Excerpt from Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Back to Blood

By Tom Wolfe

Back to Blood
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2012,
    608 pages.
    Paperback: Jul 2013,
    736 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Judy Krueger

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Print Excerpt


"Yo yo yo yo yo."

reaching upward from the bow, but the cable extends beyond them to the bowsprit beep beep beep beep beep—a text message!—and the two of them, Nestor and the slurry—brown homunculus—he's free of the leg lock!—not now you don't!—too late! he does! In the next instant the two bodies, his and the gnome's, hurtling off the end of the bowsprit and into the water. They're under water—and it's just as Lonnie Kite said! The little maniac has broken free of the leg lock and is… attacking him! kicking him! pulling his hair! craaaaacking his nose with his forearm… Kite had it right! Nestor wards off the little man's increasingly feeble blows, moves in, clamps him in a police neck lock, and that does it! The little creature goes limp! Done for! Ultimate Fighting under water!

When they reach the surface, Nestor has his slimy little quarry in a police lifesaver's grip… gnome is coughing up water. Two feet away—the Safe Boat! Lonnie's at the wheel. Nestor has reentered the world from a distant cosmos… Lonnie's pulling the slurry-brown homunculus up onto the rubbery pancake deck… and then Nestor—who the hell are these people? Nestor finds himself right by the schooner. He twists toward the deck… the sun bursts off two big eyes of glass—TV cameras—and right there, leaning over the railing… the sandy-haired Sergeant McCorkle.

Sarge doesn't have to say a word—it's all right there in his face. Nestor Camacho is now… a cop… a real cop… as real as they make 'em… Nestor Camacho enters Heaven.

Sergeant McCorkle turned the drowned rat over to the Coast Guard right out there in the middle of the bay, and Nestor and the Sergeant and Lonnie Kite took the Safe Boat back to the Marine Patrol marina, which stuck out into the bay on the Miami side. All the way over, the Sergeant and Lonnie Kite lavished praise on Nestor in the accepted cop fashion, as if it weren't praise at all. Lonnie Kite's saying, "Jesus Christ, man"—he's a comradely man now!—"the way that little fucker was jerking around at the end there, after you've saved his ass—what was that all about? You kick him in the balls to see if he was alive?"

Nestor went coasting, coasting, coasting into euphoria.

The other guys at the marina were excited for Nestor. In the eyes of cops, Cuban and non-Cuban alike, he had pulled off a super-manly feat of strength, above and beyond… way over the top.

Sergeant McCorkle was now his pal—his pal! "Look, Nestor, all I told you was to bring the guy down from the fucking mast! I didn't say put on a high-wire act for the whole fucking city of Miami!"

Everybody laughed and laughed, and Nestor laughed with them. His cell phone went beep beep beep beep, signaling a text message. Magdalena! He averted his eyes ever so briefly—Magdalena!—but it wasn't from Magdalena. It read, "Disobeying unjust commands is the test of character." That was all; that was the whole message. It was signed, "Your teacher once, your friend no matter what, Jaime Bosch." Mr. Bosch taught composition and reading comprehension at the Police Academy. He was everybody's favorite teacher. He had tutored Nestor one-on-one outside school hours, purely as a favor and out of a love of teaching. "Disobeying unjust commands is the test of character"… Nestor couldn't figure it out. It made his head hurt… a lot.

He looked up at the rest of them, trying not to show his dismay. Thank God, they were all still in a merry mood, chuckling and laughing. Umberto Delgado, who had been in Nestor's class at the Police Academy, said, in English: "What was all this scissor grip shit with the legs, Nestorcito? That grip's for immobilizing the fuckers when you're rolling in the dirt—not for hauling 'em down a fucking hundred feet of jib sail cable!"

Excerpted from Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe. Copyright © 2012 by Tom Wolfe. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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