Reader Reviews

One way to travel to Cuba

Writer Digest Review

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 4

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 4

Production Quality and Cover Design: 3

Plot and Story Appeal: 4

Character Appeal and Development: 4

Voice and Writing Style: 4

Judge’s Commentary*:

I wasn’t quite sure what I would make of Phil Thompson’s 97 MILES SOUTH, since I didn’t think I would initially find the subject matter of any interest—I’m not wildly interested in either Cuba or marlin fishing. But happily, Thompson, while sometimes going a little bit overboard with detail about both the country and the fishing, manages to make a swift-moving and streamlined story, with two compelling characters, Pete and Christina, at the center. The book has a solidly designed interior; the cover image is slightly goofy and cartoonish, and thus doesn’t much match the tone of the book, for me. What keeps the book going is its very solid prose throughout. The dialogue is mostly good, though there are a few leaden moments, particularly when it’s spoken by non-native speakers, as on page 145. (It’s often difficult to render such speech on the page without it sounding stilted, since it sometimes sounds stilted in life.) But these are fairly minor concerns in a book which I otherwise enjoyed a great deal. The author lives in the area, and thus seems to know it like the back of his hand. He conveys the land and the sea and the beauty of both quite vividly.

Just finished your book, in one night couldn’t put it down. Waiting on the next. Anytime your around Wilmington NC shoot me an email. Inshore and offshore fish every chance I get,also into diving. Keep up the great writing.
Thanks again for ” The Trip”
Gavin Webb

Message flagged

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 12:00 PM

Phil Received your book yesterday, finished it today WOW awesome , I really enjoyed the book.. Having been there and experienced many of the aspects of their culture it made the reading that much more enjoyable..You touched on so many challenges they face in everyday life, it is so true what you delivered to the reader…Thanks… I still am planning to return in the near future.

From John Buckman. Placed the 1st book order and through many unforced errors just recieved his copy.  Tks. John

I just finished reading Phil Thompson’s new book 97 Miles South. What a great book! Couldn’t put it down. His knowlege of Big Game Fishing and vivid descriptions of Cuba hooked me. Fishing a Blue Marlin Tournament in an exotic setting such as Cuba-Can it get any better?

The plot takes the reader on a spellbinding ride that exposes the ugly political underside of modern Cuba. Adventure, Romance, Intrigue-It’s all here.

Phil Thompson’s first novel is going to have Randy Wayne White looking over his shoulder. This book is that good. Looking forward to the next Phil Thompson novel.

Nolan Rice
Gulf Breeze, Florida

Fun, entertaining, and often thought provoking read from a writer with what is obviously a genuine voice from experience. This book is easy to lose yourself in and was hard to put down. I love his expression of Cuba “bicycling its way through the jet age”. No doubt, Cuba is stuck in time, and the nearby island of Key West is full of colorful, rebellious, and adventurous characters. Phil Thompson weaves it all together into a vibrant book. Well done! This “new” writer has a very bright future and I look forward to his next book. (I wouldn’t be surprised if this book was made into a movie).
Free Thinker

I ordered the book based on an advertisement in a fishing magazine. The book is well written and moves at at well intentioned pace. The detailed description of the places in Cuba and Key West are spot on and the characters are well developed and enjoyable. Its hard to believe that this is Phil Thompson’s first novel. I can’t wait for the next one?
Scott Ballantyne

“I’m really impressed, it’s a polished novel.
… it’s very captivating, and absolutely beautiful when you talk about nature, fishing and ways of life.
It really finishes strong! The last 50 pages are super suspenseful.
It’s a bit like Hunter S. Thompson’s THE Rum Diaries.”
David Conway – Managing Editor Florida Sportsman Magazine

Hello Phil,
Very nice article in the February Angler.
It said to contact you “For tips and contact information about fishing in Cuba” —- So, here I am.
Do you guide or set up trips there?
Would appreciate whatever tips you can offer.
Again —- a very nice article.
Dick Shafner


