Monday, August 27, 2012

THE CASTRO DIRECTIVE: a butt-kicking history lesson by Stephen Mertz

For me, the best way to study history is to read a novel.

Stephen Mertz’ new eBook, The Castro Directive, is a case in point.

When it comes to a subject like the Bay of Pigs disaster, my ignorance knows no bounds. I’ve always had the niggling suspicion it would make for interesting study, but not interesting enough to wade into a dry, stuffy history book.

Then along came The Castro Directive, an action-adventure novel that makes the event come alive. I’ll never think of the Bay of Pigs as dry and stuffy again. Heck, there’s even a good chance I might read a history book about it.

The official hero of this novel is Sergeant “Graveyard” Morgan, a fearless Ranger-Commando who always gets the job done, and doesn’t care whose toes he steps on to do it. Morgan is a fairly typical adventure hero, and if the story focused exclusively on him, The Castro Directive would be a fairly typical adventure novel.

Instead, Morgan is used sparingly, and we meet a large cast of interesting characters. Some of those are also heroes, and some are villains, but most are just people, warts and all, who get caught up in extraordinary events.

Among those with warts are JFK and his brother Bobby, and Fidel Castro and his pal Che Guevara. It’s clear Mr. Mertz had fun using these guys as characters, and that fun comes through to the reader. JFK is particularly interesting. We see him working hard, but he also plays hard - pursuing his Playboy lifestyle - and relaxes inbetween with a James Bond novel.

We also see events through the eyes of a lot of little people on both sides of the conflict. In Cuba, we meet revolutionaries, counter-revolutionaries, freedom fighters and hapless villagers. In the U.S., we have cops, CIA operatives, spies, Cuban resistance leaders, reporters, and hapless family members.

Through all those points of view, the big picture emerges. We get a feel for what pre-Castro Cuba was like under the oppressive Batista regime, and how Castro’s revolution victimized many of people it was intended to liberate. We see Kennedy struggling to do the right thing, but hampered by CIA bungling and his own fears of public and world opinion. And we see the freedom fighters, betrayed and sacrificed for political expediency.

And along the way, of course, we get to see Graveyard Morgan kick a little butt. So while the whole operation was a Lose-Lose for everyone except Fidel and Che, it’s a Win-Win for us readers: An entertaining history lesson - and butt kicking too.


Unknown said...

Your post is very enthusiastic and i am very eager to read this.Your way of establishment is superb!
domy drewniane

Brian Strauss said...

Great review of what sounds like a gripping novel--the sort of thriller one expects from Stephen Mertz, always good for an engaging plot, "butt-kicking" action, and well-developed characters. Thanks for calling this to my attention.