top of page

Dodging Bullets and Disease in Cuba - an Editorial Review of "The Fever Hut"

Book Blurb:

In the summer of 1898, Duncan Cleary, a young army surgeon, is dodging bullets in the Cuban jungle. He’s in a chaotic little war made worse by elderly Civil War generals and deadly tropical diseases. At the war’s end, he boards a hospital ship to Havana where he finds new dangers: a bombmaker in need of a doctor, photographs of an exploding ship, and foreign officials who want the bomber and his photographs, even at the cost of kidnapping and murder.

Even more disturbing is the outbreak of yellow fever. Finding its cure will end the terror of epidemic death in the Americas and bring glory to the man who does it. Walter Reed arrives in Cuba with orders to investigate the disease. Cleary works with Reed and his colleagues as they race against antiquated ideas, foreign competitors, and each other to find a cure and claim a place in history.

“The author keeps readers riveted from the first page, as he takes them on a dark, twisted and dangerous journey to Cuba in the late 19th century, where deadly disease, North/South, and black/white American prejudice thrive in the steamy jungles. I really enjoyed this amazing book by a truly masterful writer!” —Harriette Rinaldi, author of Four Faces of Truth

With exquisite detail, McSweegan draws you in and illustrates both the futility and chaos of war against man and the battle against disease. He artfully inserts enough friendship, love, mystery, and even comic relief to break the tension of this novel that introduces the reader to this little known part of history, which had a significant influence on the future of world politics and the practice of medicine.” –Jane Ver Mulm, author of Finding Paradise

“The Fever Hut is a unique look at the American invasion of Cuba in 1898 (Remember the Maine!) through the eyes of doctors searching frantically for the source of Yellow Fever. Doctor Duncan Cleary does pioneering lab analyses and self-inoculates with the disease to record its effects. He also deals with military bureaucracy and instituted racism, threats from German officials, and manages to fall in love in this very readable, deeply researched, historical novel.” –Rod Barfield, author Tempest on the Outer Banks

“The Fever Hut skillfully relates the story of the first appearance of the United States Army on the world stage, successfully launching a sea-borne invasion, rapidly defeating an entrenched army, and occupying Spain’s colony of Cuba. Surprisingly, Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, made famous by this event, received a mere mention from the author, who focused on honoring doctors and scientists of the Army Medical Corp. for discovering the source of Yellow Fever, which had stumped the world’s finest minds. This novel is a page-turner whose relatable fictional characters inject humor, romance, and camaraderie, breathing life into the people history has recognized as contributing to solving this mystery of science and nature. Overcoming race prejudice and surviving attempted murder to preserve evidence of Germany’s possible involvement in the sinking of the USS MAINE, foiling the Kaiser’s design of domineering Cuba mere miles from the American Homeland.” –Edward Cuddy, author of 1777: The Year of Destiny

Book Buy Link:

Author Bio:

I am a writer in Rhode Island. My credits include numerous non-fiction articles and book reviews. I also wrote a monthly newspaper column on infectious diseases for six years. Some of my short stories have appeared in Science, Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine, Writer’s Digest: The Year’s Best Writing, and the Maryland Writers Association 2022 anthology, Caption This! Embark published the opening chapter from one of my historical fiction manuscripts; the same manuscript received a “notable mention” in the 2021 Chapter One Prize.

In an earlier life as a microbiologist, I traveled in Russia, India, Egypt, and Europe, and was posted to U.S. embassies in Swaziland (now, Eswatini) and Colombia. I was an AAAS Diplomacy Fellow and an Embassy Science Fellow in the U.S. State Department, and an IETA Fellow with CDC. I left the Global Virus Network in 2018 and returned to Rhode Island to retire and write.

My debut historical novel, Shadow of the Moon, was published by Wild Rose Press in March 2023. My second novel, The Cottage Industry, also will be published by WRP.

Editorial Review:

"The Fever Hut" by Edward McSweegan is a uniquely compelling historical fiction that explores the lesser-known aspects of the American invasion of Cuba in 1898, providing readers with a unique perspective on the tumultuous events of that era. Through the eyes of Assistant Surgeon Duncan Cleary, readers are plunged into the chaotic scenes of war, the relentless struggle against disease, and the intricate web of political tensions that defined the era.


McSweegan masterfully captures the atmosphere of the Spanish-American War, portraying the muddy encampments, treacherous battles, and the harsh conditions faced by medical personnel with vivid detail. From the initial skirmishes with Spanish infiltrators to the desperate efforts to treat wounded soldiers on the battlefield, each scene is rendered with authenticity and intensity.

