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American Tropic
Cover of American Tropic
American Tropic
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Thomas Sanchez’s American Tropic is a heart-racing ecological thriller that showcases today’s headline issues. Sanchez’s first Key West novel, Mile Zero, was hailed by The Washington Post Book World as a “holy terror of a book of immense power and passion,” acclaimed by The New York Times Book Review as “dazzling,” and lauded by Vanity Fair as “mythmaking and magisterial.” Now, Sanchez returns again to America’s famous southernmost continental point, Key West.
This exotic island city in the Florida Keys is being terrorized by horrific murders committed by a mysterious voodoo assassin. With each new kill, it becomes clear that the skeleton-clad executioner has an ecological agenda. The novel propels us through a complex maze populated by rapacious developers, ruthless scammers, and common folk engaged in heroic acts to save their community.
The characters, from the defenders of America’s only continental reef to the destroyers of marine life, are all swept up in this torrent of horrors. Everyone dreads being the killer’s next victim as the clock counts down to the end of hurricane season and the final dramatic explosion of fear and rage. 
With canny perception and striking revelations, American Tropic illuminates a world of dark desires, hidden truths, and colliding destinies.
Thomas Sanchez’s American Tropic is a heart-racing ecological thriller that showcases today’s headline issues. Sanchez’s first Key West novel, Mile Zero, was hailed by The Washington Post Book World as a “holy terror of a book of immense power and passion,” acclaimed by The New York Times Book Review as “dazzling,” and lauded by Vanity Fair as “mythmaking and magisterial.” Now, Sanchez returns again to America’s famous southernmost continental point, Key West.
This exotic island city in the Florida Keys is being terrorized by horrific murders committed by a mysterious voodoo assassin. With each new kill, it becomes clear that the skeleton-clad executioner has an ecological agenda. The novel propels us through a complex maze populated by rapacious developers, ruthless scammers, and common folk engaged in heroic acts to save their community.
The characters, from the defenders of America’s only continental reef to the destroyers of marine life, are all swept up in this torrent of horrors. Everyone dreads being the killer’s next victim as the clock counts down to the end of hurricane season and the final dramatic explosion of fear and rage. 
With canny perception and striking revelations, American Tropic illuminates a world of dark desires, hidden truths, and colliding destinies.
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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    "Is

    anyone

    out

    there?"

    The question hangs, the words stop, then they begin again, rhythmically rising in a strident drumbeat.

    "This is Truth Dog broadcasting from pirate-­radio boat Noah's Lark to the whole dead world, speaking to you out of the darkness of night. Are there two brains out there to rub together for a spark of illumination? Do you hear me? Maybe no one is awake in Key West, just twenty miles across the water from me. Maybe all the eyes on that coral-­capped island are closed to the obvious truth. Perhaps no one is awake in the wide world that spins obliviously toward its own demise. Could be I'm floating out here alone, broadcasting to a country of unliving people caught in a zombie stupor of collective historical amnesia and collapsed moral hearts. Could be that only the fish beneath me in the sea are awake, sliding through opaque waters, finning through submerged canyons carved by millennia of time, their mouths agape, fins pushing against water's gravity, on the prowl for their next meal, dead between their eyes to any joy, propelled by their simple ancient truth of gut survival.

    "Hey, dead-­between-­the-­eyes fish zombies! Call me now. I'm on the line for you. I'm on the hook. Show me your rage. I'm like God in the heavens, or Jesus in the confessional box, or Moses in the lightning glow on the mountaintop. Better yet, I take collect calls from sinners and seekers, repenters and fakers.

    "Call me before it is too late. Wake up, little zombies, wake up. Call even if you are dead and only now are awakening in the afterlife, your cold fish-­scaled bodies slithering out of the sea onto the shore of a new beginning in an old world. Call Truth Dog, an old dog with new tricks.

    "Call me and tell me how the lightning on the mountaintop strikes you between those dead eyes of yours so you see illuminated the green flash of light across the ocean's horizon spelling out a new dawn and you can finally shout the truth.

    "Illumination.

    Illuminate or die.

