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Back To Blood

by Tom Wolfe

Paperback, 704 pages, Little Brown & Co, List Price: $18 |


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Back To Blood
Tom Wolfe

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Hardcover, 704 pages, Little, Brown and Company, $30, published October 23 2012 | purchase

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Back To Blood
Tom Wolfe

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Book Summary

Young Cuban-American police officer Nestor Camacho struggles with his identity and the ire of his community after arresting a Cuban refugee before he can set foot on American soil.

Read an excerpt of this book


Awards and Recognition

3 weeks on NPR Hardcover Fiction Bestseller List

NPR stories about Back To Blood

Author and journalist Tom Wolfe's books include The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Bonfire of the Vanities and I Am Charlotte Simmons, among others. Jim Cooper/AP hide caption

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Jim Cooper/AP

Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: Back To Blood


We een Mee-AH-mee Now

You ...

You ...

You ... edit my life ... You are my wife, my Mac the Knife — the witticism here being that he may edit one of the half-dozen-or-so most important newspapers in the United States, the Miami Herald, but she is the one who edits him. She ... edits ... him. Last week he totally forgot to call the dean, the one with the rehabilitated harelip, at their son Fiver's boarding school, Hotchkiss, and Mac, his wife, his Mac the Knife, was justifiably put out about it ... but then he had sort-of-sung this little rhyme of his to the tune of "You Light Up My Life." You ... edit my life ... You are my wife, my Mac the Knife — and it made her smile in spite of herself, and the smile dissolved the mood, which was I'm fed up with you and your trifling ways. Could it possibly work again — now? Did he dare give it another shot?

At the moment Mac was in command, behind the wheel of her beloved and ludicrously cramped brand-new Mitsubishi Green Elf hybrid, a chic and morally enlightened vehicle just now, trolling the solid rows of cars parked side by side, wing-mirror to wing-mirror, out back of this month's Miami nightspot of the century, Balzac's, just off Mary Brickell Village, vainly hunting for a space. She was driving her car. She was put out this time — yes, justifiably once more — because this time his trifling ways had made them terribly late leaving for Balzac's, and so she insisted on driving to that coolest of hot spots in her Green Elf. If he drove his BMW, they would never get there, because he was such a slow and maddeningly cautious driver ... and he won­dered if she really meant timid and unmanly. In any case, she took over the man's role, and the Elf flew to Balzac's like a bat, and here they were, and Mac was not happy.

Ten feet above the restaurant's entrance was a huge Lexan disc, six feet in diameter and eighteen inches thick, embedded with a bust of Honore de Balzac "appropriated" — as the artists today call artistic theft — from the famous daguerreotype by the one-name photographer Nadar. Balzac's eyes had been turned to look straight into the customer's and his lips had been turned up at the corners to create a big smile, but the "appropriator" was a talented sculptor, and a light from within suffused the enormous slab of Lexan with a golden glow, and tout le monde loved it. The light here in the parking lot, however, was misera­ble. Industrial lamps high up on stanchions created a dim electro­twilight and turned the palm tree fronds pus-color yellow. "Pus-color yellow" — and there you had it. Ed was feeling down, down, down ... sitting belted into the passenger seat, which he had had to slide all the way back just to get both his long legs inside of this weeny-teeny grassy-greeny Green-proud car of Mac's, the Green Elf. He felt like the doughnut, the toy-sized emergency spare wheel the Elf carried.

Mac, a big girl, had just turned forty. She was a big girl when he met her eighteen years ago at Yale ... big bones, wide shoul­ders, tall, five-ten, in fact ... lean, lithe, strong, an athlete and a half ... sunny, blond, full of life ... Stunning! Absolutely gor­geous, this big girl of his! In the cohort of gorgeous girls, how­ever, the big girls are the first to cross that invisible boundary beyond which the best they can hope for is "a very handsome woman" or "quite striking, really." Mac, his wife, his Mac the Knife, had crossed that line.

She sighed a sigh so deep, she ended up expelling air between her teeth. "You'd think they'd have parking valets at a restaurant like this. They charge enough."

