I’m pleased to welcome David Pereda, author of Havana: Killing Castro, to the life and lies today.
Killing Castro is on tour with Goddess Fish. Click here to see the other tour stops and follow the tour.
When an old fisherman is gunned down on a Mexican beach, prominent Miami surgeon Raymond Peters becomes the prime suspect. The dead fisherman is believed to be Fidel Castro whom Dr. Peters had helped disguise through clandestine plastic surgery on a trip to Cuba two years earlier. But is the body really that of the Cuban leader? In order to save his own life, the beleaguered physician must solve the murder, find the killers and retrieve a mysterious journal. And this has to be done while outwitting a sensual but ruthless assassin named Marcela, sent by Castro’s brother Raul.
1. Why and when did you begin writing?
I stared writing when I was 10. I loved westerns from Zane Grey and Max Brand, so I wrote a western novel titled David Patterson, the Temerarious that my Uncle Antonio typed for me.
2. What inspired you to write Killing Castro?
My ex-wife was a plastic surgeon, and thanks to her, I was able to witness several plastic surgeries. Since I was born in Cuba, I started thinking why not a face-disguising surgery to Fidel Castro? And the idea of Killing Castro was born. I knew it was possible because there had already been cases of drug lords who had altered their looks to escape the law.
3. How did you come up with the title?
My original title was Who Killed Fidel Castro? When I was finishing the manuscript, I wrote a screenplay based on the book with a Hollywood producer. He didn’t like Who Killed Fidel Castro? as the title, so we tested various titles until we settled on Killing Castro. To be coherent, I changed the book title to Killing Castro, too.
4. What books or people influenced your writing? Was it positive influence, or negative?
Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and William Faulkner influenced my writing big time while I was growing up, as well as Zane Grey and Max Brand and Carson McCullers and Truman Capote and Joseph Conrad and Herman Melville and Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jack London and Mickey Spillane, among others. Of course, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Dante and Bocaccio shaped me further. In more recent years, as I got into thrillers, I was heavily influenced by Harlan Coben, John Grisham, Jeffrey Archer, Daniel Silva, David Baldacci, Helen McInnes, Joseph Finder and Dan Brown. All theses influences were positive.
Also positive, and also influential, were people in other occupations, such as art and war. My greatest hero, for his magnificent accomplishments, is Genghis Khan. Close to him are Picasso, Paul Cezanne, Van Gogh, Dali, Monet, Manet, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and a host of others. In music, Mozart, Beethoven and Bach are nonpareil in the classical sense.
I won’t even get into jazz, which I love.
5. How do you go about researching for your books?
I am a dinosaur like Hemingway and London. I have been blessed by the gods who have given me the opportunity to travel around the world for work and pleasure – which has provided the authenticity of locales and people you see in my writing I have been to ALL the places I describe in my books. . To verify information or research a location I can’t remember well enough, I use the Internet.
6. Did you base any of your characters on real people?
All my characters are based on real people, although not on a one-on-one basis. I’d say 70% of anyone of my characters is a pastiche of different characters I have met around the world. The other 30% is my imagination.
7. What’s the most exciting part about being a published author? What is the hardest part?
To me the most important part of being a published author is to get good reviews and win awards. Doing readings and other promotional aspects is the hardest part for me. I feel like a monkey on a chain with an organ-grinder nearby making me perform.
8. Do you have any other books planned in the future?
I have several. The first one is the sequel to Killing Castro, tentatively named Twin Powers. I hope to publish that one next year.
9. Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?
Marcela, the assassin, is my favorite character. Despite the fact she’s a lesbian, all the men who read my books want to be with her and all the women want to be like her. I dislike the characters of Raul and Fidel Castro, and also the fastidious Teceira and the bigoted McCullough.
10. What advice can you give to young writers who want to publish their books?
Never give up. Somebody told me once that I would never be a published author because English was my second language, and I would never be able to master it enough. I have published five novels and won six writing awards already. What happened to the person who told me that, a budding writer himself? Nothing.
Just for fun:
1. What are your ten most favorite things?
Sex, writing, jumping horses, running track, traveling, drinking great wine, eating gourmet meals, skiing, reading a great book, going to the ballet
2. What do you do when you’re not writing?
All 9 other things above plus a few others, like going to the opera, teaching and swimming.
3. Do you have any pets?
A feral cat named Davie who loves to hunt rabbits and chipmunks
4. What are your favorite (and least favorite) foods?
Favorite: Seafood (all), French, Italian, Argentine barbecues, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican and, of course, Spanish from Spain.
Least Favorite: Anything greasy and pasta NOT al dente.
5. Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?
My office and on my laptop.
6. Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?
7. If you could go anywhere in the whole world, either for a vacation or to live there, where would you go?
8. What was your favorite and least favorite subject in school?
As a child my favorite subject was Math and my least favorite was English. All that changed later. I love the English language – and all languages. I speak and write four.
9. What book are you reading right now?
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown.
10. Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.
I have been married five times to wives of different nationalities. I am separated from wife number five right now. Would there be a wife number six, and if so, what would her nationality be?
Thank you for stopping by, Mr. Pereda.
Here is an excerpt of Killing Castro:
“So what did you want to talk to me about, Raymond?” Pepe stretched on his chair to clink glasses and then took a long pull of his mojito, drinking with his pinkie finger straight up. Raymond shook his head in disbelief as he sipped from his own glass. He put his glass on the table as Pepe gazed at him. “You said it was important.”
“You know who killed Fidel?”
“You mean the fisherman shot dead in Mexico?”
“Yes.” Pepe drained the rest of his drink in one mighty gulp and stared at his empty glass. “Ready for another, Raymond?”
“Mind if I have another?”
“Go right ahead.”
“Keep talking.” Pepe leaned forward to refill his glass from the pitcher on the table, settled back in his chair, and took another pull of his drink. “I can drink and listen at the same time. You know who killed the fisherman?”
“I think so.”
“And that’s the reason you’re here?”
“Not really, Pepe. I came to confirm information—and to talk to you in person. As you always say, you never know who’s listening on the phone. By the way, where is Raul?”
“He’s going to join us for dinner tonight. Drink up, Raymond. I’m already finishing my second, and you haven’t really started on your first.”
Raymond sipped his drink thoughtfully. “Remember what you said to me a couple of years ago in Miami?”
“I said many things to you in Miami, Raymond.”
Pepe drained his glass and served himself another. This time he didn’t ask for permission.
“True. I mean, do you remember how you convinced me to come to Cuba with you? You told me that story about us as kids and how you had saved my life?”
“Of course I remember.” Pepe gulped greedily from his third drink.
“Do you? Tell it to me again.”
Raymond laughed amiably. “The same old Pepe, testing me out.”
Pepe laughed too.
“Okay, I’ll tell you—so you’ll know I still remember that story. We were in the park, and I got in a fight with Marcelino. He pulled a knife on me and tripped me. He was about to plunge the knife into me when you knocked him out with a punch. I’d never seen someone hit with such force. Marcelino’s head hit the grass so hard he was out cold several minutes. We were so scared you had killed him, remember?”
“Of course I remember,” Pepe said.
Raymond rose slowly, glowering at Pepe.
“That’s not the story. In the real story, you saved me from drowning in the Almendares River—remember? You’re not Pepe Orozco. And you sure as hell are not Fidel Castro either.” He leaned forward and said in a sharp voice, watching the man’s face blanch, “Who are you?”
Click here to order Killing Castro.