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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  • First Published:
    Oct 2012, 608 pages
    Jul 2013, 736 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Judy Krueger

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Print Excerpt

Boos, taunts, every known loud expression of vilification rained down from the people packed against the railings of the bridge.

The man looked down at him in an anxious way and said, "¿Como?" trying to sort out what Nestor has said.

Maddening was what it was!… climbed sixty feet up a rope without using his legs—but he couldn't make himself understood. He needed to get closer. He started climbing the rope again, hand over hand. He glances up at the poor drowned rat. His face is… aghast. How can he tell him he's not coming up to arrest him? He can't think of the words! So he stops climbing and wraps his legs around the rope to free his right hand to give a reassuring signal. But what signal? All he can think of is the peace sign… He spreads his index finger and his middle finger to form a V. The man's face, now no more than four feet above Nestor, changes from aghast… to terrified. He starts to rise from the bosun's chair. Jesus Christ, what does he think he's doing? He's up on top of a seventy-foot mast with nothing to support him but a tiny bosun's chair—and he wants to stand. He tries to anchor his feet on the pulley housing. Now he's out of his seat, teetering in a crouched position atop a mast that's pitching on a choppy sea… Nestor can see the worst about to happen. He climbs seventy feet up a rope—hand over hand, without using his legs—only to cause a poor refugee to fall to his death—and whose fault is it? Nestor Camacho's! Who has made the Miami Police Marine Patrol—hell, the entire force—look like the brutal, heedless persecutors and killers of a poor man whose only sin was trying to put one foot on American soil! Who has committed this heartless crime? Nestor Camacho, infamy incarnate!

With two furious hand-over-hand hoists he reaches the bosun's chair and tries to catch the man's leg—or even his foot—too late! The man pitches forward—to his death! A ferocious fire erupts inside Nestor's skull… No! The man has pitched forward onto the cable. He's trying to slide down it backward… This poor skinny emaciated gray-brown slurry rat—he'll kill himself! The cable runs at a steep angle from the mast to beyond the bow to the bowsprit… more than a hundred feet. Nestor crouches in the bosun's seat… For an instant he can see the mob on the bridge. He's level with them now… three, four, five deep… Sunbursts! Sunbursts! Sunbursts! Sunbursts! They're exploding off cameras! Heads are jumping up to get a better view of the show… a sign! One of them has a crude sign—from where?… written how?… COPS FIDELISTAS TRAIDORES… never been hated by so many people. He looks down… makes him dizzy… like standing on the edge of the roof of a ten-story building. The water's a sheet of blue-grayish steel with sunbursts dancing all over it. Boats!… small boats around the schooner… from out of nowhere!… bloodsucking bugs… a boat—a sign. Can it really say what he thinks it says?… ¡ASYLUM AHORA!—

—all of this in an instant… Guilt! Fear! Horror!… but the greatest of these is Guilt! Must not let their hero die before their eyes! He swings down onto the cable… no use trying to catch up with him by sliding… Instinctively, in the mode they used in training camp, he starts swinging from the cable by his hands, heading down swing by swing, keeping his eyes on his slurry gray-brown quarry… His arms, his shoulders, the palms of his hands—agony! He's going to tear apart… only two swings away from the guy. The guy's body is still on top of the cable, but it's yawing this way and that… so scrawny… not strong enough for this… lifts his head, looks Nestor right in the face… worse than terror—utter hopelessness comes over the poor bastard… he's had it!… the poor devil yaws so sharply he can't stay on top of the cable… feebly hanging by his hands for one final moment. Now or oblivion! For the poor bastard! For Nestor Camacho! He reaches the poor bastard with two swings—to do what?… Only one thing possible. He wraps his legs around the scrawny rodent's waist and locks them at the ankles… the poor little bastard lets go of the cable and collapses. The dead jolt shocks Nestor… the dead weight! ::::::My arms torn off my body at the shoulder sockets!:::::: Can't believe he's still here—an organism composed of sheer pain from his burning hands to the sartorius muscles of his locked legs… sixty feet above the deck… to support this much weight by one hand while he swings the other to descend the cable… impossible… but if he doesn't—¡Dios mío!—he'll be fucking up! And not just fucking up… fucking up on television… Fucking up before thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions… might as well be billions… since one is all it would take, one officious mierda-mouth Americano sergeant named—bango!

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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