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The Color of Night (Vintage Contemporaries) [Kindle Edition]

Madison Smartt Bell
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Mae, a blackjack dealer in a Las Vegas casino, spends her free time wandering the desert with a rifle, or sitting in her trailer obsessively watching replays of an old lover escaping the wreckage of 9/11. What she sees in those images is different from what the rest of us would see. She revels in the pure anarchy, thrills at the destruction. These images recall memories of a childhood marked by unthinkable abuse, of her drift into a cult that committed the most shocking crime of the '60s, of her life since then as a feral and wary outsider, caught in a swirl of events at once personal, political, mythic.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Bell’s novels all have roots that reach to the underworld. He has always opened himself to the monstrous, the nihilistic, the darkly erotic. And now, in this poisonous snake of a tale, he rides a river of terror as it flows through one deeply damaged woman and yokes together acts of incomprehensible violence. Mae deals cards in a Nevada casino and spends what’s left of her long nights prowling the desert, rifle in hand. She is mesmerized by the television coverage of 9/11 after catching a glimpse of a long-lost lover. Memories of Mae’s outlaw past begin to crash into the carapace of her solitude like the death-planes gliding into the towers. Her memories range from her brother’s diabolical abuse to her easy recruitment into what we recognize as the Manson family, with the kill-cult’s hallucinogen-fueled orgies and grotesque killing sprees. Among their peripheral casualties are a famous musician known as O_____ and his love, Eerie, haunting variations of Orpheus and Eurydice. In this sharp blade of a novel, every word is weaponized as Bell stands at the portal to chthonic evil. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Through 15 books, Bell has developed a devoted literary following; aided by nationwide advertising and special reading-group promotion, his latest novel, about a former Manson family member, could crossover to James Ellroy–like mainstream sales. --Donna Seaman


"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

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1099 KB
  • Print Length: 226 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B009BO359O
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 5, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004P8JPRC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #998,533 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Latter-Day Bacchae April 5, 2011
Las Vegas, September 11, 2001. Mae is a fifty-something blackjack dealer in a minor Las Vegas casino: "It was a sort of fifth-rate hell, and I a minor demon posted to it. A succubus too indifferent to suck." Watching coverage of the flight from Ground Zero, she catches sight of her former lover, Laurel, "kneeling on the sidewalk, her head thrown back, her hands stretched out with the fingers crooked, as weapons or in praise. Blood was running from the corners of her mouth, like in the old days, though not for the same reason." After work, Mae slips through a hole she has cut in the chain-link fence of her trailer park and goes into the moonlit desert, where the tracks of ATVs cross the serpentine marks of sidewinders in the sand -- Cormac McCarthy country, with Bell matching the master image for image. Back in her trailer, she compiles the 9/11 news footage into a two-hour tape that she watches again and again, reveling in it: "The planes bit chunks from the sides of the towers and the gorgeous sheets of orange flame roared up and the mortals flung away from the glittering windows like soap flakes swirling in a snow globe and the tower shuddered, buckled, blossomed and came showering down."

All these moments come from the first dozen pages of Madison Smartt Bell's magnificent tour-de-force, and it never lets up. There are enough hints there to propel a novel three times the length, but this one is compact and lethal as a bullet. Mae clearly is a woman with a past, and we gradually discover what it is, even as she works to close the circle of her personal hell in the present. Her obsession with violence is the legacy of traumatic incestuous abuse (worse in that she seems to have embraced rather than resisted it).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Beasts and demons shelter under the color of night, twisted souls who feed on madness, striding godlike through the lives of hapless victims. Thirty years after the infamous Hollywood cult slayings that cast terror into the hearts of the Beautiful People and spawn a trial of horrifying images, a baby cut from a womb, bloody letters on a wall, Mae ruminates on the past as she watches the flickering images of 9/11 on her TV screen, the hypnotic repetition of fiery death. The blackjack dealer scurries from her Las Vegas casino table to the rented trailer in Boulder City, a chain link fence holding the vast desert at bay. It's all come rushing back, those heady days of psychedelic violence and rampant hedonism, memories prompted by the sight of Laurel, an old lover on the 9/11 images recurring again and again.

