KINDLING FOR A BONFIRE
SHUTTLING BETWEEN HIS MANHATTAN apartment and his country home in Southampton, N.Y., what does writer Tom Wolfe crank up on the car stereo? Why, great literature, of course—most recently audiotapes of Dracula and Huck Finn.
No surprise, then, that while readers await his next big novel—the first since 1987’s Bonfire of the Vanities—Wolfe, 66, has performed the equivalent of a literary warmup: He has released a novella about the news business, Ambush at Fort Bragg (BDD, $21.95), exclusively on audio. Explains Wolfe: “A lot of people listen to books in the car now as opposed to an hour and a half of unrelieved slaughter on the regular news.”
Read by actor Edward Norton (Primal Fear), Wolfe’s tale is animated by southern dialects (“I loved hearing all the accents,” he says), country music and what the author calls R-rated fun with the media. Wolfe wrote the story—serialized last year in Rolling Stone—using material discarded from the novel-in-progress because he had already “done a lot with media hypocrisy” in Bonfire. In the audio snippet, he chronicles the adventures of a prime-time TV news magazine producer and his star reporter in North Carolina trying to confront three soldiers suspected of a fatal gay bashing with a secretly taped video on which the men admit to the crime. “I was curious about how this story would play out,” says Wolfe.
And how is that novel—the one he started eight years ago—playing itself out? “I’m finally far enough into it that everything is kind of set,” he says a bit sheepishly. “But there’s really no excuse for taking this long.”