Cap’t Phil, my name is Jerry Millstein. I would very much enjoy talking to you about Cuba. Possibly of interest to you, I fished the Isle of Pines(Now the Isle of Youth} several times in the early 1950’s, and the North Coast near Caibarien, from a tiny island called Cayo Los Ensenachos. To describe the fishing, especially for 60-100 lb. Tarpon as great, would be a terrible understatement. You hooked up so often you could wear yourself out. Great bonefishing too. Our tackle was in the dark ages. Spinning was primitive,, our plug reels had no drags, we used solid fiberglass rods, linen line{Mono was yet to be invented},fly rods were split bamboo. I never returned after Fidel took over. I had a chance to speak with Ernest Hemingway ,but never fished with him. Again, I would love to speak  with you. I am still very active in fishing, and hope to return to Cuba one day. Best Regards, Jerry Millstein, MD  (Last of the Mohigans).
Phil- I read with interest your column in the February issue of Coastal Angler. My husband has always wanted to fish in Cuba…staying with locals, not in a tourist lodge. Are you able to arrange or provide contacts for such an expedition? I look forward to purchasing your new book for my husband’s 65th birthday (still young!), and to reading your future columns.
John Buckman
Hey Phil   when we goin to Cuba ???    I want to buy copy of your book…Been  to Cuba, Hemingway Marina, Vinales,Varadaro, Bay of pigs, Pinar del rio,Mantanzas, Cardenas etc… All 3 times by plane…would like to fish Hemingway tournament this year..   great article in Coastal Angler..I fish in Jupiter   had a place in Marathon where I took my Jupiter 31…many times…call me


14 thoughts on “Reader Reviews

  1. Congratulations on your new book! It sounds like it will be here in time to kick off my summer 🙂 I’m looking forward to our next trip to Cuba (late summer). Maybe we’ll be there at the same time and you can show us some of those fishing spots you keep talking about.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. I read with great interest your column and published article in COASTAL ANGLER about Havana and Cuba. Certainly, the fishing is great in Cuba; but my opinion is that your enthusiasm for fishing in Cuba may have left your readers with a clouded impression about the realities of life in Cuba. Once known as the “Pearl of the Antilles”, it has now declined into a poor third world country, with a failed and declining infrastructure, crumbling buildings, diminished exports, low income per capita, and a rationing of food and other staples. All of the above due to a failed tyrannical communist government, with no free elections and absence of civil rights; for example, no freedom of speech or religion. It is difficult to understand your version of comparing present-day Havana to a number of bustling European cities and enclaves. The Malecon is dilapidated and there is the “real” Havana as different from the Havana shown to tourists. With one million people in exile; it is troublesome to think about Havana’s old world charm and nightlife. If there is any Tim Tebow pass, it would be from Miami, but nowhere near Cojimar !! The photo says it all: the blue marlin fed the entire neighborhood for a full week…. Were they that hungry in Cuba ? I would say the fishing is great in Cuba and stick to the FISHING, and leave the rest alone with no references to a presumed fantasy land….

    • Thank you for you comments. It is apparent you have a passion for the island. This is common ground for us, for I too – after more than a dozen visits starting in 1992 – have passion for the people and the land.
      After 50 years of failed U.S policies dealing with Castro’s “tyrannical communist government,” it’s time to change tactics. I was hoping a new attitude would emerge with Mark Rubio. But he has joined the ranks of the “cold war warriors” and the big money that follows.

      I’ve seen the positive effects a people to people contact contact policy can have with the Cuban populaces. When tourist stay in private homes, eat in private restaurants and in our case, hire local fishermen, (which I have outlined in my column) not only does the traveler gain insight into the daily struggle the average Cuban deals with, they aid in dealing with those struggles.
      One cannot travel to Cuba without some funds helping its’ government. But one can minimize those contributions and maximize the benefits to the people.
      If and when you read my book you will understand my politics about Cuba. I have attempted to portray accurately the failings of governments on both sides of the Florida Straits.
      In my columns I encourage Americans to fish in Cuba, and do it now. Because I believe as more Americans visit the Island, meet the people, and spend money, the more it will help bridge this divide that over five decades has grown exponentially in relation to the 97 miles of water that separates our two countries.
      And in answer to your question, Yes, they were that hungry.

      • Capt. Phil:
        Thank you for your prompt reply. I appreciate and respect your comments, although I suspect that we do not agree on many issues about Cuba policy. Nevertheless, you have given me some insight in the struggles of the average Cuban, and I am all for people to people contact; it is the Cuban government which is the problem !!
        Setting politics aside; there is great fishing and diving at Varadero Beach. Hope you get to enjoy it. Again, thank you for your time in replying. Roland Vasallo

  3. I read Phil Thompson’s new book “97 Miles South” and enjoyed it immensely. It was a well written fast moving combination of a great blue marlin fishing story, an insight of modern day Cuba, and a romance novel. Now I have the hots to go to Cuba and see it all! I have read some of your outdoor articles and am looking forward to your next book.

