The first time I read David Grann’s writing in The New Yorker, I felt like I stumbled onto something really special: a nonfiction writer whose work was totally and completely accessible to everyone. It started with “Trial of Fire,” then “A Murder Foretold.” I scanned backward, “The Chameleon,” and “Mysterious Circumstances.” Each impossibly heartbreaking stories, told with the kind of painstaking clarity and genuine interest that has made Grann so beloved.
Of course, there’s more of Grann to read—his older stories in the magazine (I’m particularly interested in his piece on Rickey Henderson, one of my favorite baseball players ever), and his book The Lost City of Z. I’ve felt for a few years now that I’ll soon take a lonely, shut-in vacation weekend someplace new and just bang that out in 48 hours.
When I heard this week that Grann had penned a new piece forThe New Yorker, I was thrilled. In the two hours it took me to read, I tried—not too hard, I ‘spose—to get some real work done; but I couldn’t tear myself away.
Grann tells the heartbreaking story of William Alexander Morgan, an American runaway whose role in the Cuban Revolution made him a hero in the early years of Castro’s rule. In the United States, he was an enigma. The CIA had no idea what to do with him, or why he was there, or what for. Though it’s a tale of international intrigue, set in the context of the Cold War and Cuba’s drive toward communism, its heart is in the humanity of it all: Morgan’s looney bravado, his romance with another Cuban revolutionary, his experiments breeding bullfrogs, his dreams for his new country.