The Cat King of Havana
By Tom Crosshill
Katherine Tegen Books
Available September 6, 2016
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | indiebound | ibooks
Rick Gutierrez is . . . the Cat King of Havana! A cat-video tycoon turned salsa-dancer extraordinaire, he’ll take Cuba by storm, romance the girl of his dreams, and ignite a lolcat revolution!
At least that’s the plan.
It all starts when his girlfriend dumps Rick on his sixteenth birthday for uploading cat videos from his bedroom when he should be out experiencing the real world. Known as “That Cat Guy” at school, Rick isn’t cool and he knows it. He realizes it’s time for a change.
Rick decides joining a salsa class is the answer . . . because of a girl, of course. Ana Cabrera is smart, friendly, and smooth on the dance floor. Rick might be half-Cuban, but he dances like a drunk hippo. Desperate to impress Ana, he invites her to spend the summer in Havana. The official reason: learning to dance. The hidden agenda: romance under the palm trees.
Except Cuba isn’t all sun, salsa, and music. There’s a darker side to the island. As Rick and Ana meet his family and investigate the reason why his mother left Cuba decades ago, they learn that politics isn’t just something that happens to other people. And when they find romance, it’s got sharp edges.
Top Ten Things that Inspired Characters and Scenes in The Cat King of Havana
I asked Tom Crosshill to share ten things that inspired him to create various characters and scenes in his novel, The Cat King of Havana. Here’s his list. If you’ve already read the book, see if you can pick out which scene or character he’s referring to!
- The sweet, sweet excitement of watching a real master of something — dancing, sports, whatever — and saying — I’m going to do the work to be like that one day!
- The marvel of attending a Silvio Rodriguez concert live at Carnegie Hall — and realizing how much more each of his songs meant to the native Cubans in the audience.
- The experience of competing in a dance contest in Cuba as a foreigner — with all the stress, mortification and exhilaration that goes with it.
- Long night-time walks down the unlit streets of Havana — watching life go on amidst decay and poverty and desperation.
- The sheer ecstatic thrill of having Los Van Van blast their music at you from mere feet away at Casa de la Musica Galiano in Havana.
- The frustration of being a beginner dancer who partners try to avoid — and the long-term satisfaction of pressing on regardless.
- The thrill of having your flight out of Cuba cancelled — and realizing your only alternative is a Soviet plane operated by an airline with a dubious safety record.
- Going for a night-time swim in the dirty water of the Malecon — because a girl you just met challenged you.
- The regrettable experience of trying so hard to become cool that you lose a bit of yourself — and hurt others in the process.
- The satisfaction of training hard at something for hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year — often alone, often without recognition — simply because you love what you’re doing.
About Tom Crosshill
Tom Crosshill’s fiction has been nominated for the Nebula Award (thrice) as well as the Latvian Annual Literature Award. His stories have appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed. In 2009, he won the Writers of the Future contest. After some years spent in Oregon and New York, he currently lives in his native Latvia. In the past, he has operated a nuclear reactor, translated books and worked in a zinc mine, among other things.
Tom’s young adult novel “The Cat King of Havana” is forthcoming from Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins) in 2016.
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