Make no mistake, Mae is a predator, creation of a perverted sibling who molds her to his dark liking, a monster made, not born, but monster nonetheless, one of many that roam while innocents slumber, soulless confederates attracted to one another in silent communion and drugged malevolence. A phone call to New York links past to present and it all unravels, years of madness exposed to merciless scrutiny. With agile insertion of Greek mythology and the narcissistic fantasies of demons in human form, Madison Smartt Bell strolls languidly through the history of a country limned with violence, the color of night a metaphor for the unspeakable that breeds in the underbelly of the American psyche. Not an easy novel to read, biting and perverse, it is nevertheless a bold foray into a netherworld that does exist for all our efforts to deny it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BRILLIANT AND TERRIFYING! April 5, 2011
THE COLOR OF NIGHT is a haunting, violent, terrifying story that will grip you from the first word to the last. In the acknowledgments, Mr. Bell writes, "Surely it is the most vicious and appalling story ever to pass through my hand to the page, so inevitably some people will hate it." I loved this book and have a feeling all but the very prudish will feel the same.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just don't get it. June 12, 2011
By Mad Man
I've read a number of the early Bell books and enjoyed them quite a bit. This one, though, never connected with me on any level. Bell's rehash of the Manson saga doesn't really offer the reader much of anything--I couldn't help but feel that the author was trying to write his own Cormac McCarthy novel--with scenes of brutality, but lacking entirely any sense of resonance with this reader. The leaping back and forth some 30+ yrs between the late 60s and 2001 seems to lack any real sense of purpose--it's just another horrific event--one rather small scale and one large scale. There are some nice turns of phrase throughout, but in the end the book just didn't do anything for me and after about a month I probably won't have the slightest memory of it. Was reading it a horrible experience? No, and it was a very quick read. Was it shocking? No, in fact each step of the way it just seemed to be trying too hard to be something it clearly was not. Perhaps I just didn't get it, but one thing I know for sure--Madison Smartt Bell has written far better books than this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Gea
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Color of Night is a beautiful, haunting, and disturbing story, which I found fascinating. I see it as a character study about a girl's transformation from victim to predator. Madison Smartt Bell charts Mae's evolution through flashbacks that describe her sexual abuse at the hands of her brother with excruciating psychological verity. Mae says of Terrell, "He never forced. He persuaded. . ," thus making her complicit in her own abuse. Mae's brother is the trigger that unleashes the animal inside her, along with the voices and the lure of pain.

Later, D., leader of The Family, will pick up where Terrell left off, honing Mae's predatory instincts while using her as a tool to serve his own needs. D. orchestrates "the invasion of arousal, willing or no," turning Mae's body against her and against others as well.

The miracle in all of this is that despite the devastation inflicted upon her body and mind, Mae is still able to love fiercely and tenderly. At turns, both jealous and protective, she ruthlessly avenges her lover, even as she actively participates in her destruction. And so, not only is this a novel of violence, it is a love story as well.

Bell's language is gorgeous and darkly erotic. He expertly weaves luscious myth throughout the narrative that deepens and enriches the story. Bell writes about our blackest nightmares in a beautiful, seductive, and detached manner, as Mae is seductive and detached herself. The reader is pulled in, mesmerized and repulsed by the horror, yet unable to look away. Bell seduces the reader as Terrell and D. have seduced Mae.

Although The Color of Night is a violent novel, there is a point to the violence.
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More About the Author

Madison Smartt Bell is a critically acclaimed writer of more than a dozen novels and story collections, as well as numerous essays and reviews for publications such as Harper's and the New York Times Book Review. His books have been finalists for both the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award, among other honors.


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