Cleary's encounters with Cuban rebels, discussions with war correspondents, and interactions with fellow soldiers offer insights into the complexities of colonialism, racial tensions, and the human cost of conflict. McSweegan deftly weaves these conflicts into the narrative, juggling various plot points with depth and nuance.

From the opening scenes amidst the chaos of the Spanish-American War to the gripping climax as the battle with yellow fever intensifies, the novel is packed with intense action and heart-pounding drama. McSweegan's diligent attention to detail brings the setting to life, immersing readers in the muddy encampments, overcrowded hospital tents, and bustling streets of post-war Havana.


He considered praying, but he knew every patient who died of yellow fever had been praying hard until the infection took their prayers, their thoughts, their bodies, and then their lives.


Cleary climbed off his horse and guided the quiet animal across the bridge into the flat, open land leading to Columbia Barracks and the quarantine huts.


To his horse, he said, “Gere’s no boatman to pay for this crossing into the land of the dead. Perhaps Charon has a toll booth ahead?”


As the conflict comes to a close, McSweegan transitions into the next phase of the story, where Cleary's focus shifts to the battle against yellow fever. The author skillfully captures the escalating panic and desperation as the epidemic spreads, portraying Cleary's and his colleague’s tireless efforts to diagnose and treat patients amidst the mounting death toll. Cleary's observations of unusual symptoms in yellow fever patients, his own harrowing experience with the disease, and his relentless pursuit of a cure underscore the urgency of the situation and the high stakes involved.


What makes this book’s perspective so unique is its focus on the scientific aspects of the conflict, particularly Cleary's pioneering efforts to uncover the source of yellow fever. As Cleary navigates military bureaucracy, racial tensions, and threats from foreign officials, readers are drawn into a world of intrigue and danger where the stakes couldn't be higher.


The book’s portrayal of the medical challenges faced by Cleary and his colleagues is a highlight – from diagnosing diseases like yellow fever and malaria to conducting experiments on mosquito transmission, the novel offers a fascinating glimpse into the pioneering efforts of early 20th-century medicine. Cleary's dedication to his work, despite the personal risks and sacrifices involved, is both inspiring and poignant.


McSweegan skillfully weaves together elements of friendship, love, mystery, and even comic relief to create a multi-layered narrative that keeps readers engaged. Cleary's relationships with his colleagues, his budding romance with María, and his struggles against prejudice and adversity are the heart and humanity of the story.


McSweegan's writing style is a delightful blend of vivid imagery, fastidious attention to historical detail, and seamless blending of fact and fiction without sacrificing pacing or narrative momentum. Through careful attention to detail, he brings the world of late 19th-century Cuba to life, capturing the political intrigue, scientific advancements, and social dynamics of the time with authenticity and depth. From the heated debates among scientists over the cause of yellow fever to the bureaucratic challenges faced by military doctors on the front lines, McSweegan's portrayal of historical events is both informative and engaging, providing readers with valuable insight into this lesser-known period of history.


In addition to his skillful handling of historical material, McSweegan also excels at writing engaging characters and complex interpersonal dynamics. Through convincingly drawn characters like Dr. Duncan Cleary and the love he found with a woman named María as well as his interactions with his colleagues such as Dr. Brown, McSweegan explores themes of love, loyalty, and the human cost of war with sensitivity and nuance. Cleary's struggles with self-doubt, his clashes with authority figures, and his dedication to his patients make him a sympathetic and inspiring protagonist whose story resonates with readers on a deeply emotional level.


As readers follow Cleary's journey through the chaos of war and the relentless battle against yellow fever, they cannot help but empathize with his struggles and root for his success. Cleary's genuine concern for the well-being of his patients, as well as his unwavering determination to find a cure for yellow fever, elicits a strong emotional response from readers.


At its core, "The Fever Hut" is a story about resilience, courage, and the pursuit of truth in the face of overwhelming odds. As Cleary and his colleagues race against time to find a cure for yellow fever, they confront not only the physical challenges of the disease but also the entrenched beliefs and rivalries that threaten to derail their efforts. This book offers a fresh perspective on a pivotal moment in history. Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction and anyone interested in the intersection of medicine, politics, and war.



“The Fever Hut” by Ed McSweegan receives four stars from The Historical Fiction Company


To have your historical novel editorially reviewed and/or enter the HFC Book of the Year contest, please visit

and you can even book a double submission for HFC & CPBC and get two contest entries, and two reviews from both companies!!


bottom of page