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Publisher: Little Brown and Company$25.60
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More About Back to Blood by Tom WolfeOverviewA big, panoramic story of the new America, as told by a master chronicler. As police speed across Biscayne Bay, Wolfe is off and running into the feverous and diverse world of Miami. Much like his previous bestselling novels, this highly anticipated book is another brilliant and hilarious reckoning with contemporary life.
J. R. Moehringer
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-09-24
- Reviewer: Staff
Two hundred pages into Wolfe's frantic potboiler about Miami's melting pot, a description of City Hall reminds readers of the vivid detail that made Wolfe (The Bonfire of the Vanities) a literary icon. Yet despite flashes of "the right stuff", his latest novel comprises not an exposé of popular culture so much as a lurid compendium of clichés. The prologue features a scandal-fearing newspaper editor fretting as his wife tries to park her mini-hybrid at a trendy restaurant, but the action begins with marine patrolman Nestor Camacho speeding across Biscayne Bay. Unfortunately, his moment of glory dissolves into humiliation when he is condemned for arresting, after saving, a Cuban refugee. Resolute in pressing on, a bewildered Nestor works with reporter John Smith to unravel fraud at the city's new art museum and uncover the truth behind an incident of school violence. In the process, he meets elegant Haitian beauty Ghislaine, whose professor father desperately hopes she'll "pass" for white. African Americans, Russian émigrés, and Jewish retirees also appear: ethnic groups separated by language, tribe, and class; linked together by sex, money, and real estate. Filling his prose with sound effects, foreign phrases, accented English, and slang, Wolfe creates his own Miami sound machine—noisy, chaotic, infused with tropical rhythms, and fueled by the American dream. The result is a book louder than it is deep; more sensational than it is thought provoking; less like Wolfe at his best, more like tabloid headlines recast as fiction. (Oct. 23)BookPage Reviews
The many vices of Miami
Tom Wolfe never met a culture clash he didn’t like. Whether he’s cataloging the social strata of Wall Street (The Bonfire of the Vanities), slicing and dicing race, money and morals in the New South (A Man in Full) or studying the mating rituals of college students (I Am Charlotte Simmons), this unlikely reporter in the unsullied white suit excels at creating fiction from friction.
In Back to Blood, his first novel in seven years, Wolfe embraces yet another multicultural zeitgeist, this one in Miami, a mélange of displaced dreamers and brazen schemers worthy of his hyper-punctuated prose.
The “blood” of the title refers to bloodlines, which in Wolfe’s tale serve as an innate GPS by which his diverse characters attempt to navigate a New World urban jungle overflowing with immigrant fever dreams. Forget melting pot; Miami here most resembles an upset stomach after the early bird buffet.
Our Everyman on this jet-boat ride through the Big Orange is novice Miami police officer Nestor Camacho, a buff yet tender Cuban-American who wants nothing more than to ditch the baggage of his heritage, win over his anglo superiors and live the American dream. When his daring rush-hour maritime rescue of a Cuban refugee backfires, Nestor winds up on probation, an outcast from his Cuban elders and fair game for an enterprising young investigative reporter who shares his career goals.
Their ensuing adventure pings like a pinball through an extended cast of Miami archetypes: the upwardly mobile Haitian professor, the ex-Noo Yawk “active adults,” the sex-addicted billionaire, the psychiatrist and his Latin arm candy, the arrogant Cuban mayor, the goodhearted black police chief and the Russian con men with bogus art for sale.
While we’ve met these characters before in the works of Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey, not to mention on “Miami Vice” and “The Golden Girls,” Wolfe’s omniscient narration attempts to give them substance by taking us inside their minds, where their hopes and dreams make a cockeyed kind of sense.
Despite its 700-odd pages, Back to Blood is a surprisingly swift if sometimes dodgy reading experience, owing to the extended cast and plot lines involved. But those who have never experienced Wolfe’s hyperkinetic narrative style will behold within these pages ample measure of the man in full.