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Fifty years after the Cuban revolution, the legendary wealth of the sugar magnate Julio Lobo remains emblematic of a certain way of life that came to an abrupt end when Fidel Castro marched into Havana. Kwn in his day as the King of Sugar, Lobo was for decades the most powerful force in the world sugar market, controlling vast swaths of the island's sugar interests. Born in 1898, the year of Cuba's independence, Lobo's extraordinary life mirrors, in almost lurid technicolor, the many rises and final fall of the troubled Cuban republic. The details of Lobo's life are fit for Hollywood. He twice cornered the international sugar market and had the largest collection of Napoleonica outside of France, including the emperor's back teeth and death mask. He once faced a firing squad only to be pardoned at the last moment, and he later survived a gangland shooting. He courted movie stars from Bette Davis to Joan Fontaine and filled the swimming pool at his sprawling estate with perfume when Esther Williams came to visit. As Rathbone observes, such are the legends of which revolutions are made and later justified. But Lobo was also a progressive and a philanthropist, and his genius was so widely ackwledged that Che Guevara personally offered him the position of minister of sugar in the Communist regime. When Lobo declined-kwing that their worldviews could never be compatible-his properties were nationalized, most of his fortune vanished overnight, and he left the island, never to return to his beloved Cuba. Financial Times journalist John Paul Rathbone has been fascinated by this intoxicating, whirligig, and contradictory prerevolutionary period his entire life. His mother was also a member of Havana's storied haute bourgeoisie and a friend of Lobo's daughters. Woven into Lobo's tale is her family's experience of republic, revolution, and exile, as well as the author's own struggle to come to grips with Cuba's-and his family's-turbulent history. Prodigiously researched and imaginatively written, The Sugar King of Havana is a captivating portrait of the glittering end of an era, but also of a more hopeful Cuban past, one that might even provide a window into the island's future.
John Paul Rathbone was born in New York and raised in England. Currently the deputy head of the Financial Times's prestigious Lex column, he is a graduate of Oxford and Columbia universities. He has worked as an economist and a journalist, as well as at the World Bank. His articles have appeared in many publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Britain's Sunday Telegraph, Colombia's El Espectador, and Esquire, where he was the business columnist from 2002 to 2003. John lives in London. Simon Vance, a former BBC Radio presenter and newsreader, is a full-time actor who has appeared on both stage and television. He has recorded over four hundred audiobooks and has earned over twenty Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, including one for his narration of Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini. A twelve-time Audie finalist, Simon has won Audie Awards for The King's Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan, and The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. Winner of the 2008 Booklist Voice of Choice Award, Simon has also been named an AudioFile Golden Voice as well as an AudioFile Best Voice of 2009.