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Back to Blood

3.23  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,688 Ratings  ·  1,042 Reviews
As a police launch speeds across Miami’s Biscayne Bay—with officer Nestor Camacho on board—Tom Wolfe is off and running. Into the feverous landscape of the city, he introduces the Cuban mayor, the black police chief, a wanna-go-muckraking young journalist and his Yale-marinated editor; an Anglo sex-addiction psychiatrist and his Latina nurse by day, loin lock by night-unti ...more
Hardcover, 704 pages
Published October 23rd 2012 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2012)
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Finale by Becca FitzpatrickAfter Forever Ends by Melodie RamoneThe Mark of Athena by Rick RiordanThe Lost Prince by Julie KagawaIced by Karen Marie Moning
Best books of October, 2012
32nd out of 108 books — 247 voters
The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenGone Girl by Gillian FlynnTell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka BruntThe Round House by Louise ErdrichThe Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
2013 Tournament of Books Watch List
44th out of 63 books — 397 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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David Prybil
May 11, 2013 David Prybil rated it it was ok
First off, I am a HUGE fan of Tom Wolfe. I have read everything he has ever written. I was willing to write off CHARLOTTE SIMMONS as an anomaly, a mistake in judgment. The material simply wasn't a good fit for him. BACK TO BLOOD sounded like it was right in his wheelhouse. I was stoked. This was going to be a capstone to his amazing career.

It's not.

While you can see why he was attracted to the milieu, and there are flashes of his usual incisiveness and wit, the overall sense here is of a missed
Apr 05, 2013 Ware rated it it was amazing
When my mother died twenty one years ago, a Herald reporter, assigned to write her obituary, asked me if she resented all the changes that had come to Miami during the forty plus years she had lived in South Florida. My mother, having once quit the Junior League when asked to make a speech about "holding the color line", might have cancelled her subscription to the paper on the spot. She loved Miami and everything it had become. She watched in wonderment as the nouveau riche socialites invaded t ...more
Susan Tunis
Dec 28, 2012 Susan Tunis rated it it was amazing
Old tricks still the best tricks?

While I was reading Back to Blood, I happened to mention to a friend that it was the first I’d read from Wolfe since The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test decades prior. He was astounded that I’d never read Bonfire of the Vanities, but I was barely out of high school when it was published. And let’s face it; Mr. Wolfe hasn’t exactly been prolific in his fiction output in recent years. So, basically, I came to this novel with very fresh eyes and few expectations. And yo
Nov 24, 2012 Judy rated it liked it

How does Tom Wolfe annoy his readers? Let me count the ways:

He inserts a cartoon-like soundtrack into his prose:

"SMACK the Safe Boat bounces airborne comes down again SMACK on another swell in the bay bounces up again comes down SMACK on another swell and SMACK bounces airborne with emergency horns police Crazy Lights exploding SMACK in a demented sequence SMACK..."

This goes on intermittently for 10 pages in the first chapter.

He illustrates with words in explicit detail the inner visions and o
Jun 04, 2013 William rated it it was amazing
What ee cummings is to poetry, Wolfe is to the novel. You can literally scan the text of his book, and recognize the punctuation, the repetition, the Shakespearean extravagant carelessness with which he manufactures words, and know that you are in a Tom Wolfe novel.

Who else but cummings could write a poem about being alone that ends with the word "loneliness" in such a way that you see "one, one, one, i-ness (a leaf falls):


