Book Talk: Madison Smartt Bell on gods and demons

Thu Jun 2, 2011 1:09pm EDT
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) - Mae is a Las Vegas blackjack dealer, working amid the rattle of dice and whisper of cards, roaming the desert with a rifle in her time off.

When planes crash into the World Trade Center, she revels in the anarchy of the destruction. And she sees, in television footage, the face of an old lover, screaming as the towers fall.

"The Color of Night," by Madison Smartt Bell, follows Mae as 9/11 sends her back through a past shadowed by abuse and her years in a 1960s cult that commits a horrifying crime, and ultimately she tracks down her lover again.

Bell, a National Book Award finalist who has written extensively about Haiti, spoke with Reuters about his book and the origins of his compelling, if unusual, heroine.

Q: What was your intention with this book?

A: "It just popped into my head. I heard that voice talking to me and then I started writing it down. When you say my intentions, it's more like her intentions. I think she wants to make her case, that she's a divine being sort of walking around, having been purified and refined through suffering, and forged in the fire, she just walks through all the mundanity and ordinary suffering of mortal life. That's her position.

"Particularly if you sign in to her world view, she's extremely powerful and even if you don't, she's got a certain amount of power. And I think that's attractive."

Q: So you heard a voice and you went on from there?   Continued...