Chuck Pfarrer's acclaimed Warrior Soul has been called one of the finest memoirs of modern Special Operations Forces. Now the decorated Navy SEAL makes his dazzling fiction debut with this gutsy, riveting thriller about the action-packed hunt for history's most infamous rebel insurgent: Che Guevara.
The year is 1967. Paul Hoyle, a CIA paramilitary officer, has resigned from the agency an incident in Laos that left one man dead and Hoyle's face scarred by gunshot. But Hoyle is soon drawn back into the agency's fold, finding himself a "fallen angel," an independent contractor the U.S. secretly sends to global hot spots.
Bolivia, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is a nation ripe for Communist infiltration and revolution. So the stage is set for a duel between world ideologies, with players from Washington to Moscow to Havana. After a Bolivian army unit is disastrously ambushed, Hoyle is dispatched to South America by a CIA concerned that another Vietnam may be in the works. With Cuban-sponsored guerrillas afoot and a corrupt Bolivian military opposing them, Hoyle finds the jungle a treacherous place where honor and morality are surrendered to the basic business of survival.
Though Che Guevara, the charismatic revolutionary who helped Castro take hold in Cuba, is believed to have been killed in the Congo-or executed by Fidel himself-a rucksack recovered after a deadly gunfight suggests that the Marxist rebel may be heading up this new, highly effective insurgency.
World-weary Hoyle draws ever nearer to the passionate revolutionary, as a struggle between worldviews is fought with automatic weapons in steamy jungles, veiled threats in government offices, and even exchanged secrets in hotel bedrooms-for at the center of this intense cat-and-mouse game are two captivating women who may hold the keys to these men's destinies. Tania Výnke is Guevara's crucial undercover operative and occasional lover, a conflicted woman with secrets entrusted to her by Guevara himself. And beautiful Maria Agular is the elegant mistress of the Bolivian minister of information, a tormented soul whom Hoyle dares to trust with both information and his heart.
Terrorism expert Chuck Pfarrer packs this electrifying plot with insider knowledge of intelligence tradecraft. Populated with powerfully drawn characters, Killing Che is a stunning re-creation of a conflict that sealed the fate of one of the twentieth century's most controversial and complex political figures-a man whose renown continues to grow decades after his violent end.
In this ambitious, meticulous thriller, Pfarrer's first novel, set in 1967, CIA officer Paul Hoyle travels to Bolivia to participate in an operation to eliminate the leftist revolutionary Che Guevara. As Hoyle descends deeper and deeper into a web of suspect alliances and unsavory types, he begins to have doubts about his mission. His admiration for Guevara is one problem. Another comes in the form of a romance with Maria Agular, who works for a government ministry. Unfortunately, this romance never rises above cliche ("not only did they delight in making love, they enjoyed each other's company"). Far more convincing is Guevara's relationship with his lover "Tania" (Heidi Tamara Vunke). Pfarrer, an ex-Navy Seal and author of the memoir Warrior Soul, is unwilling or unable to give the iconic figure of Guevara a personal life that feels lived in or comfortable. Still, the action moves forward at a brisk pace, and the research never overwhelms the reader. If the novel falters somewhat in the last pages, it's precisely because of the failure to fully imagine Guevara the private individual. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 02, 2007
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Excerpt from Killing Che by Chuck Pfarrer
THE PLACE WAS not perfect. This was not where he'd wanted to fight, not on this road, and not on this hillside, which was mostly barren and lit fully by the afternoon sun. Che Guevara had not wished to ambush the truck in the first place, but the soldiers in it had seen the forward element as they were drawing water from the stream next to the road, and the engagement was sharp and fast. Guevara had cursed when the lead column blundered close to the road, and he was furious when he heard the pop pop pop of rifles firing ahead of him.
Guevara trotted past the burning truck, and the reek of flaming tires wafted over him, sharp and acrid. Some of the smoke was white, but most of it was black and rising in a dense, greasy pillar above the mountain road and into a vividly cloudless sky. By the time Guevara reached the place where the stream cut under the road, he guessed that perhaps a hundred bullets had been fired into the cab alone--a quarter blasted through the windshield--and as the driver lost control, the truck had lurched off the turn, smashing over a low guardrail but somehow remaining upright. Guevara had splashed out of the culvert in time to see the bodies of the driver and the passenger dragged from the cab. Their heads lolled, and the heels of their boots made white marks across the road as the corpses were hidden next to the stream. What had been fatal misfortune for the truck drivers would now become an opportunity for the guerrillas.
Guevara knew that from the valley the smoke could be seen for miles. As he crossed the road, he looked back at the burning hulk; inside the cab he could see the steering wheel ablaze in a perfect circle of flames. He was certain now that the army would come, and he was confident that at this distance, the Bolivian soldiers would not see him, his men, or the ambush put down on the last of the tight hairpin turns carved into the mountainside.
All he had to do was wait.
Cradling his rifle in the crook of his elbow, Guevara moved into cover behind a large boulder. His dark hair was shoulder-length, and his beard, thin as it was, covered his face from nose to chin. He was of medium height, and six weeks in the cordillera had made his features sharp and angular--he still looked younger than his thirty- eight years, but rather more haggard than he had looked in many months.
At the boulder, Guevara shifted the weight of his pack off his hips, then the straps from his shoulders. His back was wet where the pack had covered it, and his shirt stuck to his skin as he dropped the rucksack onto the gravel. Where Guevara took cover, there were two men, Joaquin and one of the Bolivian comrades, Willy. Joaquin calmly chewed a piece of grass as Guevara took a map from his pocket and unfolded it on the dirt. Resting his chin on his hand, Guevara looked at the map and then below, where the ribbon of oiled road switched back on itself in a series of tight hairpins. What was called the Camiri Highway was not much more than a two-lane dirt track. Often it was worse. Immediately before each of the hairpin corners was a rude wooden guardrail, and beyond the series of drop-offs, the road was thin and nearly straight as it traversed the valley nine or ten kilometers distant. In places, the road doubled on itself, trees clumped together, and on the valley floor, irregularly shaped plots of corn were bordered by clumps of brush and lavish stands of hardwood. As it paid off into the valley, the road shone almost white against the grass-covered hillsides.
Joaquin squinted down into the valley. On the road below, a truck and two jeeps appeared over a distant hill and slowly, slowly began the long climb.
"I'm guessing we have twenty minutes, maybe thirty," Joaquin said.
"Yes," Guevara answered.
"Do you think they'll send a patrol up first?"
"If they do, we'll see it."