|Ernesto Guevara en Santa Clara. Diciembre 1958 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
By Rags Daniels
True, all men have tendencies, inclinations, talents, penchants. Parcelled up, they are proclivities. Proclivities— that’s a nice word, got twelve letters too. Place a parcel of proclivity in shadow; drain it of contrition, of compassion and remorse. Direct the remains at your enemy. Then, when no more than a bead of perspiration away, stop. Your eyes turn in on your brain. Your brain fails to register the conquest. Sanity abounds, remains intact. You have accomplished what you set out to do. You have become accomplished. You are the accomplished. Skillful, talented, masterly, an expert. In truth a Lallapaloosa; the best. Twelve letters, eleven spaces, one word, Lallapaloosa. Spoken, it melts into nothingness like spun sugar. Whispered, it melts nothingness. And thirty years ago there was plenty of that.
Early 60s I was finishing high school and starting to work immediately after, so I didn't pay too much attention to what was going on in the world--I'm a self-learner, so I've always both studied and worked at the same time in order to do the job...Did I ever become a Lallapaloosa, yeah, I like to think so, but after meeting Richard Strang, I'm not so sure.
Especially on the day he accepted and called himself a Lallapaloosa!
Richard Strang was a mercenary.. This is the story of his march toward becoming that lallapaloosa...and what that really meant...
'Che' Ernesto Guevara in both the Congo and in Bolivia. Based upon historical fact, Rags Daniels gives readers an exciting action adventure of alternative history. Did Guevara really die in 1967 as announced to the world?
Does it really matter? Yes to some, but for those who are reading this novel, feel free to compare it to historical fact as you can verify... Me, I enjoyed it as an engaging "what if" that took me deep into the lives of a group of mercenaries who were led by Richard Strang.
It's 30 years later when we meet Strang...some of his men are already dead--murdered.
Somebody wants all of them dead... Or, they want something that they think one of them has... Either way, dead is going to be dead whether the reason why is discovered, right?
In order to stay alive, they've got to review what was happening in Bolivia and what could still be important 30 years later!
The novel opens in a London Inn with Strange musing about life--just the fact that he was alive rather than dead as he was
30 years ago...
Neither of us, at that time, knew who the blind man was who came asking about Che in Bolivia...Of course, I do now, but it's important that Strang didn't know...
Strang's next visitor said he was from Sam Garrow, who had been part of his group in Bolivia... Of course Sam was dead, so Strang blasted the stranger's eye with the cuban cigar he was usually smoking...asking again who had sent him...
When he learned that the man he had just been talking to was Sam Garrow (using the name Sam Kyle), Strang immediately went after him, only to find that the woman with whom he'd left the Inn was now dead...
Strang went looking for Leo Delaney, a Liverpool-Irish who had been and always would be a con man...but he'd been with Strang's group...and Strang needed information! He learned that Delaney had been almost sure that Garrow was alive, telling about the occasions when he'd thought he'd seen him...
Putting together what they knew brought them to the reality that Garrow, or somebody, was moving through the group...several were already gone and then Kinsella was killed!
“The very same. Kinsella sends his love by the way, and Laban. The rest of them were too busy munching pussy to talk.” “Robillard?”
“Dead. Car bomb. Marseilles.”
“Pezzani?” “Same. Amalfi coast road. Out of the twelve, there are only seven of us left. Kinsella, Laban, Philbin, Nash, the old Greek Tsigaredes and us two.”
“I’m talking ’65. He wasn’t part of the Congo group.”
“You still got the notebook Ché gave you?”
“Lost it years ago, along with the Croix-de-Guerre Dupoix asked me to look after before he led that raid in Katanga province ...” Leo stumbled into silence. His jaw muscles bunched as he gazed out beyond the windscreen. It was a gaze focused on nothing in particular. “Shit fight. Shit country. Shit army.” His voice was low. Anger strained beneath his words. “Ché knew Tshombe’s men were unsophisticated tacticians, barefoot serial killers, fucking Neanderthals. That’s why he employed us. Funny when you think about it. Ché went to the Congo to fight us white mercenaries, and ended up giving us a job.”
