Bell, Madison Smartt
Madison Smartt Bell 1957–
American novelist and short story writer.
The following entry presents an overview of Bell's career. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volume 41.
In his novels and short stories Bell has depicted sordid, urban underworlds of drugs, violence, and weird pathologies. His fiction is usually set in New York City and peopled by uprooted Southerners, although the milieus of his later work have ranged from his native, rural American South to London and Haiti. Bell is sometimes connected to the Southern literary tradition because of his heritage and his concern with the sociological motivations of misfits and outcasts. While he has been faulted for using contrived literary devices, trendy subject matter, and occasionally flat characterizations, Bell possesses an imaginative depth, considerable narrative skills, and an evocative style uniquely his own. Andy Solomon has called Bell "one of our most prolific and precocious talents," adding that his "unique wedding of intelligence and craft to a signature angle of vision … marks him as one of our more courageous and large-souled talents as well."
Born August 1, 1957, in Nashville, Tennessee, Bell was raised on his family's farm in Williamson County. He attended Princeton University, where he won several literary prizes for fiction writing and received a summa cum laude B.A. degree in English literature in 1979; he earned a master's degree from Hollins College in 1981. Employed by film and publishing enterprises during his college days, Bell read manuscript and wrote copy for Berkley Publishing Corporation in New York upon graduation from Hollins until 1983, when he published his first novel, The Washington Square Ensemble. In 1984 he accepted an assistant professorship in English at Goucher College, where he wrote two novels, Waiting for the Ending of the World (1985) and Straight Cut (1986). During the academic year 1987–88, Bell participated in the Iowa Writers' Workshop and finished writing the short story collection Zero db and Other Stories (1987) and the novel The Year of Silence (1987). After returning to his position at Goucher, Bell attended the 1989 Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, which yielded the novel Soldier's Joy (1989). During the 1990s Bell expanded his oeuvre with the publication of another short story collection, Barking Man and Other Stories (1990), and three novels, Doctor Sleep (1991), Save Me, Joe Louis (1993), and All Souls' Rising (1995), which was nominated for the National Book Award.
The Washington Square Ensemble is a fast-paced and occasionally violent portrait of the New York City heroin trade. Resembling a jazz composition in its stream-of-consciousness narration by five alternating voices, the novel chronicles one day in the lives of drug dealer Johnny B. Goode and his associates. Waiting for the End of the World concerns a group of social misfits who plot to destroy Times Square with a homemade nuclear device, while Straight Cut, a highbrow thriller, focuses on a pair of degenerate New York film-makers, Tracy Bateman and Kevin Carter, caught up in a financially lucrative international drug deal, which involves Carter's duped, estranged wife, Lauren, and a double-crossed Bateman. The Year of Silence centers on the suicide of a young Manhattan illustrator, Marian, whose tale is recounted by those who knew her at different times in her life. Soldier's Joy, Bell's first novel set entirely in the South, relates the story of Thomas Laidlaw, who is white, and his childhood friend Rodney Redmon, who is black. Both men are freshly turned-out Vietnam War veterans trying to sort out their lives in their native Tennessee, but they instead find themselves embroiled in a conflict with the Ku Klux Klan. Doctor Sleep, billed as a thinking-man's thriller and set in London, concerns a practicing American hypnotherapist and recovered heroin addict whose insomnia leads him into some freakish encounters while employed by Scotland Yard. Save Me, Joe Louis is an episodic novel about two grifting and doomed drifters: Macrea, a young petty thief, and Charlie, an older psychopath. The novel recounts their violent, criminal escapades from New York through Baltimore to Tennessee and South Carolina. All Souls' Rising, an historical novel, tells of the brutal and grisly Haitian slave revolt of 1791 as seen through the eyes of several characters. Bell's short story collections display his virtuosity in the form, most notably in "Holding Together" from Barking Dog, in which a wise laboratory mouse tries to find solace from the indignities of science in the I Ching.