And who else but Tom Wolfe can sprinkle his prose with strings!
Victor Carson
If you liked Bonfire of the Vanities, you will probably like Back to Blood, as well. I like both books: the first set in New York City and the second in Miami. Both demonstrate the author's inside knowledge of the city, the police, the criminal justice system, and the racial and class tension. If you were not offended by the author's take on race relations in New York City back in the 1970s, you may not be offended by his take on the race relations in Miami in the current era. Back to Blood is v ...more
Jun 01, 2013 Alec rated it liked it
In the prologue of Tom Wolfe's latest novel, Back to Blood, Edward T. Topping IV, one of Wolfe's classic beacons of WASP-y impotence* and his wife get into a very unpleasant shouting match with a scandalously dressed Cubana (described with vintage Wolfe-lust) who had the audacity to steal their parking space. After the racially charged exchange, Topping -- heart still pounding from the conflict -- frets that since organized religion is dying in the United States, the only thing people believe in ...more
Sep 16, 2012 Candace rated it really liked it
"Back to Blood" is more like "Bonfire" than any of the books in between. Is is a snappy read; snarky, fast-moving, filled with interesting characters and Wolfe's bright, clear writing. "Blood" comes in at 704 pages which sounds, and is, hefty, but the hustled wrap-up at the end is disappointing. You have committed a considerable amount of time to their story and deserve something better than an overly convenient tie-up.

Now about those characters. They are not a terribly likeable group but they a
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Rating = 1.5 stars

There are 19 disks in this audio book. I listened to 11 of them only because it was the only audio book I had around for awhile. As soon as I got my hands on something better, I could not get rid of this thing fast enough. The plot is ridiculous and frequently disgusting, and I hated almost every one of the characters. Tom Wolfe should have quit after Bonfire of the Vanities, although there were some things I liked about I Am Charlotte Simmons.
Dec 02, 2012 Gerald rated it it was amazing
In my review on these pages of Middle Age by Joyce Carol Oates, I compare her to Wolfe. They are both cynical journalists, social satirists who mock their characters mostly but permit an occasional glimmer of compassion to show through.

Wolfe's literary predecessor could well be Honore de Balzac, who was so alike in his opinion of human nature and exploitation of its foibles. His preoccupations are encapsulated in one of his titles - A Harlot High and Low.

In Back to Blood, Wolfe savages urban Ame
Jonathan Tomes
Dec 16, 2012 Jonathan Tomes rated it it was amazing
I have read reviews of Tom Wolfe’s new novel Back to Blood that have been all over the place. One reviewer called it “a shrewd, riling, and exciting tale of a volatile, divisive, sun-seared city where ‘everybody hates everybody.’” Another went so far as to call it “pure bile.” There is certainly some bile in there as Mr. Wolfe exposes the foibles of just about every socioeconomic and ethnic group in today’s Miami. And the reviews that criticize the book as being hard to read are not altogether w ...more
Nov 03, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime, fiction, humour
Miami gets the tom Wolfe treatment in the same way that New York did in Bonfire and Atlanta did (to a lesser extent) in A Man in Full. I can't say that I know Miami, but I also can't say I know Miami much better after reading this book. Much as I admire and like Tom Wolfe, I was reminded an awful lot of another Floridian author, Carl Hiassen, as I read Back to Blood. Except that Hiassen doesn't have to live up to being A Novelist and just gets on with his plot. Wolfe, however, carries the burden ...more
Jun 10, 2013 Darrenglass rated it really liked it
I understand all of the criticisms of Tom Wolfe -- his overreliance on sound-effects as characterization, the fact that his cultural observations veer from incredibly insightful to cheap and banal and back in the matter of a few sentences, the way he obsesses over things that are at times quite dull, and the fact that it is hard to take the observations of an 80-plus year old white man about youth culture and race completely at face value. Oh, and the suits.

But still I always find myself enjoyi
Nov 03, 2012 Patricia rated it did not like it
What an ordeal!!!! BAM!!! POW!!! WHAMMO!!!! Annoyed yet? This is just a tiny taste of what Back to Blood was like to read. Tom Wolfe's first novel in 8 years looks at Miami the same way that Bonfire of the Vanities addressed Manhattan, and A Man in Full explored Atlanta. Wolfe repeats his usual formula of a vast array of characters, satiric tone, and paragraphs full of irritating onomatopoeic devices, over-punctuated with caps on steroids and exclamation points. At 704 pages, Wolfe could easily ...more
Nicholas Armstrong
Jul 03, 2013 Nicholas Armstrong rated it did not like it
Well, I can finally say that I've read Tom Wolfe, though I can't say it has amounted to much. It's a name often bandied about and always spoken of with a casual affectless enjoyment of things you haven't probably heard about.

