Friday, February 8, 2008

"The Betrayal Game"

David L. Robbins is a graduate of the College of William & Mary and a bestselling novelist.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Betrayal Game, and reported the following:
Oddly, like some unerring dart, or that clairvoyant friend who asks How's the family or the job, the day after the funeral or the pink slip, or - like me - the strangely cursed pal who pats you on the back right on that spot where earlier in the day you'd had a mole removed and gotten three painful stitches, the page 69 Test went right to the most verbose page in The Betrayal Game.

Tempted as I was to go elsewhere and beg forgiveness from the blog readership, I toughed it out and included the excerpt below. Because, like the stitches, the lengthy passages are still for the betterment of the book. Lammeck, my political science professor, is in Havana, in early 1961. Lammeck is a specialist in the theories of assassination: what does history do after a key individual is yanked suddenly off the stage? Does she continue in a straight line (indicating that individuals do not effect history so greatly) or does she swerve mightily (evidence that history is, indeed, greatly influenced by single men and women more so than events).

On page 69, Lammeck sits in the Havana library, researching his subject, Fidel Castro. Lammeck comes to believe that Castro may be the one man in all of history whom he is absolutely certain is marked for death. From this point, The Betrayal Game goes on to depict the actual, multiple, and nefarious attempts by the CIA, the Cuban exiles, and the American Mafia, to assassinate Fidel before the Bay of Pigs invasion. Soon after this page, as the title suggests, Lammeck gets swept up in the many layers of intrigue and peril swirling in Havana, the shifting loyalties, dangers from unseen quarters, and betrayals aplenty. Enjoy.

From Page 69:

Fidel himself warned daily against an invasion from the American-backed exiles, whom he called “gusanos,” worms. Lammeck had heard this at two more speeches over the past week, both at the invitation of Captain Johan. Fidel’s ability to lecture at immense length, without notes, beggared description. Lammeck would never have believed a man could go on for so long, keep crowds of thousands thundering over his words for hours. Fidel Castro was remarkable. Every day that Lammeck read about him, or saw him, spoke with Johan about him, he became even more convinced that Fidel was indeed the anomaly that Lammeck believed him to be, the one in a million who, alone, could change history – and as such, was absolutely marked for death.

In the last week, Lammeck had switched his research at the archives from the economics of the island to recent Cuban history. He focused on sources not available to him in American libraries or press: the communist newspaper Granma, and eyewitness tales from the barbudos, the bearded ones who’d been guerillas in the mountains with Fidel. In every instance the accounts spoke of Castro’s extraordinary magnetism, his unbending persuasiveness. No other man, Lammeck thought, no one in his right mind would have sailed from Mexico with eighty-two others, not a one of them with military experience, to conquer a nation. After a disastrous landing, Castro’s cadre was quickly whittled down by Batista’s troops and bad luck to a dozen men. He endured two years in the mountains, hunted by the government, short of food and supplies, through swamps and jungle, finally recruiting an army of illiterates and cane cutters. And won a nation. What other revolutionary of the twentieth century had taken these risks? Lenin waited out the beginnings of the Russian Revolution in Zurich, facing no battle. Stalin held up banks and trains, then spent time in Siberian jails, serving only as a military administrator during the Russian Civil War. Mao controlled vast armies against the Kuomintang and the Japanese, but never suffered privations or danger, while Castro slept with a rifle barrel tucked under his chin in case he was caught in the night. Yugoslavia’s Tito led troops from a safe headquarters and enjoyed American and British protection. Ho Chi Minh was imprisoned and did not lead soldiers against the French. Khrushchev had not fought in World War II, he’d been only a commissar. Hitler screamed in beer halls while confederates brawled and slit throats for him.
Read an excerpt from The Betrayal Game and learn more about the author and his work at the official David L. Robbins website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue