What is the color of the night

The color of the night

But I hate them worse than lepers and I'll kill them

Book review by Jochen König Jan 2013

Mae Chorea has a gun; and she will use it too. Be it to hold target practice or to kill her former lover Laurel, who she believes has been betrayed. Which she lost sight of for around 30 years before she found Laurel again in the shadow of the destroyed towers of the World Trade Center. As a media image of a screaming, grieving woman.

Mae sets off unmoved. A private story of murder and manslaughter in the luggage, a public story of killing in front of the laughing eyes. Mae is unmoved, an untouched woman who perceives the horror around her, but which means nothing to her. Except for satisfaction. At best. It is a lonely star that moves its orbit without affecting the dying myriads of other stars at all.

The color of the night is about structural violence that runs through biographies, through the history of families, friends, strangers, entire nations and which is only noticed when it culminates in a catastrophe. Madison Smartt Bell introduces his main character as a hedonist without a conscience, whose true pleasure is death and destruction. Maes sensation is a single orgasm as she watches the towers of the World Trade Center collapse; the idea of ​​the death of thousands of people makes you shiver comfortably - not with horror. When she sees a familiar face on TV, her private story merges with the public one. This may seem exemplary, but Bell does not develop any pattern of the inevitability of family abuse, the typical serial killer biography - from tortured animal tormentor to multiple killer - about the murderous, sectarian goings-on within the Manson Family (because the fictional "PEOPLE" of the novel, um his leader D., is an image of the "family"), up to the fanatical attack on the foundations of the USA. What he does, however, are images of life that are shaped by the exercise of violence and the perception of violence as an ecstatic experience.

Mae moves purposefully and consciously through the surrounding society, she is not the loneliest person in the world and also not the coldest. She loves her brother Terrell, adores him, and admires him for his self-staged, flaming death, which she herself lets out into the world. Daddy and the mom thing don't have any influence. Next stop: The PEOPLE, that perversion of the hippie communes, which is at least theoretically based on the greatest possible freedom of the individual within an equal group. It is different with the PEOPLE: The "spiritual" leader D. sets the direction and guides the relationship within the commune. Mae also knows how to enjoy the (apparent) submission, becomes a messenger of death with her friend and lover Laurel. Both are the only ones to escape the final massacre, which is based on the Tate / La Bianca murders of the Manson family. Helter Skelter as a small stopover. The references to Greek tragedy may be applied a bit thick; D. (ionysios) is joined by musician O. (rpheus), who is still devoting songs to his Eurydice Eerie with fervor when the downfall can no longer be stopped. But somehow it fits: Playing with great emotions, self-love and without measure, on a path of no return, performed in a rancid backyard theater.

Remaining inconspicuous, committing a few murders in the shadows, Mae leads an almost civil life after Laurel turned away from her and went into hiding. The self-proclaimed (half) goddess has fallen among people and is waiting for the day of her vengeance. Because nobody leaves Mae Chorea if they don't want to. And of course the day comes, fitting as it should be for a great tragedy: While the world is shaken by terror and thousands of deaths, Mae finds its fulfillment.


How my heart rejoiced when the towers collapsed. What a thrust of sheer power, a buck, crumbling, bulging into a magnificent star of destruction before it poured all of its matter onto the ground. Those mosquito-like spots that swirled around it turned out to be mortals jumping from the flames. They sailed down wrapped in the shrouds. If only I had known that death can destroy so many! And all in an instant! [...] I didn't know that my blood could boil like that. Still, again, despite the years, despite the withering of my body. […] So I saw Laurel again for the first time, she was kneeling on the sidewalk, her head thrown back, her hands with crooked fingers outstretched, like weapons or as if in praise.


Mae Chorea, the personified denial of all that is noble and sacred, is the main character of a disturbing book. Because Madison Smartt Bell succeeds in not portraying Mae as a despicable monster, her feelings, her thoughts are understandable at any time and are based on a functional logic, the consequence of which is frightening. Therefore needed The color of the night No brutalities painted out either, the horror is hidden in the mixture of relaxed casualness and upright indignation with which Mae tells her story. She is a killer of lust and vocation, the antipode of humanity. Or its true, unadorned essence. An uncomfortable book to hate with all your heart. Loving is harder; it is definitely impressive.

A thriller is The color of the night Not. Still just right on the crime thriller couch.