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American Tropic Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 15, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (January 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400042321
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400042326
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,697,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

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 rage—think Carl Hiaasen channeling Edward Abbey—makes for fiery reading. --Keir Graff


“[This] power-packed thriller. . . .  rises to the level of ferocious dramatic polemic against some of the worst crimes against nature—and, by extension, humanity.”
    —Alan Cheuse, San Francisco Chronicle

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.”
     —Dimitri Nasrallah, The Toronto Star

“The print equivalent of a character-driven film by Robert Altman. . . . A swift-moving, entertaining book with a timely message.”
    —Doug Childers, Richmond Times-Dispatch

“A creepy tale of Florida noir. . . . American Tropic has a fever-dream intensity and a pace as breathless as a steamy island night.”
     —Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times

“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.”

"A bold eco-thriller of wild truth and poetry destined to take its place alongside The Monkey Wrench Gang."
    --Philip Caputo, author of Acts of Faith and A Rumor of War

Customer Reviews

These characters don't converse; they make speeches at each other.
Sanchez keeps our blood roiling by giving us a boatload of characters that are hate-able, so hate-able that we cheer when one of them gets taken down.
Ariel I. (Beth)
I also loved the setting in Key West, the descriptions were so vivid.
Taylor Horsley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stoney TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
An ecoterrorist, Bizango, is randomly killing individuals in Key West, all of whom are loathsome for some reason---usually having offended the environment, but not always. Systematically, the cast of about 15 characters dwindles by murder and natural causes, until a relative few are left. Bizango is ultimately revealed as one of the main characters. Despite a few clumsy hints, Bizango's identity is implausible and unsatisfying. The "happy ending" of the principal side-story, essentially irrelevant to the plot, is also highly implausible (or at least has an inadequate foundation).

This is surely a fine beach read for folks visiting Key West. Many local sites are accurately described (albeit most could use more detail), and much true local history is well presented (albeit a little more depth would be appreciated). The characters are representative of "downtown" Key West's more fashionably eccentric inhabitants. Note however, that the vast majority of Key West citizens (although essentially invisible to tourists) are perfectly normal middle-class Americans. Some environmental problems are portrayed, albeit sufficiently over-the-top as to diminish the real problems. For example, the BP oilspill did NOT have a significant environmental effect on the lower Gulf, and "climate change" is NOT damaging coral reefs.

Many reviewers claim that the characters are excessively stereotyped. However, many real-life inhabitants of Key West assiduously strive to such "stereotypes". Stereotypes or not, there is little effective character development. There is no real plot, and the plot, such as it is, contains many implausibilities. The implausibilities can't be described without revealing Bizango's identity, so I can't elaborate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By G. Murphy on April 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Sanchez does it again! Unlike many "clever" South Florida writers, Sanchez sees beyond the easy quirkiness of Key West. Instead, with appropriate indignation, focuses on the very real dark and greedy underbelly of land "development" and environmental despoilment - of cruise ships, clogged streets, and thuderous power boat races. Murder and mayhem revolve around very real ecological villains, being eliminated by a violent vigilante in a full-body rubber skeleton suit, shooting his victims with a spear gun.
Like his masterful first Key West novel MILE ZERO, Sanchez' page-turner is character driven and populated by a gallery of the sorts of characters well-known by anyone who has ever lived in Key West: Noah Sax, who runs a pirate radio station from a boat off the coast, Luz Zamora, the black Cuban-American lesbian cop, or the local oddball known only as Hogfish, bicycling the island warning of the coming monster hurricane he calls "El Finito." Sanchez KNOWS Key West and his accuracy of locale and attention to small details is substantial. The streets and bars and landmarks are real and vivid; so much so, anyone truly familiar with Key West can, as I did, "watch" this novel like a movie, like a fast-paced, ferocious film, where, to the last frame, one can both root for the skeleton-clad villain AND the hero-cop.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ariel I. (Beth) on May 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Thomas Sanchez is new to me and I count that a loss. Am headed out now to find his earlier work, "Mile Zero." I lived in Key West and he described it so well that I could again smell the frangi pani and heavy, salty air. I love Key West and now I love Thomas Sanchez too. Incredible that he is not one of the descendants of those early Cubans from the 1800s and 1900s; he includes and describes those characters so well. Sanchez keeps our blood roiling by giving us a boatload of characters that are hate-able, so hate-able that we cheer when one of them gets taken down.

To top it all, he kept me guessing up to the very end. Great writing skill. Great read. Thanks Thomas! (Ariel I.)
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Format: Hardcover
American Tropic is one of the most intelligent and cool thrillers I've ever read. It is a literary thriller, different than the usual fodder. And the characters! They're unique, fascinating, three-dimensional. You feel like you've stepped into the world of those characters and the setting of Key West.

American Tropic is really visual which I like. I would watch American Tropic if it was a movie or tv show like Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I especially liked being out on a boat in the middle of the ocean with Noah, a pirate-radio wild man. I do however wish it was a longer story because I felt like it ended too soon but I guess that's because I liked the story. I would read a sequel if the author wrote one.

