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Leonardo Padura was born in Cuba in 1955. A journalist, critic, essayist and author of several novels and short story collections, he is perhaps best known for his Havana crime series featuring the detective Mario Conde. His latest novel, The Man Who Loved Dogs, won the Premio Francesco Gelmi di Caporiacco in Italy, the Prix Initiales and Prix Roger Caillois in France, and the National Literature Prize in Cuba. Padura lives in Havana with his wife.
Who is your ideal reader?
My wife, Lucía. She is usually sharp and cruel – just what I need when I’m writing.
What books are on your nightstand?
Now I have a Kindle with 700 novels on it so the question has become meaningless. Right now, I’m reading a novel by George Pelecanos; I just finished one by Arnaldur Indridason.
What book changed your life?
The Count of Monte Cristo. It turned me into a reader.
When did you know you were going to be a writer?
When I realised I would not get anywhere as a baseball player.
What is your daily writing routine?
Six hours from 7am to 1pm, every day, including Sundays, if I’m home.
Who are your literary influences?
Thousands . . . JD Salinger, Ernest Hemingway, John Updike, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Mario Vargas Llosa . . .
What is the best advice a parent gave you?
You are free – what you do with that freedom is your problem.
Who would you most like to sit next to at a dinner?
JD Salinger. I have things to ask.
What are you afraid of?
Lots of things. But what I fear most is madness.
What keeps you awake at night?
When do you feel most free?
When I finish a novel.
When was the last time you cried?
On two occasions recently, almost in succession: when my father died, and then, a few days later, when my dog Chorizo died.
What would you change about yourself?
If you could own any painting, what would it be?
A small drawing by Rembrandt of a Dutch landscape.
What book do you wish you had written?
Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman.
How would you make a living if you had to stop writing?
I would be a seller in a Cuban market. I have deep down the soul of a thief. All Cubans steal in business. I would be happy.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
130km from my house. On Varadero beach [on the north Cuban coast].
Do you remember he first novel you read?
No, but it must have been one by Emilio Salgari.
‘The Man Who Loved Dogs’ is published by Bitter Lemon Press in the UK, and by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the US