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Inside Tom Wolfe's $7 Million Book Proposal

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In their press release announcing their acquisition of Tom Wolfe's new novel last week, Little, Brown wrote a little bit about what ground the novel would cover. Set in Miami and addressing "class, family, wealth, race, crime, sex, corruption, and ambition," according to the press release, the novel features a broad cast of characters of all colors. The revelation the next day of the book’s title, Back to Blood, confirmed that Wolfe would be enthusiastically investigating the racial politics of South Florida.

So who are these characters, and where is this story going? Vulture got our hands on the 28-page précis Wolfe submitted to editors in December.

“Our story begins,” Wolfe’s proposal opens, “inside the mind of a young Cuban policeman.” This policeman is Angel, a second-generation Cuban who’s no longer that invested in his heritage. Angel’s beautiful sister, Lourdes, has angered her family by marrying Dr. Michael Grubman, a famous (and Jewish) Miami sexologist who’s playing at high society without actually having the money to do so. While avoiding her creep of a husband by attending art functions (like “Miami’s annual freaknik for the newly, wildly, rich, the Art Basel show in December”), she befriends a mysteriously wealthy Russian émigré named Boris Korolev, who soon falls for her and urges her to run away with him. Angel, on the other hand, falls for Camille Duroy, a second-generation Haitian “mulat” passing as French.

Will it be any good? Hard to say. With such a widely varied — and strategically intersecting! — cast of characters, this all sort of reads like Babel rewritten by Carl Hiaasen, although without the environmentalist hermit ex-governor named Skink. It's also a little awkward watching Wolfe cram as much research as possible into these 28 pages, even though that's totally appropriate for a proposal (as this essentially is). It still feels jarring, though, when you read passages like:

“Jewban” is a term meaning “Jewish Cubans” that Jewish Cubans use among one another all the time, for comic effect and sometimes merely as handy nomenclature.


In Tom Wolfe’s Miami, it all comes down to race. As a clueless white Miami Herald editor thinks after his wife has an embarrassing confrontation with Lourdes in a parking lot, in a vintage Wolfeian riff that makes us hope the novel might be excellent (if not, probably, $7 million excellent):

So, my people, that leaves only our blood, the bloodlines that course through our very bodies and unite us. “La Raza!” as the Puerto Ricans cry out. “The race!” cries the whole world. The Muslims? Their jihad? Their Islam? All that is nothing but a screen, a cover story. What they are, is … Arabs! Forget the rest of it! Arabs! — once the rulers of all Asia and half of Europe! Once the world’s reigning intelligentsia- — and now left behind in the dust of modern history! Back to blood, muhajeen! They, like all people, all people everywhere, have but one last thing on their minds — Back to blood!” All people, everywhere, you have no choice but — Back to blood!


In their press release announcing their acquisition of Tom Wolfe's new novel last week, Little, Brown wrote a little bit about what ground the novel would cover. Set in Miami and addressing "class, family, wealth, race, crime, sex, corruption, and ambition," according to the press release, the novel features a broad cast of characters of all colors. The revelation the next day of the book’s title, Back to Blood, confirmed that Wolfe would be enthusiastically investigating the racial politics of South Florida.