Author(s): Stephen Purvis
In October 2011, Stephen Purvis was a pillar of Havana's expat community, one of many foreign businessmen investing in Cuba's crawl from Cold War communism towards modernity. But for reasons unknown to him he was also under State Security's microscope. His boss had been detained already and now the secret police were tailing his daily dog-walks. Trusting in his innocence, Purvis ignored the warnings of friends and tried to keep the business running. One morning, while his family slept, the unmarked Ladas of State Security arrived at his home and he was taken away into the absurd and brutal world of Cuban justice. In this engrossing memoir, Purvis recounts his fifteen-month ordeal in two bizarre and terrifying prisons. Accused at first of selling state secrets, he is taken to the notorious Villa Marista. There, he endures brutal conditions, designed by the KGB and Stasi to break the bodies and minds of spies and political prisoners, and resists the paranoia and incompetence of his jailers. Later, held under a maximum-security regime in the prison camp of La Condesa, he finds himself surrounded by an eccentric, international cast of convicted people-smugglers, paedophiles and drug-runners, together with a handful of confused businessmen also awaiting formal charges and trial. From his arrest to his farcical trial and subsequent release, Purvis exposes the madness of modern Cuba with wit, grit and a sharp eye for character. As tourists flock to Havana to marvel at a city frozen in time, he shows that despite reforms and international reconciliation the Castro regime remains a corrupt, dictatorial relic. Humane, funny and perceptive, Close But No Cigar is a prison memoir with a difference.
Stephen Purvis, a Wimbledon-born architect, was held in Cuba after his company, Coral Capital Group, fell foul of a massive anti-corruption drive launched by President Raul Castro. He spent fifteen months in Cuban jails before safely returning to Britain in 2013.