    Show me your rage."

    q

    Luz awakens in her bed from dreams of deep-­indigo oceans. Her brown eyes take in the white-­skinned body of Joan sleeping next to her. Joan's blond hair lies spread over the pillow; her deep breathing heaves the curve of her bare breasts in a rhythmic rise and fall that Luz has known intimately for twelve years. Luz kisses Joan's bare shoulder and slides her dark hand under the white swell of one of Joan's breasts. Luz stares at her hand, her fingers in a winged shape, a dark bird flying beneath the full orb of an alabaster moon.

    Above the bed, the ceiling fan's blades swirl through the humid air. The insistent sound brings Luz back from her brief flight to Joan's fleshy landscape. She looks up wide-­eyed at the blades as their slicing sound grows louder, as forceful as incoming surf crashing onto an island, waves smashing, spraying, drowning everything, plunging Luz back beneath an indigo ocean, where she swims in watery turmoil surrounded by mysterious creatures lurking in a fathomless deep.

    Luz shakes her head, driving submerged images from her mind. She turns quickly away from the fan's blades. She rises from her bed and stands barefoot before her dresser, her white cotton underwear tight against the sheen of her dark skin. She dresses quickly in black pants and a white Cuban-­style guayabera shirt. From the dresser top she picks up a loaded Glock 30 semi­automatic pistol with a thick gorilla-­grip handle. She snaps the heavy black weapon into its leather holster on a belt. She lifts the long shirt above her pants and straps the gun snug against...

About the Author-
  • Thomas Sanchez is a descendant of cattlemen dating back four generations in California to the nineteenth-century Gold Rush. He was born days after his father was killed at the age of twenty-one in the Battle of Tarawa during World War II. Sanchez's novels have received numerous honors, and he has been awarded a Guggenheim fellowship and is a Chevalier of France's Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Sanchez is also the director of a documentary film, Into the Light, chronicling the life of Jack Garfein, legendary film director and Actors Studio icon, and survivor of eleven concentration camps. Sanchez divides his time between San Francisco, Key West, and Paris.



Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 15, 2012
    In Sanchez’s new eco-thriller, a serial killer in a skeleton outfit is offing locals who’ve inflicted harm on the island paradise of Key West, Fla. Somewhere offshore, self-proclaimed “eco shock jock” Noah tries to get people outraged about environmental abuses; on land, he wants to win back his wife. Meanwhile, Luz, a Cuban-American lesbian detective, struggles to get ahead of the killer while caring for her leukemia-afflicted daughter. As a second-generation cop, Luz knows the stories about her father slaying a similar killer, Bizango, years before. Could this be another Bizango, or even the original Bizango, alive and back in action? The killer’s identity remains mysterious to the end, which involves a secret lair in a Civil War–era fort. In Sanchez’s hands, Key West is a familiar place, with open-air bars and tourist traps, and his characters are a typically colorful bunch, including a dogfight promoter, a tough-as-nails female shrimper, and a cocky real estate developer. Sanchez has affection for the community, the action proceeds with cinematic economy, and the plot is tight. The excitement is somewhat undermined by instances of clunky dialogue and the too-familiar setting and cast, especially when compared to T.C. Boyle’s When the Killing’s Done. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM.

  • Kirkus

    November 1, 2012
    A Southern gothic with a pro-environment veneer. In the dead of night, in the waters off Key West, a pirate radio broadcaster rants, encouraging callers to "Show me your rage." Cut to a house in town, where an early-rising woman fondles her lesbian partner before strapping on a loaded Glock. Cut to a corpse in the ocean, tied to a buoy, ears cut off, lips sewn together. Cut to a floating raft, bearing dead men, women and children. No one can accuse Sanchez (King Bongo, 2003, etc.) of being slow out of the gate in his sixth novel. The broadcaster, Noah Sax, is the novel's flawed hero. The rum-sodden disbarred lawyer styles himself an "eco-shock jock," railing against the destruction of the environment. The woman is Luz Zamora, a fifth-generation Cuban-American and a Key West detective. The bodies on the raft are Haitian refugees. And the mutilated corpse was a partner in a huge new resort development which will harm the environment. There will be five more murder victims, all of them doing really bad things to Mother Nature. So there's a serial killer on the loose, and through a microdigital recorder left in the mouth of the second victim, he identifies himself as Bizango, the Haitian voodoo avenger who punishes wrongdoers. This latest incarnation wears a full-body rubber suit painted with skeleton bones; his weapon is a steel spear. The bumbling police department briefly (and ludicrously) eyes the lone Haitian survivor, a terrified teenager, as the killer, before charging Noah (another blooper). Bizango outdoes himself by killing the captain of a cruise ship in his cabin and then invading the town's Halloween parade, spearing the last of the resort partners on his float. The environmental theme is the junior partner in a bad marriage, overwhelmed by the blood and guts. When the killer's identity is finally revealed, it will be the most improbable detail of all. Even as a spoof, which is how it reads, this lurid work is less than entertaining.

