Escape From Castro
By Mario J. Lamar

Escape From Castro is an exciting new novel that narrates the story of dedicated, young officers in the Cuban Navy who conspire to assassinate Castro. When their efforts fail, those who survive the bloody ambush struggle desperately to escape Cuba and; the firing squads. Their escape is complicated by intrigues and planted agents who get in their way.

Brandon man bases first novel on experiences living in Cuba

It was a relatively short boat ride - seven hours in calm waters. Yet, it was the most dangerous trip of Mario Lamar’s life.

An officer in the Cuban Navy in 1960, Lamar would certainly have faced a firing squad if he’d been apprehended by Fidel Castro’s military as he traveled by cabin cruiser from Cuba to Key West to defect to the United States.

Now, nearly 40 years later, the Brandon man writes from the heart about the communist dictator’s rise to power in a fictionalized account called "Escape from Castro."

Years in the making, Lamar hopes the story will shed light on the atrocities the Cuban people have suffered since Castro came to power in 1959.

Born in Havana to a Cuban diplomat, Lamar studied to become a dentist but changed career paths to pursue his love of the sea. He joined the Naval Academy of Cuba and was serving as an officer in the Cuban navy when Castro came to power.

He said he decided to defect to the United States after meeting Castro. "I spent four days on a yacht with him," Lamar said. "He couldn’t stop talking about the United States. His feelings were close to hate. He talked about confiscating American boats and a small oil reserve American had in Cuba. I saw the writing on the wall. My father realized it as well."

While the majority of Lamar’s family, including his diplomat father, left the country by plane, Lamar, his older brother and a cousin escaped in at 24-foot cabin cruiser. At the time, Lamar was serving as executive officer of the Cuban Underwater Demolition Team.

"We were very lucky," he said. "There were no major problems. But they would have executed us without any question if we’d been caught sneaking out." The cabin cruiser ran out of gas three miles off Florida coast, but the Coast Guard rescued the three men.

However, that wasn’t Lamar’s last view of his homeland. He promptly joined a brigade of ex-patriots and commanded a ship during the Bay of Pigs invasion in which the United States attempted to oust Castro.

Afterward, the brigade members, many of whom were former members of the Cuban military, were invited to join the U.S. Armed Forces. Lamar signed on to the U.S. Navy, graduating with distinction from Officer Candidate School in Newport, R.I.

He volunteered to go to Vietnam and, while there, earned the Bronze Star, the Navy Commendation Medal and the cross of Gallantry from the Vietnamese government.

Afterward, Lamar served as operations officer aboard the USS Spiegel Grove, as staff navigator with the Second Fleet and as Navy liaison officer with the Southern Command staff in the Canal Zone. He transferred to the Dental Corps in 1980 and retired with the rank of commander in 1991.

Lamar said it was his wife, Karol, and English teacher at Bloomingdale High School, who encouraged him to write the book, which he subsequently dedicated to her.

"My wife thought I should write a book about my experiences," Lamar said. "But I didn’t want to write about myself. This is fiction based on fact. It’s a very emotional story about two young people who fall in love in a country that has fallen to a communist dictator. The book is based on the human aspect but there’s also a lot of action."

In the novel, young officers in the Cuban Navy conspire to assassinate Castro. When their efforts fail, those who survive the bloody ambush struggle to escape Cuba and the firing squads.

Lamar, who is active in the Cuban American Military Council, which plans to one day assist Cuba in becoming a democracy, said he hopes the book relays to Americans what life is like under Castro.

"People say he’s charismatic. But it’s hard for me to think of him that way when he’s so cruel," Lamar said. "I want to let the American people know what has happened in Cuba. At the same time, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Cuban community will like this book."

In fact, the book has received glowing endorsements from at last two Cuban nationals.

Armando Valladares, author of "Against All Hope" an autobiographical account of his 20 years in a Cuban prison, called Lamar’s book "a vivid reflection of the abuses the Cubans have endured under Castro, told in the most realistic and powerful fashion."

The book also received the endorsement of retired Maj. Gen. Erneido A. Oliva, who was second in command for the brigade during the Bay of Pigs invasion. Oliva called it "a compelling fictional work portraying the real horrors the Cubans suffered under Castro…written with the authority of a great Cuban patriot who lived through it, got away and survived to write about it."

Residents will have a chance to meet Lamar and have copies of the book signed at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Brandon TownCenter March 6 at noon.

In the meantime, Lamar is at work on his second novel, a sequel to "Escape from Castro" using some of the same characters.

$14.95 plus $5.00 s & h
VA residents please add 4.5% sales tax
(add $.50 s&h for each additional copy to a single address)

6 x 9".Paper.ISBN 1-883911-21-4. Color cover. $15.95


1.800.553.6922 (orders only) or 804.435.6900 (for information)
P.O. Box 261, White Stone, Virginia 22507

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