“Now, Les’ (that’s the feller who owns the villa next door) is away. He’s away for another three weeks on business and the place is all locked up. I put the glasses on and take a gander. ‘If this was Cochabamba, that could be you up there, Kinsella’, I said.
All of a sudden, up went the friggin’ table and the lads dived for cover behind the patio wall. The table, one of them plastic ones, ends up like the top of a pepper pot, a grand’s worth of sliding patio doors turn into a glass jigsaw, and I end up copping one in the leg.”
I smiled. I couldn’t help it. “You always were unlucky, Leo.”
“Kinsella went ape-shit. For a sixty two year old, he can’t half move. He ran inside, grabbed my old hunting rifle, went upstairs, and let fly at the shutters below the decoy. Half a minute later a car comes tearing down the road, past the end of my drive, and disappears down the hill.”
I glanced at my watch. “I could sit and listen to you reminisce all day Leo, but I’ve things to do.”
“You going after this wacko Garrow, then?”
“Nights of sleeping with one eye open and the other half closed are long gone. Sure I’m going after him. If I don’t, he’ll only keep coming after us.”
“Why? What do you reckon his game is?”
“Just that, a game,” I lied. He wants to end up the only dead man living.”
I enjoyed moving back and forth from the present to the past, especially learning about when they had died... Believe me, they had been sent to blow up a munitions dump...and they didn't make it...
There was a pause while we looked at each other, then Jake eased himself back into his seat. “You know what I’m talking about then,” he said, speaking quietly. “Only don’t try telling me thirty years of insanity stems from blowing up an old sugar mill full of ammo.”
“I can still hear the explosion,” Tsigi butted in. “And the blast! Pezzani and Robillard must’ve cocked the timers up, because the whole dump went up before any of us reached cover. Jesus, it was some blast. You couldn’t see further than your nose for clouds of thick white dust and rocks raining down from a quarter of a mile up. I’m telling you, we all died out there, Richie.” “Blasted to kingdom-come,” Jake interrupted. “Somehow survived it, and came out the other side licking the taste of hell from our lips.”.
“He’s right, Richie,” Tsigi added. “I saw it too, we all did, and you were with us. You and that Indian.” Jake smiled sarcastically, poured himself another Scotch, and leaned back in his chair. “Okay. You say it never happened ...
“I never said that.”
“Then explain why we were never caught. Because within one hour of the blast half the garrison based at Santa Cruz, along with a handful of American advisors, scoured the whole area and found nothing. Even Garrow hung on for two days, just in case we turned up.”
“Believe that and you’ll believe anything,” I said. “Forget Garrow then,” Jake said testily. “Nine of us spent two days of our lives on a magical mystery tour of God knows where, led by that Indian mate of yours, before ending up near that rail head south of Cochabamba.”
“Tarata,” Tsigi recollected.
Jake’s eyes were still on me. “Look it up in an atlas, Richie. Tarata is a hundred and fifty mile crow flight from La Esperanza, then explain how nine of us, not counting the Indian, covered the distance in two days without food or water and surfaced daisy friggin’ fresh, slap bang in the middle of a coffee plantation.”
“I can’t. I can’t explain it. It just happened.” Jake scratched the side of his neck with a carefully manicured fingernail. “But you admit you saw the things I mentioned earlier? The burning ice, the mountains of bones, heard the piercing screams, felt the blood pouring from your ears?”
A little bit of mysticism added to this action adventure was just what threw Daniel's novel into a great book that I highly recommend! In fact, I'd like to have had a little more narrative during that period...but once we got back into what's happening in the present, and finish the book, you realize--Whew! what did indeed happen there?! There is a little more explanation of who was involved, but I'm leaving that for you readers to discover on your own...Great history review, fun alternative history viewpoint and lots of actions and adventure with a touch of paranormal...Cool Story!