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    January 1, 2013

    Since Rabbit Boss (1973) Sanchez has written thought-provoking novels that toe the line between social commentary and old-fashioned storytelling. His newest continues the run. "Hey, dead-between-the-eyes fish zombies! Show me your rage." So speaks Truth Dog, "the only eco-shock jock broadcasting at sea," to his Key West audience as he floats beyond territorial waters to avoid arrest. Wake up and do something! Each year there are fewer leatherbacks; the key deer are dying off; the reefs are deteriorating; cancer is on the rise. What follows is an angry eco-novel presented as a roman policier of sorts. The shockjock misses his wife, a Cuban American cop chases after a killer while caring for a dying daughter, the killer dresses like a skeleton and leaves mutilated corpses behind: the dead men were all defilers of the environment. VERDICT The novel is a bit ragged, but in the end who cares? Sanchez's writing is vigorous, and he crafts gorgeous prose images of a landscape under assault. The occasionally overwritten passages are but a small flaw in an otherwise enjoyable book. Its topicality will add to Sanchez's already existing army of admirers.--David Keymer, Modesto, CA

    Copyright 2013 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    November 1, 2012
    People say what's on their minds in this fever-dream ecothriller, from a radio pirate who rants about the environmental destruction of the Florida Keys to a shrimp-boat captain who brags, I'll net turtles . . . kill turtles with my bare hands if I want. But while everyone else argues, someone is making their points with a speargun, executing men and women for crimes against nature and attributing the deeds to a voodoo avenger called Bizango. At the forefront of the hunt are Luz, a relentless Key West police detective whose daughter is slowly dying from cancer, and Noah, the radio pirate, also an alcoholic, disbarred environmental lawyer whose marriage is failing. Sanchez (King Bongo, 2003) has an arresting voice and his own anger at the depredations of greedy developers and ignorant tourists infuses every page with a sense of near-apocalyptic doom. His characters' on-the-nose dialogue may not work for everyone, and the identity of the killer, when revealed, doesn't feel quite right, but that almost doesn't matter. The author's incandescent ragethink Carl Hiaasen channeling Edward Abbeymakes for fiery reading.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2012, American Library Association.)

  • Alan Cheuse, San Francisco Chronicle

    "[This] power-packed thriller. . . . rises to the level of ferocious dramatic polemic against some of the worst crimes against nature--and, by extension, humanity."

  • Dimitri Nasrallah, The Toronto Star "American Tropic propels its cast into a murky world of murder and consequence, with rapid-fire vignettes, an expanding collage of personalities, and a thickening mystery to compel the reader toward a satisfying finale."
  • Doug Childers, Richmond Times-Dispatch "The print equivalent of a character-driven film by Robert Altman. . . . A swift-moving, entertaining book with a timely message."
  • Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times "A creepy tale of Florida noir. . . . American Tropic has a fever-dream intensity and a pace as breathless as a steamy island night."
  • BookReporter "There are two elements that make American Tropic worth reading. The first is Sanchez's rare ability to peel back the flora and fauna of his real-world settings in order to get into the cracks and crevices of scenery and backgrounds that most people notice fleetingly--if at all--out of their side windows as they move from Point A to Point B. The second is the power of his prose, which, after four decades of writing, remains undiminished."
  • Philip Caputo, author of Acts of Faith and A Rumor of War "A bold eco-thriller of wild truth and poetry destined to take its place alongside The Monkey Wrench Gang."
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