“What is love?” That was the question Stephen Kimber, interim director of the School of Journalism at the University of King’s College, was seeking an answer to in Cuba in May 2009. While there, Kimber hired a guide by the name of Alejandro Trlles to show him the “real” Havana. Not only did Trlles show him parts of the city rarely visited by tourists, he also sparked in Kimber an interest that would consume him for the next three years.
“We became friendly over the course of a couple days and he was the one who really told me about the Cuban Five and told me enough to sort of tantalize that there was a good story here,” says Kimber.
The story, What Lies Across the Water, is a factual account of the five Cuban intelligence officers convicted in Miami of conspiracy to commit espionage, conspiracy to commit murder, acting as an agent of a foreign government and other illegal activities in the United States.
Kimber had intended to write a fictional romance novel which would take place in Halifax and Cuba, but upon returning to Halifax, he gradually pushed aside his research for the romance novel and began gathering more and more information on the Cuban Five. Over the next year, Kimber began looking through documentation and trial transcript to better understand the situation.
“When I started, I was less interested in it as a cause and just this fascinating story about terrorism, espionage, accusations of murder, and the appearance of somebody like Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the middle of it all. But the more I got into it, the more I realized that there was an injustice here as well,” Kimber says.
Kimber found that there was much controversy and international criticism surrounding the convictions of the Cuban Five. In order to get the true story, Kimber interviewed family members, people in Cuban state security and former agents. He was also able to communicate with all members of the Cuban Five via mail or email.
“At a certain point I decided that I believed the Cuban version more than the American version of what was going on, but at the same time I included in the book lots of things that run counter to the Cuban version of events to let people decide for themselves,” says Kimber.
Kimber’s timely book launch marks the 15th anniversary since the arrest of the Cuban Five. Kimber hopes his book will inform more people about the situation and start a conversation.
“For a lot of people who didn’t know anything about [the Cuban Five] I think the timing is important because if they are going to be released it’s got to be a political decision. Hopefully the book will have some impact on the public discussion.”