Toro! Toro! Toro!

Click here to purchase Toro! Toro! Toro! by William Hjortsberg

The book I sometimes call “Son of Alp,” happened almost by accident. After the success of Gray Matters and the subsequent Symbiography debacle, I had planned to write an epic novel dealing with Norse warriors and set in the Middle Ages. (A quarter century later, this project is still on the back-burner with about 300 pages of manuscript completed.) The only problem was that all the required research consumed my available writing time. While learning a lot about Vikings, no new pages accrued. One morning, I sat up in bed with a curious notion. Out of the blue, it struck me that the old macho myth about the “art” of bull fighting was ripe for a swift kick in the ass. And who better to deliver it than yours truly?

The writing sped by swiftly as I invented the plot and characters day-by-day, making it all up as I went along. It helped to have lived in Spain and Mexico and to have attended actual bull fights. My long-standing admiration of Hemingway also came into play as Papa was certainly the greatest American advocate for the “art” of the corrida. All in all, the little book has a curious kind of insular perfection. The main problem with it is that in order to appreciate the joke, the reader must be familiar with Spanish customs and language, the world of bull fighting and Hemingway’s considerable contributions to tauromachian literature. Also, on occasion the joke has backfired. I’ve often been cited as the author of the Pearl Harbor bombing film, Tora! Tora! Tora!, a project which did not involve my participation. Puns are dumb enough without having continually to explain them.

The dust jacket photo was taken by Lane Stewart from Sports Illustrated while we were on assignment covering rodeo schools in Arcadia, Florida. At Larry Mahan’s bull riding clinic, motel room bull sessions led to my meeting with Widow Maker. Mahan, a six-time World Champion All-Around Cowboy, lent me his resined glove. “Get off on the right side, ” he told me, “if you go over the left shoulder, you’ll hang up in the rigging and then you’ll be some place you’ve never been before.” To see that place, Click Here. Lane shot an entire roll of film of what he said looked “like somebody getting assassinated.”‚Äč