The Cigar Maker
Mark Carlos McGinty
Seventh Avenue Productions (2010)
Reviewed by Joseph Yurt for Reader Views (1/11)
Mark Carlos McGinty’s novel, “The Cigar Maker,” is proclaimed by Rodney Kite-Powell, Curator of the Tampa Bay History Center to be “equal parts history and fiction.” But in terms of the quality of the writing, this reviewer found that both parts were not equal.
The story begins in 1897 in Spanish-occupied, war-torn Cuba. The book’s central character, young Cuban Salvador Ortiz has recently joined a group of rebels and almost immediately, the reader is taken on a wild ride through a series of rapid fire events that slows down only for a critical storyline detour. All of this takes place in a one-year period told over the first sixty pages of the book. The remaining 385 pages of the story do not maintain this frenetic pace.
In the rest of the book, McGinty chronicles the move of Salvador, his educated Spanish wife, Olympia, whom he kidnapped at her request, and their daughter, who was fathered by the Cuban rebel group’s leader, to Ybor City, Florida. Read the book! The reader follows the family’s fortunes until 1945 when Salvador passes. While the pacing of the story is somewhat erratic at times and the historical political minutia a bit tedious, the book still makes for pleasant and interesting read.
On a higher level, the relevance of “The Cigar Maker” is the history in which it is steeped. Historically, awareness of the birth, and the development of Ybor City into the “new Havana,” is imperative to understanding the over 100 year connection, on many levels, between the United States and Cuba. The history of Ybor City woven throughout much of “The Cigar Maker” is expertly rolled like the fine cigars it once crafted. The author is clearly at this best creating a rich tapestry of colorful city. Indeed, McGinty’s descriptions bring to mind the look and feel of Sergio Leone’s 1992 film “Once Upon a Time in America.”
Ultimately, I found “The Cigar Maker” to be an interesting blend of history and fiction, but I recommend that you read another review or two to make certain it sounds like your cup of café con leche.