Crosshairs of Castro
Blackmail is at the root of this novel based on the Cuba Missile Crisis of 1962 as Lieutenant Charlie Parnell is coerced and convinced that it is his job to take out and kill Fidel Castro. Having him take lessons in shooting, practicing using many different targets and approached by two agents claiming to have been sent by the CIA, Parnell is told that they will sent him undercover as a freelancer for the Irish Times. How can he do that and why him? His first reaction is to decline and the though of behind greatly rewarded but the blackmail element was too difficult for him to resist as his illegal enterprises came into play plus his extra curricular activities making it hard for him to refuse. Bargaining with these men was not easy but the end result would be quite a large sum of money but if he fails he is on his own. No support at all. Can he defeat these men even though he knows they are watching him every step of the way? But, this is not where the story takes off it begins with Castro’s security Chief, Major Oscar Escalante which a Spanish translator named Isabel Fernades to make sure that Charlie remains on the straight and narrow but not before the manager of the hotel where Castro is staying sends up a young girl with a tray hoping to poison him. As the scene plays out and the girl is questioned and jailed, the manager taken into custody and everyone involved spoken with the end result as you can imagine is death for both the girl and the manager but in very creative way. As Isabel is chosen to be part of the team to watch over Charlie she has not escape and is it might cost her daughter who is two her life or at least she would disappear of be kidnapped by Escalante. Fear reigns, blackmail is high and Isabel takes her daughter and hides her with a Santeria cult. Realizing as she gets to know Charlie that his goal is to take out Castro she is supposed to report to Escalante but instead she seduces Charlie convincing him to take her and her daughter with him when the DIA boat comes to take him out of Cuba should he succeed. The author weaves an intricate plot as we learn more about whom in our own government engineered this plot, why and which members were involved. The Cuban crisis is an integral part of this book and as Charlie becomes more embroiled in this plot and deals with Major Escalante who is going after not only Charlie but Isabel too. But, there is more as Meyer Lansky becomes a part of Charlie’s world and insists that he goes after a Jerry Can that he has hidden with thousands if not more of jewels that people who owed him money used as payment. Stating that he was the only one that could handle this deal and that no one else could be trusted Charlie now has two missions and will he survive either one? Hoping to figure out where to take out Fidel and where he will show up will Castro show up in the crosshairs of his sniper rifle or will he go bust? But, Escalante has already foiled on attempt with the young girl who tried to poison Castro. Wanting to tell Castro in person he entered the offices of El Granma, the Communist Party paper where he found el lider dictating an editorial for the morning edition. With a cigar in his right hand Castro stopped as he entered the room and questioned him as to whether the manager was dealt with. The manager was in it and he did not come when he did the girl sent to poison him would have succeeded They were captured and dealt with. Two rogue agents and as we learn more about what they plan we get a first hand look at Vanessa Charlie’s girlfriend who is much too close with Kennedy and pretends to complain she might lose her job when in reality she appears to be playing two sides of the fence. Going into Paris first then Spain, speaking only Spanish and pretending to be a stringer on a paper, Charlie is entering a dangerous world But, what will happen when they learn that he is not Michael Collins and someone learns his true identity how will that work? Author John Harrigan did extensive research into that time period where the CIA tried many times to kill Castro and failed. He created a fictional assassination story intertwining real events. He also states in an interview that these events during that time period happened a long time ago but did much to create distrust between and the Cuban society. Fidel is a formidable adversary an ruled his country with a tight fist and although many tried to take him out and CIA directed in April 1961 the invasion of Cuba described by Kennedy in this novel in the Bay of Pigs. They resumed U2 missiles over Cuba and this was just the beginning there was more to come as Castro’s reign of power grew. Charlie puts his trust in Vanessa and explains what he was asked to do and hands her some documents that if anything happens to him she needs to send to the right place. Her boss is austere and when he meets Charlie he disregards him as she tries to keep them centered but when she learns about Operation Mongoose and the plot to overthrow Castro you wonder if she can be trusted by what she says if she gets caught.
Plots were created by many including Mafia figures from some of the top families which were planned to happen at the same time as the Bay of Pigs invasion. The head of the CIA covert operations neglected to inform the project director of this invasion nor Marine Col. Jack Hawkins the projects paramilitary officer. Castro’s poison pills were in the novel delivered by a young girl that brought in a tray to his room but in reality they were to be delivered to Havana, and presented to a contact that frequented the same restaurant as Castro. The story becomes more complicated as Robert and Jack Kennedy are heard as they plan the overthrow of Castro, order the invasion of the Bay of Pigs and the players are now in place as Charlie meets Isobel and things start to heat up at his end. Leaving his documents with Vanessa, asking a friend to mail postcards letting her know he is alive, then being taken around by Isobel several slips of the tongue should have alerted him to the fact that she might not be just an assistant. Isobel is observant and yet Charlie went along with much of what she did and yet understanding that he might not make it back although he had the documents as back up but at the same time Isobel was meeting with Escalante filling him in on Charlie/Michael and realizing that he is not what he seems to be the guitar playing giving him away. Little things can get you in trouble and even though he was planning to kill Castro first he had to deal with the jerry can for Meyer Lansky. The events are true to life some are fiction while most are based on fact and the book and the characters will keep you glued to the printed page wanting to learn more about what our own people did to overthrow this dictator and even more what happens to Charlie.
Vanessa is at home but Isobel seems to have his eyes and hearing more about Escalante and then the anger of the Kennedy’s Charlie hopes that Isobel will take him with her and her daughter out of Cuba but what will happen when she learns the truth behind why he is there? Will he carry it out? Bishop and his men stormed Vanessa and insisted she give up the documents but not before putting her through something awful. Being called into work by Sorensen and forced to attend EXCOMM meetings and call the members of the committee to come in on Sunday, Vanessa now finds herself on the outside looking in with the President but definitely important to her boss. While Charlie is still planning to kill Castro and his friend Flavio helps to prepare the weapon, the site and at the same time he gets the Jerry Can but one piece will be given to someone else but why?
The Russians had their missiles and weapons and the Americans called off the assassination and the meetings were heated, the words strong and the final result between Russia and the United States history making. Russian convoy of 20 ships nearing the navy blockade line that Kennedy had formed around Cuba. One of the ships was carrying nuclear missiles so what would happen if the Russian ships came in contact with the armada of American vessels? With Vanessa running herself ragged, the generals pressing for an invasion and reminding the President of General Cutis Lemay’s angry assertion that even the quarantine might stop the missiles immediate air strikes were necessary. Threats, deaths, fear, U-2 lifting off the runway at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska plus trying to collect radioactive samples. The ending is explosive as Isobel, her daughter and Charlie run for their lives when the find themselves at the crossroads and nowhere to run. An ending that will keep your guessing as to what the final outcome will be and where Charlie will wind up? Will he be the guest of a drawer cell in Cuba? Will Vanessa realize that she needs to move on? What about Isobel? Charlie needs to find a way back to the United States and when the final scenes are played and his mission is over you won’t believe the deal made and what is fate will be. Crosshairs of Castro takes you right into Cuba inside the government, hearing the voices of those in charge, feeling the bat when it comes down on anyone that refuses to cooperate and learning more about the Kennedy’s that many people have not have known. Filled with real life incidents, fact based events and characters created by this outstanding author Crosshairs of Castro takes us back to a volatile time in our history.