Books: Havana Punch

Elmore Leonard writes a historical novel. Kind of

Elmore Leonard doesn't spend a lot of effort word-painting backgrounds for his hard-guy capers. You know you're in Detroit or Miami or Hollywood because one of Leonard's sterling villains or slightly bent heroes tells you so. It's a jolt, nevertheless, to find that his latest thriller, Cuba Libre (Delacorte; 343 pages; $23.95), steams into Havana harbor on its first page, and that the shattered mast visible above the water is that of the U.S. battleship Maine, sunk three days earlier. On Feb. 15, 1898.

Yes, Leonard (Get Shorty, Rum Punch) has written what could be called a historical novel. If all...

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