Madison Smartt Bell ~ Save Me, Joe Lewis

Continuing my Summer of Bell, traversing the complete published works of Madison Smartt Bell, I just finished reading his novel, Save Me, Joe Lewis (last words of a deathrow inmate prior to his execution), which follows the criminal path of serial muggers Macrae (the lanky one, always recognizable as our author) and Charlie, with the addition of Porter and other assorted thieves and prostitutes on the lam, beginning at Port Authority Bus Terminal, running to lay low in Baltimore (Bell’s present hometown), and finally to Macrae’s family homestead outside Nashville, from which Bell hails. Pretty alarming to find Macrae running into another Bell alter ego back in TN, the hero/banjo player of his earlier farm-home-based novel, Soldier’s Joy, Thomas Laidlaw. Holy Doppleganger!

A true poet of the down-and-out, an epitome of the bedraggled, this is an iconic novel of honour among thieves. Madison Smartt Bell is unparalleled in his pacing, detail, his knowledge of when to withhold and when to reveal, and how subtly over the course of a narrative. His work is an exemplar of great writing craft.

My next foray into his work (Haruki Murakami’s new novel arrives tomorrow; I’ll need to drop everything for that) will be his epic historical trilogy about the Haitian Revolution commencing with All Souls Rising.

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