Madison Smartt Bell’s historical novels have been bobbing on and off my to-read list for awhile now so I was excited to learn he was returning to Nashville as part of the Salon @ 615 series. I wasn’t sure what I would think of The Color of Night until Bell started reading and I was transfixed. Wondering around the desert at night with a rifle, being possessed by pagan gods, weapon fetishism – ya’ know feel-good-summer-time stuff – I knew this book was up my alley.
The Color of Night is actually a sophisticated and literate What If… story. What if two Manson girls got away unnoticed and lived on divergent paths until 9/11. One segued back into normalcy. While the other… yeah, that whole in the desert with a gun deal. The psychic wound of 9/11 tosses our gun-toting hermit back into the mental world she inhabited during her time with the Summer of “Love” Debased cultus. (Something’s wrong here. A LOT of things are wrong here.) So then she seeks her long forgotten other half. This has best ending of any novel I have read since Drop City.
Though not pitch perfect, the book does link the collective scars of the Manson murders and 9/11 as turning points in popular consciousness. With equal dollops of sex, horror, ancient deities, and Americana, The Color of Night is everything I hoped Neil Gaiman’s post-comics fiction would have become instead of the children’s stories which have made him famous.
Devil’s Dream just got bumped to the top of my to-read list.