"That's true," he said. "You're right. Joe's Stone Crab, Azul, Caffe Abbracci — and what's that restaurant at the Setai? They all have valet parking. You're absolutely right." Your worldview is my Weltanschauung. How about if we talk about restaurants?

A pause. "I hope you know we're very late, Ed. It's eight-twenty. So we're already twenty minutes late and we haven't found a place to park and we've got six people in there waiting for us — "

"Well, I don't know what else — I did call Christian — "

" — and you're supposed to be the host. Do you realize that? Has that registered with you at all?"

"Well, I called Christian and told him they should order some drinks. You can be sure Christian won't object to that, and Mar­ietta won't, either. Marietta and her cocktails. I don't even know anybody else who orders cocktails." Or how about a little obiter dictum riff on cocktails or Marietta, either one or both?

"All the same — it's just not nice, keeping everybody waiting like this. I mean really — I'm serious, Ed. This is so trifling, I just can't stand it."

Now! This was his chance! This was the crack in the wall of words he was waiting for! An opening! It's risky, but — and almost in tune and on key he sing-songs,

"You ...

"You ...

"You ... edit my life ... You are my wife, my Mac the Knife ... "

She began shaking her head from side to side. "It doesn't seem to do me much good, does it?" ... Never mind! What was that creeping so slyly upon her lips? Was it a smile, a small, reluctant smile? Yes! I'm fed up with you immediately began to dissolve once more.

They were halfway down the parking lane when two figures appeared in the headlights, walking toward the Elf and Balzac's — two girls, dark haired, chattering away, apparently having just parked their car. They couldn't have been more than nineteen or twenty. The girls and the trolling Elf drew close rapidly. The girls were wearing denim shorts with the belt lines down peril­ously close to the mons veneris and the pants legs cut off up to ... here ... practically up to the hip socket, and left frayed. Their young legs looked model-girl long, since they also wore gleam­ing heels at least six inches high. The heels seemed to be made of Lucite or something. They lit up a brilliant translucent gold when light hit them. The two girls' eyes were so heavily mascara'd they appeared to be floating in four black pools.

"Oh, that's attractive," Mac muttered.

Ed couldn't take his eyes off them. They were Latinas — although he couldn't have explained why he knew that any more than he knew that Latina and Latino were Spanish words that existed only in America. This pair of Latinas — yes, they were trashy, all right, but Mac's irony couldn't alter the truth. Attrac­tive? "Attractive" barely began to describe what he felt! Such nice tender long legs the two girls had! Such short little short-shorts! So short, they could shed them just like that. In an instant they could lay bare their juicy little loins and perfect little cup­cake bottoms ... for him! And that was obviously what they wanted! He could feel the tumescence men live for welling up beneath his Jockey tighty-whiteys! Oh, ineffable dirty girls!

As Mac trolled past them, one of the dirty girls pointed at the Green Elf, and both started laughing. Laughing, eh? Apparently they had no appreciation of how upscale Green was ... or how hip the Elf was, or how cool. Even less could they conceive of the Elf, fully loaded, as it was, with Green accessories and various esoteric environmental meters, plus ProtexDeer radar — they couldn't con­ceive of this little elf of a car costing $135,000. He'd give anything to know what they were saying. But here within the Elf's cocoon of Thermo-insulated Lexan glass windows, Fibreglas doors and panels, and evaporation-ambient recyclical air-conditioning, one couldn't begin to hear anything outside. Were they even speaking English? Their lips weren't moving the way lips move when people are speaking English, the great audiovisionary linguist decided. They had to be Latin. Oh, ineffable Latin dirty girls!

"Dear God," said Mac. "Where on earth do you suppose they get those heels that light up like that?" An ordinary conver­sational voice! No longer put out. The spell was broken! "I saw these weird sticks of light all over the place when we drove by Mary Brickell Village," she went on. "I had no idea what they were. The place looked like a carnival, all those garish lights in the background and all the little half-naked party girls teetering around on their heels ... Do you suppose it's a Cuban thing?"

From Back To Blood by Tom Wolfe. Copyright 2012 by Tom Wolfe. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown and Company.