Bell's novels and short stories generally have received enthusiastic critical acclaim, although some reviewers have wondered why, as did Sven Birkerts who emphatically pronounced, "Bell's every sentence is not a joy." Most critics have commented on "his conspicuous sympathy for the alienated and the bruised," as Solomon has stated, but Roberta Silman has noted that Bell displays "an uncanny understanding of the way many people must struggle to live." While David Montrose and others have suggested that some of Bell's characters were "cardboard-flat and forgettable," Alan Davis has remarked that Bell's "sense of character and place is always sure-handed." Some critics, like Davis, have preferred "the compressed dazzle" of Bell's short fiction; Paul D. McCarthy has called his short stories "a splendid testament to Bell's superb narrative, stylistic gifts and passionate humanity." Although Bell has earned the reputation of "one of the South's most promising young writers," as Greg Johnson observed, others have questioned the regional character of Bell's work. Dwight Garner has indicated the significance of All Souls' Rising to Bell's literary development: "In earlier novels … Bell demonstrated that he was a young American novelist of the first rank. All Souls' Rising, however, puts him on another level as an artist."
The Washington Square Ensemble (novel) 1983
History of the Owen Graduate School of Management (nonfiction) 1985
Waiting for the End of the World (novel) 1985
Straight Cut (novel) 1986
The Year of Silence (novel) 1987
Zero db and Other Stories (short stories) 1987
Soldier's Joy (novel) 1989
Barking Man and Other Stories (short stories) 1990
Doctor Sleep (novel) 1991
Save Me, Joe Louis (novel) 1993
All Souls' Rising (novel) 1995
(The entire section is 59 words.)
SOURCE: "'Silence' Is Golden," in Chicago Tribune Books, November 22, 1987, p. 9.
[In the positive review below, Fuller focuses on the structure of The Year of Silence.]
A promising but elusive young woman, admired for all the usual reasons, dies of an overdose in Manhattan. Whether the story of this sadly ordinary event comes to anything depends on how the writer decides to tell it.
He can make it a melodrama or a cocaine thriller. He can find in it a tragedy of innocence or the embodiment of the emptiness of existence. He can lapse into cynical black humor or succumb to the sentimentality of despair. Or if he is good enough, he can make something new, reveal things we hadn't known before.
For Madison Smartt Bell in his latest book, The Year of Silence, the death is like a crystal, a transparent, sharp-edged fact that refracts all light and separates the colors. The story becomes many stories, a collection, each of them in its own way pure and whole.
The most trivial way to describe Bell's approach is to say that every chapter examines the death of the young woman known as Marian from a different point of view: that of her lover, her drug connection, the street freak she gives money to, the cop who is called to the scene.
This technique leaves obscure the forces that propel Marian to her death. The voices are confused; none...
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SOURCE: "Other Voices, Other Runes," in Sewanee Review, Vol. XCII, No. 2, Spring, 1989, pp. xliii-xliv.
[In the following excerpt, Winchell focuses on Bell's role as author of The Washington Square Ensemble.]
The novelist starts out as God, creating a world that he knows and controls. In deciding how to use his powers, he makes a metaphysical choice. With the rise of modernism and the more recent emergence of that hybrid known as postmodernism, we have seen the demise of the author-as-God. All notable exceptions conceded, the dominant point of view in twentieth-century fiction has been limited and unreliable. In Ron Loewinsohn's Magnetic Field(s) and Madison Smart Bell's The Washington Square Ensemble we find two current examples of this trend. Both novels use multiple narration to convey the elusiveness of reality, but they ultimately make very different epistemological statements….
In Bell's The Washington Square Ensemble we are far removed from the intellectual games that dominate Ron Loewinsohn's novel. Bell's characters do not live in a model-train village, but in New York City. They make their living dealing in heroin and, for the most part, speculate only about their own lives. They also have voices. Bell has his characters speak for themselves in distinctive rhythms and cadences. Although they all have different perspectives, the reality that they...
(The entire section is 585 words.)
SOURCE: "Two Numbed Vietnam Vets Turn to the Soil," in Chicago Tribune Books, June 4, 1989, sec. 14, p. 5.
[In the following review, Johnson faults the "moribund" characterization and "somnolent" pacing of Soldier's Joy, but concludes that "the determination and risk-taking evident in Soldier's Joy are likely to bear fruit in [Bell's] future work."]
Madison Smartt Bell has earned a reputation as one of the South's most promising young writers. In four previous novels and one story collection, he has written skillfully about the Northeast—especially New York City and urban New Jersey—as well as his native South.
