A contributor to Harper’s, the New York Times Book Review, and many other publications, Madison Smartt Bell has also been a finalist for the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Devil’s Dream is a rich, evocative work of historical fiction profiling the infamous Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
"Great historical account but diabolical in value"
Over one busy weekend, small-time heroin dealer Johnny B. Goode and his alliance of fellow pushers work their trade amidst students, businessmen, and assorted sewer rats while avoiding the law. Narrated from the separate perspectives of each member of the gang, The Washington Square Ensemble follows the twisted paths that have led the seven men through the gritty New York underworld and toward a fragile alliance at Washington Square. With humor, compassion, and an uncanny ear for voices of the streets, Madison Smartt Bell delivers a stunning indictment and occasional celebration of a blighted New York landscape.
Macrae is living pretty close to the edge in the inhospitable rush of Manhattan. He and Charlie make their bread, such as it is, by a fairly clever scheme of forcing their vitims to withdraw money from bank cash machines. They become involved in darker matters, and Macrae indulges in an incomparably brutal act of vengeance, which is not really his style. The pair moves on to Baltimore, where they hook up with a black ex-con called Porter, from whom Macrae begins to learn "the perils of living... an unexamined life."
A freelance film editor, Tracy Bateman goes where the work is. So when his old partner calls with an assignment, Tracy finds himself on a plane to Rome. But there are surprises waiting for him - deadly surprises that will lead him on a desperate chase across Europe, into the hands of a pair of brutal drug smugglers, and back to New York City, where the greatest betrayal of all awaits.…
A photographer descends into New York City’s chaotic and brutal underground in this sweeping story of the Big Apple at its seediest. It’s 1982, and Clarence Dmitri Larkin is working as a photographer at Bellevue hospital in Manhattan. The job offers a painfully clear perspective on a city sick with madness, fraught with crime, and coming apart at the seams. Larkin’s curiosity soon leads to a subterranean world of all the city’s secret dangers, including domestic terrorists with a nuclear device, a serial killer inspired by an occult past, and a disfigured arsonist who just might be the one to burn the whole city down.
Thomas Laidlaw returns home from Vietnam with nothing much in mind but to tend his acreage, live apart, and get lost in the roots music he grew up with. Laidlaw’s childhood friend Rodney Redmon is doubly burdened: Not only is he scarred from the war, he is also a black man living in a prejudiced area of Tennessee. Redmon’s homecoming from the war included time in jail - the result of his being framed for real estate fraud by racist forces within the local establishment. Once released, he and Laidlaw rekindle their friendship and both veterans try to put the war behind them.
In ten sharply drawn tales, Madison Smartt Bell expands his masterly, inventive, and deftly textured fictional landscape to portray a collection of America's dispossessed characters.
Madison Smartt Bell’s celebrated debut story collection about the daily struggles of life in America. Engrossing and brimming with insight, Bell’s early stories are remarkable for their ambition of scope and the author’s deft rendering of human diversity.