Cover image for The crook factory
The crook factory
Simmons, Dan.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Avon Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
ix, 436 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Format :


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In 1942, at the height of World War Two, Ernest Hemingway sought permission from the U.S. government to operate a spy ring from the Cuban countryside. This much is true.... It is the summer of '42, and FBI agent Joe Lucas has come to Cuba at the behest of J. Edgar Hoover to keep an eye on Ernest Hemingway. The great writer has assembled a ragtag spy ring that he calls "the Crook Factory" to play a dangerous game of amateur espionage. But when Lucas and Hemingway, against all the odds, uncover a critical piece of intelligence -- the game turns deadly....

Author Notes

Science fiction writer Dan Simmons was born in East Peoria, Illinois in 1948. He graduated from Wabash College in 1970 and received an M. A. from Washington University the following year.

Simmons was an elementary school teacher and worked in the education field for a decade, including working to develop a gifted education program.

His first successful short story was won a contest and was published in 1982. His first novel, Song of Kali, won a World Fantasy Award, and Simmons has also won a Theodore Sturgeon Award for short fiction, four Bram Stoker Awards, and eight Locus Awards. He is also the author of the Hyperion series, and Simmons and his work have been compared to Herbert's Dune and Asimov's Foundation series.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This work is a fictionalized account of the counterespionage operation set up by Ernest Hemingway during World War II. With the permission of the U.S. ambassador to Cuba, Hemingway assembles a group that includes a 12-year-old orphan, an American millionaire, a jai alai champion, a priest, fishermen, prostitutes, and sundry others. The FBI obliges by sending special agent Joe Lucas undercover to keep an eye on the amateurs and report to J. Edgar Hoover. Lucas, who is fluent in Spanish and German, is also an efficient killer, a skill that Hoover darkly hints may be necessary in this assignment. At one point, Lucas and Hemingway rescue a young Cuban prostitute from the clutches of corrupt police only to discover later that she is a German double agent. In the background are Hemingway's indifferent wife and a score of guests to their dinner parties, including Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich, and Ingrid Bergman. Hemingway tells Lucas that "fiction is a way of trying to tell things in a way that is truer than truth." It's a statement actually attributed to Hemingway and reflects the contours of the game of deception all the characters are playing: writer, actors, spies. Sickened by the interagency rivalries that motivate cover operations, Lucas becomes charmed by Hemingway's sincerity despite the writer's blustering character. Measured against Hoover, a paranoid so self-absorbed that national security takes second place to protecting his own vaunted position, Hemingway and his motley group begin to erode Lucas' sense of mission. This fabulously compelling and humorous rendering of little-known war operations and secret agent skulduggery in the Caribbean in the summer of 1942 will surely charm readers who love history, suspense, and intrigue. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

In previous novels, Simmons has cast John Keats as an intergalactic emissary (Hyperion) and Mark Twain as an occult adventurer (Fires in Eden). His new excursion in fictional literary biography‘and first nonfantasy since Phases of Gravity (1989)‘is a gutsy speculation on Ernest Hemingway's exploits in wartime espionage, much of it apparently based on fact. In 1942, Hemingway petitioned the American embassy for help in establishing a counterintelligence outfit he called "The Crook Factory," designed to investigate Nazi activity in his adopted home of Cuba. Joe Lucas, a dedicated if unimaginative young FBI agent, thinks he has been assigned to humor the well-connected writer but soon discovers that Hemingway and his crew of colorful sycophants have stumbled on a Nazi spy nest abuzz with activity. Someone is channeling information through the island's intelligence underground, all of it implicating a host of historical celebrities. The more deeply Hemingway's team probes, the more Lucas is persuaded that the Crook Factory has been deliberately set up as an expendable military subterfuge. As vividly depicted by Simmons, pre-Communist Cuba is an exotic locale whose volatile wartime intrigues are comparable to those of the cinematic Casablanca. It's the perfect milieu for Hemingway, whose larger-than-life evocation must be accounted one of Simmons's sterling literary achievements. The macho figure he cuts here is the stuff of countless Life magazine photos, and his development as Joe's friend and mentor is handled with intelligence and dignity. No one will mistake the novel's immersions in the numbing, repetitive detail of secret service operations for Papa's own concise prose. But the web of conspiracy Simmons spins, the zesty characters it entangles and its intricate cross-weave of fact and fiction distinguish this celebration of the Hemingway centenary. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Simmons, the author of award winners like Hyperion, has written a novel that actually sounds like a lot of fun. In the summer of 1942, FBI agent Joe Lucas locks horns with Hemingway, who is in Cuba playing at being a spy. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.