Latour, José 1940-
Latour, José 1940-
PERSONAL: Born 1940, in Havana, Cuba; married; children: two sons, one daughter.
ADDRESSES: Home—Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Grove Press, 841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003.
MEMBER: International Association of Crime Writers (vice-president of Latin American Division).
Outcast (novel), Akashic Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Havana Best Friends (novel), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.
Havana World Series (novel), Grove Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Comrades in Miami (novel), Grove Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Author of six other crime novels published in Spanish.
SIDELIGHTS: José Latour, a Cuban crime novelist, wrote six novels in Spanish before writing Outcast, his first English-language novel. Outcast centers on Elliot Steil, a professor of English at a Cuban college. Steil is content in Cuba, if not entirely happy; his father was an American sugar magnate who abandoned Steil and his mother shortly before the revolution. Steil's professional advancement has been hindered by his parentage and his lack of socialist enthusiasm. When Don Gastner, a World War II friend of Steil's father, knocks on his door and offers him a risk-free yacht ride to the United States, Steil accepts. For reasons unknown to Steil, Gastner pushes him overboard and leaves him for dead in the Florida Straits. Steil, who does not drown, makes his way to Florida, where he investigates his family history and prepares to take his revenge against Gastner.
In his next English-language novel, Havana Best Friends, Pablo, a pimp, and his sister, the beautiful and innocent Elena, live in an apartment that, unbeknownst to them, contains a secret treasure: diamonds stashed years before by corrupt supporters of Cuban military leader Fulgencio Batista's regime. A Vietnam veteran living in the United States learns this secret from his father and dispatches Bruce Lawson, also a vet, and a Spanish-speaking woman named Rita to Cuba to retrieve the diamonds; however, police officer Feliz Trujillo is not far behind. Each storyline is initiated independently, converging at the climax.
When asked about the social state of Cuba in an online interview with Georgina Burns for Shots Magazine, Latour responded: "The drug problem in Cuba is getting quite serious, crime is worse than ever since 1960 and prostitution is gaining momentum…. Nonetheless, I sincerely believe that if you compare Cuba with other countries, our problems are less acute for several reasons. One is vigilance and repression, another is education…. Remittances from relatives living abroad allow a significant percentage of the population to survive without having to steal or peddle drugs or become prostitutes."
Latour again examined a darker side of Cuba in Havana World Series. Revolutionaries and Cuban gangsters populate this action mystery, set during the 1958 World Series between the Milwaukee Braves and the New York Yankees. Havana's Capri Casino is trying to keep up with intense customer betting when American criminals assemble a team to cash in on the casino's riches. An international chase ensues, chronicled in real time by Latour's detailed, minute-by-minute writing style. Bill Ott, writing in Booklist, pointed out that this style "contrasts nicely with the richness of detail and quirkiness of character."
Latour's next novel, Comrades in Miami, continues the story of Outcast's Elliot Steil. In this novel, Steil works as an assistant to Reuben Scheindlin, owner of an import-export business. When Scheindlin dies, Steil becomes involved in the American investigation of Mrs. Scheindlin, and his return to Cuba turns into a covert spy mission. New characters are also weaved into this story. In an Entertainment Weekly review, contributor Jennifer Reese called the novel an "impressive mindbender."
Latour depicts the corruption of sections of Miami's Cuban-American community and the violence and materialism of American society with a degree of insight that many critics, including Michael Harris of the Los Angeles Times, find astonishing for someone with so little firsthand experience of life in the United States. Latour's critiques are not entirely directed at America, yet he professes to be unconcerned about the possibility of political backlash from the Cuban government. In an interview with Julian Borger of London's Guardian newspaper, Latour commented: "If I spent my life worrying about what [the government] thought, I would never write another word."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2003, Bill Ott, review of Havana World Series, p. 585; November 15, 2005, Bill Ott, review of Comrades in Miami, p. 30.
Entertainment Weekly, February 27, 2004, Tom Sinclair, review of Havana World Series, p. 103; November 11, 2005, Jennifer Reese, review of Comrades in Miami, p. 76.
Guardian (London, England), September 19, 2000, Julian Borger, "The Strait Story: Cuban Authors Have Always Faced Severe Government Censorship, but José Latour Will Not Be Silenced," p. 16.
Independent (London, England), February 10, 2001, Jane Jakeman, "Shady Tales under the Sun," p. 11.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2003, review of Havana World Series, p. 1254; July 15, 2005, review of Comrades in Miami, p. 758.
Library Journal, January, 2004, Lawrence Olswzewski, review of Havana World Series, p. 157; November 1, 2005, Ronnie H. Terpening, review of Comrades in Miami, p. 66.
Los Angeles Times, February 20, 2001, Michael Harris, "Crime-Story Hero Navigates through Worlds of the Sleazy and Decent," p. E3.
New York Times Book Review, May 6, 2001, Charles Taylor, "Exit Wounds: José Latour's Hard-Boiled Novel Examines the Predicament of Cubans Who Come to the U.S.," p. 21.
Publishers Weekly, December 1, 2003, review of Havana World Series, p. 139; July 25, 2005, review of Comrades in Miami, p. 29.
San Francisco Chronicle, February 29, 2004, Kevin Smokler, "Mobsters Want It All in 1958 Cuba."
School Library Journal, December, 2002, review of Outcast, p. S42.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, November 16, 2005, Oline H. Cogdill, review of Comrades in Miami.
Village Voice, December 21, 1999, David Bowman, review of Outcast, p. 85.
AllReaders.com, http://www.allreaders.com/ (March 20, 2006), Harriet Klausner, review of Outcast.
Bookreporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (March 20, 2006), Rob Cline, review of Outcast.
HarperCollins Web site, http://www.fireandwater.com/ (March 20, 2006), interview with the author.
Shots Magazine Online, http://www.shotsmag.co.uk/ (March 20, 2006), Georgina Burns, "Special Relationship, Cuban Style: An Interview with José Latour."
Web Mystery Magazine Online, http://www.lifeloom.com/ (spring, 2004), Nicki Leone, review of Havana World Series.