‘Havana’ taps the mystery of Cuba

Posted Jan. 24, 2010, at 5:12 p.m.

ROAD TO HAVANA, by Richard de Grasse, Infinity Publishing, West Conshohocken, Pa., 2009, 325 pages, paperback, $17.95.

One of the first dictums for writers is “Write what you know.”

Richard de Grasse follows this advice in his first novel. He and his wife, Kathleen, spend part of the year on Islesboro and the rest on their sloop Endeavor, based in Marathon, Fla., and sailing the waters around the southern United States. This includes a number of visits to Cuba, about which journalist de Grasse has written many articles for sailing magazines.

He mines his knowledge of Cuba in “Road to Havana,” which asks the question, “What happens in Cuba after Castro?”

The novel is built around Bob “Roberto” Quimby, a former CIA analyst who now single-handedly sails around the Caribbean on his boat Siren Song. His journalist license gets him into Cuba, where the recently divorced Quimby falls in love with singer Giselle Portella. Giselle’s brother Carlos, an economics professor, is a socialist dissident who speaks out against the corruption of the old-line Communists in the island nation.

Fate has bigger plans for Carlos, and Roberto and Giselle find themselves along for the often-dangerous ride during a turbulent time in that country.

De Grasse is at his best when he’s describing the history and day-to-day life in Cuba. That’s when the novel truly comes alive.

The book could have used better editing, as spelling and grammatical errors sometimes derail his enjoyable narrative.

Still, “Road to Havana” is an admirable first effort, which gives a colorful look at our mysterious neighbor just off the coast of Florida.

“Road to Havana” may be purchased at www.richarddegrasse.com or www.amazon.com.

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