I did see that the author has another book set in Key West so I'm going to read that next. I gave my copy of American Tropic to a friend and she's reading it right now, she's totally hooked. I highly recommend this book!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
...that you very well may have missed. The guy is a genius with words. Only 17 reviews here for this guy. Shame on us readers. AMERICAN TROPIC is an eco thriller from Thomas Sanchez, a true writer and a treasure. READ THIS GUY! This story is in Key West, a favorite city of the author, and is about trying to catch an eco-serial killer, the killer is called Bizango. We follow Lt Luz Zamora, a black lesbian mother of two and a cop as she investigates and we get a torrent of ecological info on Key West from a pirate radio station as we read. Read anything by Sanchez. Well worth it. This short novel is a quick read, but slow down and enjoy this wonderful wordsmith HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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More About the Author

Thomas Sanchez is a descendant of Spanish immigrants and Portuguese cattlemen dating back five generations to the 1800s California Gold Rush. Sanchez was born in Oakland Naval Hospital in 1944, days after his father was killed in the World War II Battle of Tawara. He was raised on a rural farm in California's Santa Clara Valley.

Sanchez' first novel, RABBIT BOSS, the hundred year saga of a California Indian Tribe, was begun at the age of 20 when he worked on cattle ranches in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. RABBIT BOSS was published when Sanchez was 27 and was cited by the San Francisco Chronicle as, "one of the most important books of the 20th century," by the New York Times as "A novel of epic dimensions," by Vanity Fair as "a landmark of our literature."

Throughout the 1960s in California, Sanchez witnessed and participated in many of the eras major social and political events, the strikes of the farm workers in the Central Valley, the tumultuous U.C. Berkeley Free Speech Movement, the clashes in San Francisco between anti-Vietnam War protesters and police, the counter-culture explosion of the infamous Haight-Ashbury District.

In the 1970s Sanchez was involved in the siege of Wounded Knee in the Black Hills of South Dakota, site of the infamous massacre of Sioux Indians, where Sanchez ran strategic supplies and food to Indians trapped inside the town of Wounded Knee, which had been surrounded by armed Federal forces with shoot-to-kill orders. A partial account of this event was published by Sanchez as, THE REAL COWBOYS AND INDIANS, in a commemorative American Bi-Centennial book collection with Henry Miller, whom Sanchez knew.

Sanchez next published, ZOOTSUIT MURDERS. The novel, set in the Los Angeles barrio of World War II, explored a chaotic world of anti-Communist hysteria, bizarre religious cults, tough gangs and undercover government agents. ZOOT-SUIT MURDERS was cited by the Chicago Tribune as, "a vivid tale of political intrigue by a master of pictorial detail." Following ZOOTSUIT MURDERS Sanchez was honored with a Guggenheim Award for his writings.

In the 1980s Sanchez lived in Key West and traveled from there throughout the American tropics. He was in harm's way during the Civil Wars of Guatemala and El Salvador, where he traversed both political and physical jungle landscapes with a real life cast of characters, from guerilla fighters to defrocked renegade priests, to bible toting CIA spooks and hardbitten war journalists. Much of this made its way into Sanchez's novel, MILE ZERO, about which the Los Angeles Times stated, "Sanchez forges a new world vision rich in the cultural intertextuality of Steinbeck and Cervantes, Joyce and Shakespeare."

Throughout the 1990s Sanchez lived in Paris, Provence and Mallorca, the settings for his novel, DAY OF THE BEES, about the hidden lives of a famous Spanish painter and his French mistress, a woman transformed from an artist's muse into a heroic Resistance fighter. The esteemed newspaper Le Monde declared DAY OF THE BEES, "A literary landmark, a novel of unforgettable power about love and war, art and freedom." The French Government knighted Sanchez with the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres for his body of work.

At the beginning of the 21st century Sanchez returned to the tropics for his novel, KING BONGO, set against the glamor and intrigue of pre-revolutionary 1950s Havana, where Cuban and American cultures collided with geo-political consequence. The Washington Post proclaimed the novel to be, "An exotic portrait of sex, violence, corruption and conspiracy in Cuba."

Thomas Sanchez's newest novel, AMERICAN TROPIC, is set in the exotic island city of Key West, where a series of murders is being committed by a mysterious assassin. The victims have something unusual in common--a reckless disregard for the natural world. Someone is literally killing the people who are killing the environment. The novel propels us through a complex maze populated by rapacious developers, ruthless scammers and common folk struggling in heroic acts for moral high ground. All of these characters, from Noah Sax, a pirate radio shock-jock crusading against the destruction of the environment, to Luz Zamora, a homicide detective and dedicated mother defending her family, are swept up in a torrent of ecological rage headed towards an explosive ending. The novel tackles many environmental issues of our day--the disappearance of America's only Continental Reef and the on-going destruction of marine life. The Pulitzer Prize winning author, Philip Caputo, has proclaimed, AMERICAN TROPIC, "a bold book of wild truth and poetry, destined to become a classic of environmental literature."

Sanchez is currently directing a feature film documentary, INTO THE LIGHT, about the legendary film director and Actors Studio icon, Jack Garfein, a philosophical warrior against religious, racial and gender bigotry who survived 11 concentration camps beginning in 1944 at the age of 13 in Auschwitz.

All the novels of Thomas Sanchez are published by Knopf/Vintage, New York.

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