable then "drops" him
Dec 23, 2011 Larry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Earl Swagger is back and tough as ever. After the first few pages of the book, I thought I knew the ending (since it involves Fidel Castro) but there are a few surprising plot twists. As always, there are interesting characters and a lot of he-man action. And great ending!

I also got a kick out of reading about Havana in its heyday because it brings to mind stores of my grandparents and mother vacationing there is the 30’s. What a place!

Hunter and the Swagger men, a formula for righteous action! Bob Lee and his Dad Earl are amoung the men I would like most to meet. And I do as much as possible on the pages of Stephen Hunter's novels. However, this particular book was not up to my usual expectations. To much "Coo-ba" history for my action tastes. But in the end, Earl comes through with charactistic firmness, displaying the finest action attributes, including a laser like focus on eliminating dispicable bad guys.
Nov 21, 2008 Lloyd rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
For the most part, I have really enjoyed Stephen Hunter's books. This one, however, just didn't work for me. The various plot threads just fell flat and I struggled to make it through the last 100 pages to a less-than-satisfying ending.

I'm hoping The 47th Samurai will prove more interesting.

If this winds up being the last Earl Swagger novel - what a disappointing finish.
Nate Hendrix
Nov 13, 2012 Nate Hendrix rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I could not finish this book. I have loved Hunteer's book, but not this series. I read Hot Springs and it was ok. Pale Horse Coming was not great, but I figured he would get his mojo back in the next in the series. I was wrong. I will not read any more of the Earl Swagger series, but I will not be giving up on Stephen Hunter.
Apr 29, 2015 Rfinks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Earl Goes Out In Blaze Of Glory

I was bored with the first half of the book and almost quit reading it. I'm sure glad I didn't quit as the ending made the book worthwhile. It was typical of the the Earl Swagger series with many twists and turns. I also liked the early life of Fidel Castro weaved into the story. Made it very interesting.
Mar 17, 2015 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first Earl Swagger (father of Bob Lee Swagger) book that I've read. I liked the interaction he had with the people who were running Havana in a time before Castro took power. His encounter with Hemingway was hilarious. The development of the Soviet spy character, Speshnev, is the best part of the book.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
Stephen Hunter is the author of fourteen novels, and a chief film critic at The Washington Post, where he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
More about Stephen Hunter...

Other Books in the Series

Earl Swagger (3 books)
  • Hot Springs (Earl Swagger, #1)
  • Pale Horse Coming (Earl Swagger, #2)

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