His first novel, Washington Square, was a harrowing tale of New York's drug underworld, while Waiting for the End of the World focused on a disturbed group of men—including a drug dealer and a Vietnam veteran—who plot to blow up Times Square. The stories collected in Zero db clearly illustrated Bell's dual focus—neo-Faulknerian tales of race relations in a declining South appearing alongside briskly paced stories set in New York, Newark and Hoboken.
It is clear that Bell's allegiance is still divided between the urban Northeast and his Southern heritage. His new novel, Soldier's Joy, is an unsatisfying return to Southern soil.
Lengthy and slow-paced, Soldier's Joy focuses on Thomas...
(The entire section is 681 words.)
SOURCE: "The Hero Is a Mouse," in The New York Times Book Review, Vol. 95, April 8, 1990, p. 11.
[In the following review, DeMarinis analyzes the themes of pain and search-and-rescue in Barking Man.]
A collection of short stories that work well together has the effect of standing the reader in a world he recognizes but is no longer on comfortably familiar terms with. Barking Man, Madison Smartt Bell's second collection of stories and seventh book, satisfies the standard with unwavering compassion. The world these 10 stories conjure is a shifty, dangerous place, requiring of its inhabitants small acts of daily heroism. That these heroic deeds sometimes resemble madness or criminal mischief does not compromise their necessity or moral authenticity. If anything, they are all the more laudable because the odds for success are always dismally low. In each case, the reader finds himself cheering for these outgunned characters because Mr. Bell himself cares so deeply about them.
I hesitate to describe the wonderful opening story, "Holding Together", for fear of undermining the gravity of what I've just said. It is a story of heroism and suffering, and of blind injustice. The imprisoned hero is not only subjected to mental torture and physical disfigurement at the "hands" of his fellow prisoners, he also experiences a devastating crisis of belief. His drinking water is laced with...
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SOURCE: "Misfits and Outcasts," in Washington Post Book World, April 15, 1990, pp. 7-8.
[In the mixed review below, McGrath ponders the themes of abuse and vulnerability in Barking Man, suggesting that "the events that befall Bell's misfits and outcasts lack significant power in either existential or literary terms."]
Madison Smartt Bell has been publishing fiction at a very smart clip since 1983—five novels and two collections in a mere seven years. In much of that work he has depicted characters both urban and rural whose lives are marked by poverty, failure, madness and futility.
Most of the stories in Barking Man work the same territory, and one begins to wonder why Bell returns so doggedly to the dirt and dinge of existences scraped to the bone. For his approach to his subject matter lacks the engaged analytic vigor that Orwell brought to the down-and-out, and the only Beckettian impulse apparent, the only suggestion, that is, of the derelict as epitome of modern godless man, is contained in the idea that even those who've hit rock-bottom must construct some sort of meaning for their lives. For the most part these stories tend to concentrate on the simple behavioral routines of street life, and in the end the events that befall Bell's misfits and outcasts lack significant power in either existential or literary terms.
"Move On Up" is about a man...
(The entire section is 1296 words.)
SOURCE: "Pounding Out the Dents," in Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 30, 1990, p. 12.
[Below, McCarthy considers the moral progression of the stories in Barking Man, calling the collection "a splendid testament to Bell's superb narrative, stylistic gifts and passionate humanity."]
Light, shadows and light. That is the moral progression that novelist Madison Smartt Bell develops in the 10 tales of Barking Man and Other Stories, his haunting, protean, compassionate second collection.
Through the five stories that comprise Part I, the characters, human and nonhuman—the narrator of the opening story, "Holding Together," is a scholarly white mouse—are beaten by life. They suffer, struggle, are defeated, make tragic mistakes, but somehow endure. At their core, they find courage and hope, sometimes even honor. Their inner dignity may get battered, but they pound most of the dents out.
The tone darkens when we enter Part II. Alf, the "Barking Man," educated and highly intelligent, is unable to bear the responsibility of being a human adult, and while he evolves a way of coping with life that has him retreating into canine fantasy, he simultaneously sacrifices one of his most important capacities—being able to love—because that too carries responsibility, of which he wants no part.
Bell's profound compassion and his wise,...