  4. We crossed paths a couple times in Oak Bluffs and we briefly chatted about fishing around the Vineyard and you signed your book for me over the transom.
    Like many fishermen I have a deep collection of fishing related books, most are fairly interesting but read or glanced at once then shelved. I thought, here is another book for my fishing library when you handed it to me. I started it the evening you signed it and took the bait in one gulp. I normally do not read much fiction but it seems clear that a lot of this book is based on your experiences in Cuba. I really enjoyed it!! You got me hook, line and sinker. I would love to know how much was fiction and how much was non-fiction or at least based on your experience in Cuba. My wife kept asking me “what are you reading? You seem really absorbed in it?”

    Frankly, I think this was would make a heck of a great movie…it has action, adventure, humor, romance, big game fishing in a rarely fished destination, the catch of a lifetime, great characters and hot women.

    Well done and best of luck to you.


  5. Phil,

    I bought one of of your first books from an ad I found in a local Orlando fishing report paper on vacation and I have finally had time to sit down to read it. WHAT A Ride !!! I can’t wait to read you next book. The adventure keep me glued to the book and keeps me holding on to the hope of someday going to Cuba for a fishing adventure of my own.



  6. I consider myself lucky enough to have known Phil when I used to live Down South in the Latitude 24 An avid fisherman and story teller it is great to see his writings and experiences come to life in a great book. I picked up the novel and was unable to put it down until it was finished. Great memories were re-born and many a smile broadened on my face as I pondered if this was fiction or non fiction. If you ever get the chance I advise you all to spend a day flats fishing with Phil, whether you are a seasoned angler or just looking to give it a try. A fun day on the water is guaranteed and if you are lucky, you may just get a glimpse into his next new book. Many thanks for the great read Phil, I await hungrily for your next work of art.

  7. My son met you at Wiregrass Mall in Tampa and bought “97 Miles South” for me for Fathers Day. What a great gift! It was a great read and gave me some insight as to what life in Cuba is actually like. We have a friend from Cuba who goes back to visit her grandmother and she has shared some of her stories as well. I loved your story. Thanks

  8. I was an early reader of 97 Miles South. Really enjoyed it. Couldn’t put it down. Great descriptions of life in Cuba and Marlin fishing. Keep me on the list for the next book !

  9. Hey Phil,

    I met you at the Miami Book Fair and my wife came back latter to buy 97 Miles South. What a great story. Not only a great fish story but truly an entertaining and enlightening literary experience. I’ve never been to Cuba and I’ve never caught a Marlin but I have fished extensively through out Everglades National Park and the 10K Islands for tarpon, snook and redfish.
    Your book was an inspiration in more ways than one. If I ever get a chance to go to Cuba you will hear from me before I go.
    Ed Fisher

  10. Hi Phil,
    I met you last week at the Austin House where you were visiting your mother. You gave me a copy of your book.
    First of let me thank you for the book. Reading is one of my favorite pastimes.
    I wasn’t expecting to enjoy 97 Miles South as much as I did. Why? Because it had so much to do with fishing…one of my least favorite activities. However, the fishing scenes were delightfully descriptive and entertaining. That and the descriptions of Cuban life were the two things that really sold me on the story line. I told you that if I like a book I usually finish pretty quickly. I had this one done in four days. My husband commented that I must really be enjoying it because I was reading it so fast.
    The only critical thing I would say is that I would like to know more of what your characters think and feel. It is how I connect to them.
    Im glad you didn’t kill off anyone.
    Lastly, who are you? Ted? Pete?
    Every summer many of our friends call to see what is on my reading list. I will definitely recommend 97Miles South to them.
    Anks again,
    Erin Saucedo

  11. “97 Miles South” was an unexpected diversion for me. As an older female it surprised me that it wasn’t the story plot, diversity and hardships of the Cuban people, or even the complicated political interaction of our two countries that drew me into the story. It was the details of the fishing contest that transported me to the deck of that boat. Thompson’s details of the art that goes into catching a great fish pulled at my imagination. Each time I came to a section of the book specifically about the fishing activities, I could feel myself sitting in that chair, or scanning the horizon looking for the next fish. After weathering the storm and landing that great fish near the end I sat back completely warn out and exhausted. In my mind I had been there with these men fighting the battle. It was a complete feeling of accomplishment. I am passing the book along to another female and I hope she enjoys it as much as I did.

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