Don’t tell nobody

Michael Wood

  • Cuba Libre by Elmore Leonard
    Viking, 352 pp, £16.99, May 1998, ISBN 0 670 87988 6
  • Havana Dreams by Wendy Gimbel
    Knopf, 234 pp, US $24.00, June 1998, ISBN 0 679 43053 9

‘Remember the Maine’ was the slogan, but what exactly was to be remembered? That the US warship of that name sank in Havana harbour on 15 February 1898? That the Spanish blew it up? That such things will happen as long as there are remnants of old empires in the Western hemisphere? That North Americans, always too trusting and too kind, need to get a little tougher? ‘Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain’ was the complete couplet, printed in William Randolph Hearst’s New York journal on 18 February.

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[*] Holt, 512 pp., £37.50, 3 February, 0 8050 35001.