Red Heat: Consipiracy, Murder and the Cold War in the Caribbean

This wonderful book on political history by acclaimed author, Alex Von Tunzelmann (interviewed last year for the Chatterjis Hall of Fame) is set at a cracking pace like a thriller except, unfortunately for a certain part of the world, these events actually took place.

The USA, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and their past and present leaders are the central characters.  The author charts the rise of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, the glamorous ladies man whom it seems even Alex couldn’t resist in her research!

I only became interested in the history of the Caribbean after reading Bury the Chains, an amazing book about the abolition of slavery.  Perhaps I read the wrong newspapers, however, I feel that growing up in the UK, I was never confronted with news from the Caribbean islands and so the dictatorships of Haiti and the Dominican Republic were not a part of my general knowledge.  Perhaps the flow of rum, cigars and the USA trade embargo against Cuba kept it in the news.  It was cool to for students across the country to wear Che Guevara t-shirts in solidarity against the evil empire and rally against it.

This book has been criticised for not revealing anything new about the Cold War or any of the central characters, for being too critical of the USA – particularly of JFK, of being too much like a popular thriller.  Why should political history not be thrilling?  The author adopts a fast-paced style and manages to keep her reader gripped and wanting to know more.  I’m not sure this book is aimed at deep followers of world history or those who study this subject full time as a profession or hobby.

I am interested in both history and politics but frankly I don’t want to read an entire biography of JFK, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro or the geek’s guide to the Cold War and the Cuban missile crisis with submarine/fighter jet references and war tactics.  This book gives the essentials of each of these important parts of world history in one of its most chilling decades.


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