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SOURCE: "Hypnotist, Heal Thyself," in The New York Times Book Review, Vol. 96, January 6, 1991, p. 11.
[In the review below, Tallent discusses the interplay of the ordinary with the extraordinary in Doctor Sleep.]
A harrowing wakefulness sets the tone for Madison Smartt Bell's sixth novel. Adrian Strother is an American living in London, a recovered heroin addict and practicing hypnotherapist who is expertly gentle with his clientele of insomniacs and phobics; on eight hours a night, he'd make quite a trustworthy narrator. He has the tolerant cool that is characteristic of Mr. Bell's protagonists, an observant detachment backed, in his case, by his prowess in the martial arts. But as Doctor Sleep begins, Adrian, his sleeplessness resisting his own mesmeric powers, is treading delicately along an insomniac edge where consciousness dissolves two ways—into manic hallucination or dulled, drifting numbness. Slyly, this "thriller," as its jacket copy has it, shines a speculative light on the shadowy interplay of perception with delusion, dream with reason.
Mr. Bell's prose, which generally moves at a nimble narrative clip, has the habit of rising now and then to set pieces that lyrically detail a particular process. In Soldier's Joy, it is the traditional claw-hammer method of banjo playing; in The Year of Silence, the performance of the 21st Goldberg Variation. In...
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SOURCE: "In the Wake of Dr. Strother," in Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 20, 1991, p. 8.
[In the following review, Donnelly admires the unreal, dreamlike narrative and atmosphere of Doctor Sleep.]
To say that an air of unreality hangs over a book is not usually a compliment. To say it about Doctor Sleep, the new novel by Madison Smartt Bell, is to describe one of its greatest strengths.
Let's start with the title. Adrian Strother is not a doctor—although people persist in addressing him as one—but a hypnotherapist: as for the sleep, he spends most of the long weekend of the book trying to break a bout of insomnia which has for several days been driving him to the edge of sanity. He is a displaced person anyway, a hip young New Yorker who left America to escape a drug addiction, now lives in London's seedy Notting Hill, and during the book travels all over London from the British Museum reading room to a pub in Chelsea to Harrods tea room to Wapping docks to, well, you name the part of London, he goes there.
When he does go out, he is followed—or is he?—by two hoods, one of whom sports a Statue of Liberty haircut; when he stays near his home, he is blasted by the famously jubilant—and potentially violent—Notting Hill carnival, which is going on. His girlfriend has left him; his pet snake refuses to eat the live mouse he has given it for...
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SOURCE: An interview with Madison Smartt Bell, in Southern Review, Vol. 30, No. 1, January, 1994, pp. 1-12.
[In the following interview, which originally took place in August, 1992, Weaks questioned Bell about the southernness of his fiction, the influence of the Fugitives/Agrarians on his work, and the future of southern literature.]
[Mary Louise Weaks:] You've told me several times that you consider yourself a southern writer, yet so many places and people that you create are alien to southerners.
[Madison Smartt Bell:] Well, maybe not so much as you think. I didn't write in southern settings for a long time because I've read so much work by southerners that did use southern settings. There were two generations of writers before me who were very good, that I greatly admired. So I felt released when I discovered urban life, which I didn't know anything about as a literary subject. Not that it hadn't been written about; I just hadn't read it. So it was then easy for me to start that way. And I think that was a good thing, because to that urban landscape and society, I brought a southern literary approach and stylistic conventions and also some attitudes that I got from southern writers.
What sort of attitudes?
I think a lot of what I ended up feeling about city life is stated in the abstract in Walker Percy's essays, in The Message in...
(The entire section is 5433 words.)
SOURCE: "Madison Smartt Bell/Debra Spark," in his American Energies: Essays on Fiction, Morrow & Co., 1992, pp. 380-85.
[In the excerpt below, Birkerts detects a "moviemaking" quality about Straight Cut, remarking: "I have no problem with that. Entertainment is entertainment. What bothers me is that the idea of literature got mixed in."]
On the desk in front of me are two books, 20 Under 30: Best Stories by America's New Young Writers, edited by Debra Spark and Straight Cut, a novel by Madison Smartt Bell. The dust jacket of the latter features a cut-in color photograph of a handsome and brooding young man, and the author's biography begins: "Born in 1957 …" The note on the other book has me reaching for my cane: "Debra Spark was born in 1962 …" No doubt about it, the marketing mind has decided to locate the cutoff line between prodigy and ordinary adulthood at a round three-zero.
