It’s no secret that my Guerrilla books are heavily influenced by the actual events and characters of the Cuban Civil War.
But I didn’t find the heroes where I expected. I set out expecting to write a book featuring a super-cool clone of Che Guevarra — the iconic Guerrillero Heroica on every cool guy’s 1960s tee-shirt — only to discover the real Che had feet of clay.
Instead, I came upon fascinating sub-characters in the Castro-Guevara plot like Camillo Cienfuegos, from whom Sebastien borrows one or two exploits. All that stuff is here if you’re interested.
Luzmilla was inspired by the unsung clandestino heroes who paved the way for the guerrilla squads working as couriers and to keep the fighting squads supplied with guns, ammunition and medicine, often working right under the noses of the Cuban secret police. The First Guerrilla didn’t offer many opportunities for clandestinos to take centre stage, but they get more chances to shine in The Second Guerrilla: M5M.
Frank Pais stood high in the roll of honour — a flamboyant, larger than life character who is widely credited with saving the revolution when Castro’s return to Cuba from exile was disastrously botched. Frank Santamaria in The Second Guerrilla draws heavily on his exploits. My character gets his surname from Haydee Santamaria, another heroic clandestina who died under torture rather than reveal the secrets she guarded.
But first and foremost among my Cuban heroes is Celia Sánchez, a towering figure among the revolutionary elite who’s almost unknown outside her native land. Celia was middle class, staid, the prim and proper spinster daughter of a prominent rural doctor. She organised volunteer efforts to support the poor, raising vast sums of money while secretly building networks to support the revolution.
When the storm broke, she narrowly avoided arrest — the rea-life incident on which The Second Guerrilla excerpt Run for your life is based, though Celia did it all on her own while her surrogate in my story, Monica Hernandez, has the help of a fearless sidekick in Luzmilla.
Celia went to the mountains and became Fidel Castro’s right-hand woman, at his side running the underground networks until the guerrillas marched into Havana. She went on to a brilliant career driving social programs in post-revolutionary Cuba as a highly-respected colleague of the Castros.
If you’re looking for an inspiring biography about an extraordinary woman, I strongly recommend Celia’s story, One Day in December, by Nancy Stout.
Watch out for the first three chapter sample of The Second Guerrilla: M5M coming soon!