I can say that Wolfe has some interesting ideas and does an applaudable bit of research. At no point was I doubting any of the hard work that he did to make this book appear for all purposes as if he knew every last detail about cuban life in Florida as well as the bourgeois
Ben Batchelder
Nov 09, 2013 Ben Batchelder rated it really liked it
Back to Blood is a devastating critique of current Miami and American society. For those who recall what Tom Wolfe did for New York in The Bonfire of the Vanities, this is Miami’s less violent but more corruptly vain star-turn.

Our protagonists are two Cuban-Americans from all-Cuban Hialeah. The book unfolds with their coming-of-age into greater Miami and out of their insular hometown. One, Hector Camacho, is a super-bulked up Miami cop who is ostracized by the community for saving the life of a
Richard Sutton
Nov 14, 2012 Richard Sutton rated it really liked it
I've been a Wolfe fan since the 1960s. In BtoB, the author displays a wonderful condensation of his skills. Perhaps like good wine, age improves storytellers. I can't imagine a more engaging, enjoyable romp through the craziness of the colliding ethnicities and cultures of Miami. His characters are easily accessible. Folks you probably know. Their motivations may be convoluted and their accents a struggle, but at no time during my time with this book, despite some really creative situations, did ...more
Mikey B.
Feb 07, 2013 Mikey B. rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Spoilers Within

At the outset I should state that I am a fan of Tom Wolfe. His stories have abundant energy and explore many different layers of society (some of them quite seamy – so the readers of this book beware!). If you have liked his past works “Back To Blood” will appeal to you. It’s not as claustrophobic as “I am Charlotte Simmons” and it approaches “The Bonfire of the Vanities” for satire. And the main theme in any novel of Tom Wolfe is “downfall” – there is plenty of that in “Back To
Fred R
Nov 20, 2012 Fred R rated it liked it
Is Wolfe a good writer? It's an interesting question. Certainly (as he would be the first to tell us) he's more in touch with reality than the vast majority of his competitors. And his sociological interpretive lense which reduces human behavior to status competition is about as accurate as a reductive schema can get. However, he is too doctrinaire in its application. What's interesting about people is the fluff they build on top of their naked power struggles. It is in life extremely rare to me ...more
Dec 01, 2012 Veljko rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I have very mixed feeling about this book. Part of me wanted to give it a lower rating. Some elements of the writing style annoyed me to no end. Yes, Tom Wolfe has always liked unusual punctuation and exclamation points, but the BOOM BUMP CRASH repeated ad nauseam in some chapters just got on my nerves. I get it, the strip-club was loud. The music was repetitive. Annoying. Well, done, Mr. Wolfe, you did transmit that sense of annoyance very well. I got annoyed.

Second, you cannot help by feeling
Nov 26, 2012 Sharon rated it did not like it
Shelves: audio-books
Oh my gosh! This book is a hot mess. I've enjoyed Tom Wolfe in the past, but oh dear how the mighty have fallen. There are several negative things I could say about the book, but the thing that bugged me the most, and to the point of wanting to scream, was that Wolfe must have just reviewed an anatomy textbook or something because all body parts are referred to by their anatomically correct terms to the point of craziness. I am not kidding when I say that "mons pubis" is used in the book around ...more
Lou Robinson
Jun 01, 2014 Lou Robinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picked up "Back to Blood" at the airport in Gran Canaria. They'd just called the flight, so I had no time to browse if I wanted something to read on the flight home, I grabbed this book because it had a bright pink cover and was written by Tom Wolfe of Bonfire of the Vanities fame. I liked that book.
It's certainly in the same style as Bonfire....except this time, it's based in Miami, with a varied group of characters: Cubans, Americanos and Russian oligarchs. The story centres round a Cuban cop
Andrew Smith
Feb 05, 2013 Andrew Smith rated it really liked it
It's had some bad press but loved this book. I listened to it on audiobook - brilliantly read by Lou Diamond Phillips - and laughed my way through the whole thing. It might not be quite so strong as Bonfire of the Vanities or A Man in Full but it's a great romp through crime ridden, racially tense Miami with a brilliant cast of larger than life characters.
Dec 18, 2012 Stephen rated it really liked it
The fourth of his recent string of fiction and it continues his style of in-your-face fictionalizing of how we currently live in the 21st century. At least in Miami Beach. The first chapter sets the pace for the entire book, with the main character zooming across Biscayne Bay. Every 8th word being SMACK, as the speed-boat slams into the azure blue sunlit water. Add a Russian art-swindling oligarch, the riotous communities of Overtown and Liberty City, Art Basel Miami Beach, a svelte Cuban nurse ...more
Jan 02, 2013 Benjaminxjackson rated it really liked it
In Back To Blood Tom Wolfe again makes and in-depth study of a city and a culture while all the time exploring the idea of what it means to be a man. In Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full he looked at this idea from the perspective of Wall Street and Harlem and from real estate development and prisons, respectively.

