Wolfe (A Man in Full, 1998, etc.) returns to fine form with this zingy, mile-a-minute novel of life in the weird confines of Miami.
As if the 45 years from Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test to here hadn’t passed, Wolfe is back to some old tricks, including an ever-shifting, sometimes untrustworthy point of view, dizzying pans from one actor to another and rat-a-tat prose. Some of his post-yuppie characters might have been extras from Bonfire of the Vanities, while the hero of the piece has the endless self-regard of Gordo Cooper in The Right Stuff—but no matter where they figure on the social ladder or tax bracketing scheme, they’re mystified by one another. The tale opens with Mac the Knife, a 40-something fleshpot behind the wheel of a hybrid car who, scarcely a dozen pages in, falls afoul of a tough Cubana: “Far from shrinking under Mac’s attack, the beautiful rude bitch came two steps closer…and said, in English without raising her voice, ‘Why you speet when you talk?’ ” Cuban and Anglo, Russian and Jew, rich and poor: All of Miami is a meeting place that very often turns into a battleground, over the carnage of which ranges Wolfe’s nominal hero, a waterborne cop named Nestor Camacho, who has his work cut out for him. That’s especially true when he tries to blend in with the beach bimbettes here and the retired New Yorkers there, and though he tries (for, as Wolfe astutely observes, “Walking nonchalantly in a crouch—it couldn’t be done”), he always cuts a fine and heroic figure. Wolfe’s book goes on long, but never too long, and though he often strays into ethnic-clash territory staked out by John Sayles, he makes Miami his own as a kind of laboratory of future possibilities, some dystopian and some not, all ripe for lampooning.
Full of stereotyping and waspishness, sure, but a welcome pleasure from an old master and the best from his pen in a long while.