This is something new, and a quick retrospective glance will confirm it. Joyce had written Dubliners and most of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man before he was thirty, Lawrence published Sons and Lovers at twenty-eight, and when Hemingway affixed the date—September 21, 1925—to the manuscript of The Sun Also Rises, he was a mere twenty-six. Nobody exclaimed over their precocity, or flashed their numbers at the public. These were adult artists;...
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SOURCE: "Poised between hell and purgatory: The fiction of Madison Smartt Bell," in Chicago Tribune Books, May 30, 1993, p. 6.
[In the review below, Solomon focuses on the detailed descriptions and realistic characters of Save Me, Joe Louis, especially "Bell's sharp insights into, and extraordinary compassion for, his outcast protagonists."]
The seven novels and two story collections that comprise the oeuvre of Madison Smartt Bell at age 35 make him one of our most prolific and precocious talents. What grows clearer with each book is Bell's unique wedding of intelligence and craft to a signature angle of vision that marks him as one of our more courageous and large-souled talents as well.
Bell might be described as a regional writer—his region being the foggy border that buffers purgatory from hell in the sootiest creases of contemporary society. The plots he sets in motion there, if merely described, would sound as sensational and bizarre as Stephen King's. What places them well within the sphere of art, however, are Bell's sharp insights into, and extraordinary compassion for, his outcast protagonists.
Since his first novel, The Washington Square Ensemble, with its cluster of heroin dealers, Bell has always written with conspicuous sympathy for the alienated and the bruised. He searches for characters beaten down by a combination of life and poor...
(The entire section is 995 words.)
SOURCE: "A Couple of Predators," in The New York Times Book Review, Vol. 98, June 20, 1993, p. 9.
[In the positive review below, Crews commends the true-to-life narrative and characterization in Save Me, Joe Louis, observing that Bell is "an exceptional novelist … [capable] of occasionally turning a miracle."]
Madison Smartt Bell has written an episodic novel of two grifters and drifters, Charlie and Macrae, whose only thought seems to be to drink and dope a bit today and tomorrow. After tomorrow, they'll turn their attention toward relieving an unsuspecting citizen of enough money so they can drink and dope a bit one more time. Always one more time. Charlie, in his early 40's, is an ex-con and Macrae, hardly more than 20, is AWOL from the Marines.
Never once in Save Me, Joe Louis do they have a thought of getting a job, or of giving up the grift, quitting the scam, abandoning the occasional low-rent mugging or dropping the habit of stealing a car for a few days. While these two men are not stupid, they are not very bright either. To make it worse, they are totally alienated from society, alienated from the criminal subculture in which they live their lives and, most devastatingly, alienated from their own selves.
These two predators on the weak and unsuspecting think of themselves as pretty good guys. I don't find that very strange. As James Baldwin...
(The entire section is 1018 words.)
SOURCE: "Bad, Bad Buddies," in Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 11, 1993, p. 7.
[In the following review, Abrams offers a favorable assessment of Save Me, Joe Louis.]
When two guys with criminal tendencies go skidding across the country like a souped-up car with bad brakes and a bald set of tires, bad things are bound to happen. Talk about that American pastime, random violence—Save Me, Joe Louis has got it: shotgun killings, baseball-bat mayhem and what may be the only armed robbery ever committed to save a captured fox. It is the perfect vehicle for a sociopathic buddy movie—Thelma and Louise without the extenuating circumstances.
That said, it must be stressed that Madison Smartt Bell's latest novel is richer in subtlety and nuance and a lot less romantic than might be expected in a genre that thrives on bold strokes and the frequent glorification of hard cases. It is both a good read and an ambitious, informed exploration of the underbelly of America.
The two chief characters, Charlie, an ex-con with a penchant for spur-of-the moment robbery, and Macrae, a hillbilly army deserter, are already loaded with deadly personal cargo before they meet on a cold autumn night in New York's Battery Park. The chemistry between them creates the foul brew of their tale.
The two begin by perpetuating a common urban nightmare—forcing...
