October 29, 2012 12:00 PM

Back to Blood

by Tom Wolfe |



“If you really want to understand Miami, you got to realize one thing first of all,” says a character in this fourth novel from the incomparable Wolfe. “In Miami, everybody hates everybody.” Cubans, blacks, Anglos, Russians and other groups get tossed into Wolfe’s boiling south-Florida bouillabaisse. It’s a very funny book about a dim but likeable Cuban-American cop, Nestor Camacho, who thinks he’s a hero when he risks his own life and maybe saves a Cuban refugee, but instead finds himself ostracized by his own people. Then he antagonizes the black community after another spectacular arrest, of a drug dealer. Meanwhile, his beautiful but naive girlfriend dumps him for a lecherous psychiatrist specializing in porn addiction, while in a subplot Wolfe explores forgery and folly in the avant-garde art world. Fearlessly flitting from crack houses to a floating orgy for the tanned and wealthy, Wolfe strikes some chords he has played before, and his writing about porn can be unnerving. But the novel roars and zips along like a cigarette boat, and even at 82 the Man in White proves to be a marvelous reporter. Call this bawdy humdinger the Bonfire of the Miamians.

The Round House

by Louise Erdrich |



In this bittersweet coming-of-age tale, Erdrich returns to the fictional setting of many of her novels, a North Dakota Ojibwe reservation. There, in the spring of 1988, 13-year-old Joe’s mother is raped; when efforts to bring the attacker to justice are thwarted by a labyrinth of laws applying to Indian lands, Joe considers taking action himself. Nominated for a National Book Award, the novel is another of Erdrich’s haunting portraits of Native American life, tender but unsentimental and buoyed by subtle wit.

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train

by William Kuhn |



In Kuhn’s charmer of a first novel, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II-weighed down by history and scandals-is tired of the royal rat race. So when she sees a chance to ditch her duties and venture alone beyond the Palace walls she seizes it, hopping a train for Scotland to visit her beloved yacht-turned-tourist-attraction, Britannia. A just-like-us monarch who does yoga, gambles online and tweets as “Little Bit,” this Elizabeth is delightful, slyly funny company. You’ll never look at the real one the same way again.

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