Where Did HAVANA LOST Come From Anyway?
So…I was talking to my sister on the phone after I finished A BITTER VEIL. I was already about 60 pages into my next Georgia Davis thriller, but something was keeping me from diving back in. I started thinking about writing a World War Two thriller—I’m continually drawn back to that period of time, where some people were heroes, others cowards, and you never knew whom to trust. Unfortunately, I realized right away there was probably nothing I could write about that time period that hasn’t been done better by someone else.
Our phone conversation turned to other time periods and settings, and my sister brought up Cuba. As soon as she mentioned it, I started to get that itch—the kind of itch that can only be scratched by delving more deeply into a subject. We both remembered my parents flying down to gamble in Havana. This was when Batista was still in power. I must have only been about 6 or 7, but I remember being jealous that they were going to a foreign country and culture. I wanted to go. Of course, they didn’t take me.
A few years later Fidel took over and Cuba was suddenly off limits to Americans. Soon afterwards it turned Communist, and Communism was our enemy! Because of that, Cuba seemed even more mysterious and exotic than ever, and I wanted to know more about it. Then, of course, came the Bay of Pigs, followed fifteen months later by the Cuban Missile Crisis, which made Cuba even more impenetrable and threatening. So close and yet so far.
Finally, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, I recalled one of the Godfather films where Al Pacino (Michael Corleone) and Lee Strasberg (Meyer Lansky) are on a rooftop supposedly in Havana discussing how they’re going to own the island. Shortly after that, Michael sees a rebel willing to die in order to overthrow Batista. Michael changes his mind about doing business with Lansky.
That clinched it. I realized I had most of the elements for a terrific thriller: revolution, crime, conflict, an exotic setting. And while I knew it would be a stand-alone story, rather than a series, there is a thematic link between HAVANA LOST, and the two previous stand-alone thrillers I’d written: A BITTER VEIL and SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE. That theme is revolution and what it does to an individual, a family, a community, a country, a culture.
There was only one other element I needed. I enjoy—actually it’s more than that… it’s probably an obsession at this point—writing about women and the choices they make. I needed a female character who would have been thrown into the middle of the volatile situation. It would be fascinating to see what she did and how she coped. Once I came up with Frankie Pacelli, the daughter of a Mafia boss who owns a Havana resort, the rest was, as they say, history.