From the Publisher
"A truly unnerving mythical novel that asks us to piece together what is left of a shattered collective unconscious. Bell's devastated, traumatized characters surf the debris of who we are and where we've been."A.M. Homes, author of This Book Will Save Your Life
"A work that makes lucid the shadows and darkening corners that were encroaching on an America increasingly lost to its own history and self-respect. . . . As unforgettable as the events that inspired it." Robert Stone, author of Dog Soldiers
"In twenty books written over nearly thirty years, Madison Smartt Bell has gone from a writer of enormous promise to a master and more, a living literary resource. As his avid admirers will be happy to tell you, if you haven't read him, you don't know what you're missing. The Color of Night is characteristically brilliant and compelling, a terrifying vision of American dreaming. It may not be pretty, but it's certainly beautiful."Michael Herr, author of Dispatches
“[A] sharp blade of a novel, every word is weaponized as Bell stands at the portal to chthonic evil.”—Booklist
“A hybrid of mid-career Cormac McCarthy and the film collaborations of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. . . . Bell's skills as a novelist are amply in evidence.”—Kirkus
In his latest novel, Anisfield-Wolf Award winner and National Book Award finalist Bell composes a tale of violence and obsession. The work chronicles Mae, a seemingly normal yet wounded blackjack dealer, through empty sexual escapades in an attempt to quell the feelings for her former lover Laurel, whom she compulsively watches in 9/11 videos. She replays the images of Laurel on her knees, hands raised to the sky while the rubble of the wreckage surrounds her; Mae is thrilled by the destruction, offering readers a glimpse into a tormented mind. The journal-reminiscent style of writing coupled with the direct, detached voice of the narrator is captivating. Each page builds to a climax with another experience, such as Mae's incestuous abuse at the hands of her brother and her unremitting wanderings in the desert with her rifle, which adds to the layers of an already tattered existence. VERDICT Wonderfully capturing the essence of a troubled woman, Bell's novel will appeal to fans of John Updike's The Terrorist and readers of psychological novels.—Ashanti White, Univ. of North Carolina, Greensboro
The latest fiction from versatile and distinguished veteran Bell (Devil's Dream, 2009, etc.) provides a grim, pitiless look at the ways that violence perpetuates itself.
Mae is a middle-aged woman in desert self-exile. By day she deals blackjack in a casino; by night she roams the sere landscape above her trailer, peering out at the world through a rifle sight—a predator in semi-retirement. After 9/11, she sits rapt—and a little enraptured—before her television, watching endless replays of the crashing planes in a way that has an unmistakable erotic charge: "a plane biting into the side of a building, its teeth on the underside where the mouth of a shark is." Then, in a shot of survivors crawling from the wreckage, she spots her ex-lover Laurel—bloodied, kneeling, supplicant. Mae records the image, makes an endless loop of it and begins watching the clip obsessively. She dispatches a friend to locate Laurel, whom she hasn't seen in decades—and who, like Mae, has good reason to be unfindable. Meanwhile, Mae begins reflecting on the unbroken chain of violence that has made her the damaged, semi-feral person she is. First came five years of incestuous abuse by her brother, who taught her both to hunt and to cut herself, a habit she's carried on all these years; then her would-be escape to San Francisco, where she immediately fell first into prostitution and then into this novel's chilling version of the Manson family. The book's devotion to anatomizing and exploring violence in all its forms—it resembles at times a hybrid of mid-career Cormac McCarthy and the film collaborations of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez—can make it wobble between poignancy and near-parody—eventually it devolves into something like a body count conducted in lyric prose. Further, the echoes of Orpheus and Eurydice seem overdone. But Bell's skills as a novelist are amply in evidence, and the reader cannot quite look away.
A cold, dark novel—but a worthy one.
With The Color of Night, Madison Smartt Bell delivers a superheated noir potboiler of unrelenting savagery that assumes proportions that are either cosmic or comic, depending on your taste for such things. The novel may make you cheer or vomit, but I guarantee you won't read anything else like it this year.
The Washington Post