"American Tropic" by Thomas Sanchez (Knopf, $26, January 2013)
To be published in four month's time is "American Tropic," the latest work by Thomas Sanchez, a resident of San Francisco, Paris and Key West whose previous novels, "Rabbit Boss" (1989) and "Mile Zero" (1993), were big hits. "American Tropic" has already been praised by former Key West resident Philip Caputo as "a book of wild truth and poetry, destined to become a classic of environmental literature."
It will undoubtedly be destined, too, to send shock waves through our town, as did "Mile Zero," this time due to its take on the powerboat races in Key West.
Here's a paragraph, taken from the proof copy recently sent us directly by Knopf, that sets the scene. Speaking is a pirate-radio pundit named Noah, who is broadcasting from aboard a trawler called Noah's Lark anchored offshore ("Dial Five-Five-C-O-N-C-H) and begs his listeners to "Show me the rage!"
"If you don't want to show me the rage, let's talk about the Powerboat Championship Race starting from Key West Harbor this morning. Those boats burn enough fuel in one race to fly a jumbo jet across the Atlantic. Hey, let's not sweat the carbon emissions. Let's disregard a monstrous guzzle of fossil fuel from Mother Earth when the scent of blood sport is in the air. Today, Key West's native-son racer, Dandy Randy, is set to break his own speed record of over 90 miles an hour. Problem is, Randy went missing after yesterday's qualifying race, Where's Randy? Holed up in a poker parlor? Adrift in puke after a night of prowling sleazy bars? At the bottom of the sea, entangled in a net with dead turtles? What's up with Randy?"
Ten pages later comes this: "A large television behind a bar. On the screen, a baseball game cuts away to a breaking news story. A headline scrolls across the screen, 'Murder at the Race,' followed by a video shot from a helicopter of a race-marker buoy floating at sea. Tied to the pole of the buoy is the blurred image of a man's body. Everyone in the bar stops talking and turns toward the television just as the image flashes off the screen and is replaced with, 'Dandy Randy found dead. '"
Thomas Sanchez's bestselling "Mile Zero" was acclaimed by Vanity Fair as "a mythmaking and magisterial novel" and The Washington Post called it "A holy terror of a book." "Rabbit Boss" was hailed by The San Francisco Chronicle as "one of the 20th century's most important books...."
Next year's "American Tropic" is being promoted already as an "electrifying eco-thriller" set at "America's famous southernmost point, a sunny world of dark desires, hidden truths and colliding destinies."