Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Arts: Wolfe goes after blood



PHUKET: Tom Wolfe made his name with four collections of magazine stories published in rapid succession between 1965 and 1970 that chronicled the wild 1960s in hyperventilated prose, replete with ellipses, italics and… exclamation points! These grandiose ‘New Journalism’ stylistic tics have persisted throughout the decades. Wolfe is now 81.

But give him credit for honest, dogged research. His book about the first American astronauts, The Right Stuff, took him nearly a decade. He turned to fiction in 1987 with Bonfire of the Vanities, a novel about high finance, low crime and racial tensions in New York City.

He knows his New York well, having worked for the Herald Tribune throughout the 1960s.

The novel was a commercial and critical success. His second novel, A Man in Full, was set in Atlanta and was much less so, elegantly panned by no less than John Updike in The New Yorker.

Norman Mailer and John Irving piled on. Unfazed, Wolfe dubbed them “the Three Stooges” and in an essay entitled Stalking the Billion Footed Beast called for his kind of street-reportage novel over more high-toned ‘literary’ ones.

He’s back with a bang in Back to Blood (Jonathan Cape, London, 2012, 704pp). The city this time is Miami, where wealth and power are squabbled over by Cubans, Anglos, African Americans, Haitians, Jews, Russians … Half the city are recent immigrants. Muses the WASP editor of the Miami Herald: “Did one segment of them, the Cubans, control the city politically – Cuban mayor, Cuban department heads, Cuban cops, Cuban cops, and more Cuban cops, 60 per cent of the force now Cubans, plus 10 per cent other Latins, 18 per cent American blacks, and only 12 per cent Anglo?”

The moral center of the novel is a Cuban cop named Nestor Camacho. He is only 5’7″ but is such a mass of gym-built muscle that he is able to climb a 70-foot rope to rescue a Cuban refugee from the top of a schooner’s mast.

For this he is pilloried by his family and also the entire Cuban community because the refugee had not yet set foot on American soil to claim legal sanctuary.

Next he subdues a 6’5″, black, crack dealer who was in the process of strangling his sergeant.

But a videotape of him shouting abuse at the fallen giant has gone viral on YouTube, enraging Miami’s black community. Camacho is forced to surrender his badge and gun.

“Who is he going to offend next?”, the Cuban mayor wonders. “The Haitians?”

Yes, the Haitians. Ghislaine Lantier is a fair-skinned Haitian, a student at the University of Miami, daughter of a French professor. A volunteer social worker, she was minding children inside the crack house when Camacho brought down the drug dealer. She now asks him for help with her brother who is getting involved with a Haitian gang in high school.

Meanwhile, his girlfriend Magdalena Otero, a nurse, has left him for her boss, Dr Norman Lewis, a blond, Anglo psychiatrist who specializes in porn addiction.

He proves to be a sex addict himself and a shameless social climber who reaches the peak of Miami society when he meets Sergei Korolyov, the handsome Russian oligarch who has donated US$ 70 million of modern Russian art to the Miami museum, causing a grateful city to rename it the Korolyov Museum. Magdalena falls for him and dumps the doctor.

Korolyov doesn’t know it, but Camacho is about to offend the Russian community.

Miami is infested with all kinds of lowlife, but the good guys in this novel are Camacho, the big, black police chief Cyrus Booker and the little Anglo newspaper reporter John Smith. They are all forced into stark moral choices between material advancement and their own sense of manhood.

Wolfe’s stylistic tics can become boring and repetitious but his sense of the city turns this novel into a sweeping epic. A Marine Police speedboat, a multi-yacht orgy, a Cuban bakery, a family pig roast, a crack house, a Russian nightclub, a ritzy art show, a Jewish nursing home… all fit into Wolfe’s breathless orbit and the reader is grateful to be taken for the ride.

— James Eckardt


Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Thailand6 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Thai actress arrested for promoting a ponzi scheme

Thailand7 hours ago

Giant monitor lizard climbs up power pole to escape pack of dogs in central Thailand

World7 hours ago

“Drink more booze” Japan urges youth with new contest

Bangkok7 hours ago

CCSA leaves entertainment venues in limbo over 4am closing

Travel7 hours ago

Fun things to do indoors on a rainy day in Thailand (2022)

Bangkok7 hours ago

Tourists by locals in Bangkok: mad, bad, and dangerous to know

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Chon Buri8 hours ago

‘Dead body’ on Thailand beach turns out to be sex doll

Central Thailand8 hours ago

Shooting after comedy show in central Thailand, 1 seriously injured

Thailand9 hours ago

UPDATE: Woman who allegedly abused a soldier is a police officer

Kanchanaburi9 hours ago

Police shoot and kill major drug trafficker in Kanchanaburi

Tourism9 hours ago

Thailand’s CCSA talk tourist stats, visas on arrival & home isolation

Thailand9 hours ago

RTN’s ocean conservation activity accused of spoiling ecosystem

Chon Buri10 hours ago

Ferocious cobra bites rescuer’s girlfriend in Chon Buri

Thailand10 hours ago

Angry tourists demand refunds from tour operators in Thailand

Thailand11 hours ago

Motorbike taxi driver saves teenager from suicide in eastern Thailand

Thailand11 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism1 year ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11