Following a little break after my immersive experience with Madison Smartt Bell’s incredible trilogy of the Haitian Revolution, I’ve returned to his work with a road novel of a touring beach bar band, Anything Goes. He gets it right, not only in the telling, but he’s written a whole album of songs to go with the book. He co-wrote and performs with the poet, Wyn Cooper in an album called Forty Words for Fear. And who knew that Madison Smartt Bell was such a good singer! The music’s great, too!
The protagonist, Jesse, is a bass player with talent to spare, but he finds himself in the throes of carpal tunnel syndrome whenever necessity forces him into a higher calling, that of lead guitarist. There’s plenty of intra-band intrigue, romantic and otherwise, flakiness, petty crime. Bell always suffuses his tale-telling with ample intuitive writing. He gets the doubts and dreams of all the players and hangers-on.