Book Review: 97 Miles South by Phillip D. Thompson

In his debut novel, 97 Miles South, outdoor writer and regular Coastal Angler Magazine columnist Phil Thompson takes his readers aboard a sixty five foot yacht on its way to Cuba for the annual Marina Hemingway marlin tournament. But this trip ends up being much more that a big fish tournament.

The anglers arrive in Cuba ready both to compete and to enjoy the scenery and people of our island neighbor to the south. Pete, a veteran Cuba hand, ventures out into the countryside with the team’s Cuban fixer Fito to visit friends and make arrangements for the team.  He meets Christina, a beautiful teacher who works as an escort to make ends meet and as the week long tournament progresses, Pete and Christina grow closer. What Pete doesn’t know is that Christina is considered the “property” of a Cuban Army Colonel.

The tournament action and Pete’s relationship heat up as this fast paced novel continues. The anglers battle engine troubles, a strong cold front and ultimately a huge Blue marlin that could win the tournament for them.  The description of the fight for this fish and the aftermath is seriously intense.

The crew returns to the States and Pete plans a risky nighttime run to Cuba to rescue Christina from the Colonel. In this climactic scene, Pete and Christina race the Cubans, the Coast Guard and Homeland Security to try to reach Key West and gain Christina’s freedom.

While giving the readers the action scenes they came for, Mr. Thompson clearly shows the effects of the last 50 years on the Cuban people. Yet, in scenes such as the pig capture and the beautifully described mountain restaurant the crew-members visit, he shows that even with the decades of privation, the will and humor of the Cuban people cannot be denied.

97 Miles South is filled with enough vivid descriptions of ocean life, rural Cuba and the excitement, camaraderie and wild antics of big time tournament fishing to keep the reader turning pages even when they should be turning out the light to sleep. If you can’t hop on a 65 Hatteras and head south, grab a copy, turn off your phone and make the trip with author Phil Thompson and his crew.

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