douard Jean. Toussaint Dirige Vers la Bataille
By Stephen Becker W.W. Norton and Company, 1987
After the American occupation of Haiti (1915-1934) it was often said that every American officer above the rank of Lieutenant, wrote a book about Haiti. Some even wrote two. Most of those books distinguish themselves as pure trash--racist, elitist, uninformed, imperialist.
Stephen Becker's novel, published in 1987, suffers most of the same flaws. These features were an embarrassment in the 1930s, but understandable from men who had fought the Haitians in the Caco War of 1918-19, from men raised in the white supremacist atmosphere of America of the 1920s and 30s. But coming from Stephen Becker in 1987--well, it's a bit much to take.
The all-American hero, Robert McAllister comes to Haiti fresh from the "Great War" in Europe. Soon he is followed by his lover, Caroline Barbour, daughter of McAllister's commanding officer in France. The Caco War is raging in Haiti, but the blacks under Charlemagne Martel, can't really fight the marines, so a renegade white Canadian becomes the "white Caco" to explain the successes the Cacos do have.
The one Haitian character for whom we are supposed to have some positive feelings, Father Scarron, tells us about the Haitians: "We are an immensely proud people, and for over a century we have done nothing whatever to be proud of."
Even the leader, Martel (the Charlemagne Peralte figure) doesn't even believe in his own cause and confesses to his priest friend: "By God, maybe the Americans should win."
Yikes, but even this is not enough. The white Caco kidnaps the heroine; McAllister, the white hero, rides into the Caco main camp, kills the kidnaper, saves his girl, while the dying white Caco kills the Haitian leader. Too much--you bet. It's fun to read books about Haiti, but avoid this one!