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Herman Wouk's Texas-Sized Tale

Herman Wouk
Herman Wouk
Cover of Wouk's New Book <i>A Hole in Texas</i>
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Cover of Wouk's New Book <i>A Hole in Texas</i>

Herman Wouk, the 88-year-old author of The Caine Mutiny and The Winds of War, talks to NPR's Bob Edwards about A Hole in Texas -- the first novel he's written in 10 years. The book tells the story of a scientist whose scuttled work on the Superconducting Super Collider in Texas becomes a matter of Hollywood interest and national security.

An excerpt from A Hole in Texas:

Wincing at each move, he dressed, limped out to the garage, and eased himself into his car. When he pressed the garage-door opener, nothing happened. What now? Low battery? He lurched to Penny's car and tried her remote. It did not work, either. The wall button goosed the door to rattle upward a foot, then it halted. He had never before tried using the manual lift. How did it work, exactly? He grasped the thick rough cord in both hands and with excruciating pain hauled the screeching door halfway up, where it stuck. His lower back aflame, pulsating, he called the project scientist on his cell phone to beg off from the meeting.

She was unsympathetic. "Guy, take a couple of Aleves. Peter's on his way. Why don't I alert him to pick you up? You've got to be here."

"Why me, Ottoline? I'm crippled, I tell you —"

"You know more about the Superconducting Super Collider than anyone here."

"The Super Collider? So what? It was killed back in '93. It's dead and forgotten."

"Not anymore."

"How's that? For crying out loud, Ottoline, what's up?"

"Not over the phone. I'll page Peter and see you in a bit."

Penny said, "Aleve, my foot," and gave him two of her migraine capsules. "These will do the trick."

"Codeine? I'll be a zombie," he protested, downing them.

"All the better. Don't commit yourself to anything involving colliders."

"Not with a knife at my throat."

Soft soothing warmth gradually suffused his back as he waited for Peter Braunstein. Memories flooded him, memories long suppressed, released and made dreamily vivid by the opiate. Those years in alien Texas, years of working his heart out on that stupendous machine; years of the greatest fun and challenge in his life, and the worst frustration! He knew too much, that was the trouble. The monster might well have worked, but then again, every one of those ten thousand supermagnets had to function flawlessly, and they were his responsibility. He had fought in vain for more time, more careful designing, more testing. Hurry, hurry, national prestige at stake, get the thing going, then see! That was the word from on high, with unsubtle slurs about his foot-dragging...

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