The sub-genre of historical fiction is growing as authors discover footnotes to history as ripe fodder. In Errol, Fidel and the Cuban Rebel Girls: A Novel, Boyd Anderson finds inspiration in the story of Lothario Errol Flynn in the last year of his life.

An alcoholic and in huge debt after a series of flops and a string of scandalous relationships, he dreams up the idea of making a movie in Cuba, where Fidel Castro and his rebel forces are in the process of overthrowing the Batista regime. Admired by Castro, Flynn is given unprecedented access to the revolution in action.

But despite its obvious potential, the movie Cuban Rebel Girls turns out to be a monumental flop and a sad epitaph for Flynn’s career. The juxtaposition of the careers of our two ‘heroes’ is intriguing — Castro’s is on the ascendancy, and he is seeking the renown that Flynn, on his downward spiral, had long foregone.

The relationship is fascinating because it is true. Though Anderson could have used this material to write a book of historical nonfiction, the guise of fiction (in Flynn’s voice) has allowed him the freedom to include imagined conversations unconstrained by the dearth of first-hand accounts.

The experience for readers is enhanced because of it. Packed full of historical trivia, this book will expose a new generation to this period of recent history. It deserves to be hand-sold and pushed to the front of the store.

*Scott Whitmont is the owner of Lindfield Bookshop and Children’s Bookshop and is an aficionado of both film and political history. This review courtesy of Bookseller+Publisher‘s books blog Fancy Goods.