Despite a lifelong love of books, the Havana Book Fair somehow passed me by during my two year stay. I remember the beautiful Castle Morro as the site of a Saturday night club, where, on a lovely patio overlooking the sea, I sipped mojitos. A sea breeze slapped waves against the rocks and, through the spray, the lights of Havana winked at me from across the bay. The club has gone – bars and clubs appear, disappear and sometimes reappear in Havana – but the castle remains. And so does the Book Fair.
Cubans are generally avaricious readers – I take all the books I can carry each time I return, to give to friends. Books are expensive in the Havana bookstores, beyond the reach of most ordinary people, and the choice is limited. The Book Fair is great event, providing wider choice and the opportunity to find bargains. It is descended upon with infectious enthusiasm by readers of all ages. I’m proud to associate my story with this rich and lovely occasion.
Caliente: a true story of love, adventure, gallons of rum and lots of trouble.
“I must say I was gripped. It has the sweet-and-bitter tang of reality and in my view it will find an eager readership.”
I sat in the empty car park and smoked a cigarette. Then I drove contentedly, dreamily, through the grey, bad-tempered Friday night crawl. I left my car in the Pink Elephant long-stay car park and booked into the Gatwick Hilton. I spent the next three hours roaming the airport, drawing dollars and sterling from various ATMs and exchanges. The next morning I did the same and posted my Pink Elephant ticket to Paul. The car belonged to him now. At four that afternoon I boarded a Cubana flight, direct to Havana. Paul, now free and tagged, called as I sat on the runway,
‘All set Reggie?’
I had $100 000 in an attaché case and considerably more than that in a Channel Island bank account, accessible in Cuba. I didn’t set foot in England again for two years.
“Hilton is a delightful guide to the very special atmosphere of Cuba in the last years of the Castro family, and his book should find many readers. I read with immense pleasure.”
“A fantastic tale, full of pace and steeped in the sense of the place. Hilton really knows Havana.”