Here Wolfe tackles Miami and its confluence of cultures. This time it is mostly from the perspective of a nurse and a cop. His main characters are working class people who bru
Jul 25, 2015 Richard rated it it was amazing
Miami police officer Nestor Camacho is conflicted. He wants to be a good cop and have the respect of his family, friends and colleagues. But how can he be a good cop when what is good changes with the whims of some ethnic group or committee or another? There are the Cubans, his own heritage. Then there are the Haitians, the Russians, blacks, police, politicians, yentas, psychiatrists, whores, a dangling man, gangs, hoaxers, porn addiction and porn celebration, phonies, druggies, fakers, leggy wo ...more
Alan Kaplan
Jan 14, 2013 Alan Kaplan rated it liked it
If you have ever read The Right Stuff, then you are a fan of Tom Wolfe. The Right Stuff is one of the best books that I have ever read. Wolfe turned Chuck Yeager into an American folk hero. If you are an Atlantan, you read A Man in Full. A Man in Full was a good book, not a great book about Atlanta and its environs.
Wolfe's lastest book, Back to Blood, is Wolfe's irreverent take on Miami with all of its warts and racial undertones. Like A Man in Full, Wolfe is an incredible observer of all that
Robert Olsen
Feb 16, 2013 Robert Olsen rated it liked it
It's hard to figure why Tom Wolfe's "Back to Blood" made so many critics' favorites lists in 2012. Faulkner or Balzac, this author is not. His latest novel, in fact, is bloated, campy, arch, and mostly contemptuous of a series of stock characters. (How can a reader be expected to warm to characters Wolfe himself plainly finds lacking?) As social history, it resembles the reality television series ("Masters of the Univ--", uh, "Masters of Disasters") Wolfe dissects and parodies at one point -- un ...more
Ed Bernard
Feb 18, 2013 Ed Bernard rated it it was ok
I reluctantly (but also with great relief) stopped reading this book after 200 pages or so. There was plenty to like, as usual with Tom Wolfe – lots of funny observation of the absurdity of modern life, sometimes hilarious word play, sympathetic/pathetic characters, several rousing (and several routine and dull) plotlines, etc. This time, however, even though I was prepared for all the tics and idiosyncrasies of the author, I just couldn’t take it anymore. Everything is so pumped pumped, pumped, ...more
Oct 03, 2014 Clif rated it liked it
Tom Wolfe's books are all about respect. Everyone wants it but all are very stingy in giving it unless they run into someone who is physically attractive or wealthy - and even in those cases the respect is only on the surface.

The power of beauty and wealth are insidious because human beings are inherently insecure; the demand for respect is founded on a lack of self respect. This insecurity comes from a failure to recognize what is truly valuable, that peace of mind can never come from insinceri
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Wolfe was educated at Washington and Lee Universities and also at Yale, where he received a PhD in American studies.

Tom Wolfe spent his early days as a Washington Post beat reporter, where his free-association, onomatopoetic style would later become the trademark of New Journalism. In books such as The Electric Koolaid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, and The Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe delves into
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