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SOURCE: "The Black Face of Freedom," in The New York Times Book Review, Vol. 100, October 29, 1995, p. 12.
[In the review below, Vernon appraises All Souls' Rising, concluding that there "are flaws, but flaws dwarfed by a powerful and intelligent novel."]
Haiti's 18th-century slave rebellion—an object lesson for slave owners in the United States—played itself out against the unfolding revolution in the colony's mother country, France. The result was a complex struggle among Haitian groups trying to align themselves with a shifting template 5,000 miles away with each arriving wave of rumor and news, loyalties switched, authority changed hands, the last became first, retribution threatened. It takes a skillful rage for order to make sense of the moral and political morass that was Haiti in the midst of its historic uprising. Toward the end of Madison Smartt Bell's novel about the revolt, All Souls' Rising, his central character notes that the corpses unaccountably dragged from the middle of a Haitian street and lined against the walls represent an exotic "impulse to bring order into hell's worst chaos." We may conclude the same about this epic novel constructed on the moving avalanche of history. The order Mr. Bell brings to his novelistic chaos is never fixed, always provisional; yet, alert readers will not lose their way following his carefully drawn road map through hell....
(The entire section is 1573 words.)
SOURCE: "Nothing to Lose But Their Chains," in Washington Post Book World, Vol. XXV, No. 45, November 5, 1995, p. 4.
[Below, Garner marvels at the erudition and literary skill of All Souls' Rising, finding that Bell's "gifts have never been more fully on display."]
Madison Smartt Bell's sprawling and masterful new novel, about political and racial turmoil in French colonial Haiti during the late 18th century, is not for the squeamish. The book's first scene is an exacting depiction of the crucifixion of a black female slave by a wealthy French landowner. That's merely a primer. In the ensuing 200 pages or so, up until about the novel's midway point, we learn much, much more about the terrors regularly inflicted upon African slaves by their French masters, including the fact that "it was nothing to lop an ear or gouge an eye, even to cut off a hand, thrust a burning stake up a rectum, roast a slave in an oven alive, or roll one down a hill in a barrel studded with nails."
And then, when the political tables turn in the book's second half and the slaves stage a successful rebellion, equally gruesome forms of revenge—such as the removal of a captive's eyeballs by means of a corkscrew—are visited upon the French. There is a description of a man being flayed from head to foot, while very much alive, that will have even hardened readers peeking between the cracks in their fingers....
(The entire section is 813 words.)
SOURCE: "Stature of Bell Is Uplifted in Gothic 'All Souls' Rising,'" in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 26, 1995, p. K11.
[In the following review, Roberts compares All Soul's Rising to William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!, noting that Bell's novel "suffers only a little in comparison."]
Madison Smartt Bell is a Southerner, a Tennessean, but he's not what you'd call a Southern writer. Since 1987, he has produced nine books, novels and short story collections, occasionally set in the South, occasionally peopled with deracinated Southerners in the big cities of the North, often more about the weird pathologies of late 20th-century American life than meditations on the ever-present painful past of the nation's most romanticized and vilified region.
But his cornucopian All Souls' Rising, nominated for the National Book Award, is a Southern novel—of a sort. It is about slavery, about revolution, about class, about the past, about racial hatred, about the Byzantine mechanics of oppression. The novel is set in Haiti, not Mississippi, and it is a historical novel the way William Faulkner's great Absalom, Absalom! is a historical novel. Indeed, All Souls' Rising is kin to Absalom, Absalom! somewhat in the way Toni Morrison's Beloved is a mirror revision of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Both Bell and Faulkner explore the mysteries of...
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Davis, Alan. A review of Save Me, Joe Louis. The Hudson Review 47, No. 1 (Spring 1994); 145-46.
Claims that "this baggy novel often reads more like a true-crime study than like fiction."
Johnson, George. A review of Straight Cut. The New York Times Book Review 92 (27 December 1987): 24.
Brief, positive notice.
Mesic, Penelope. "The Fire That Time." Chicago Tribune (22 October 1995): sec. 14, pp. 1, 11.
Considers the violence and racial themes in All Souls' Rising, observing that the "scope of this ambitious narrative is heroic."
A review of The Year of Silence. The New York Times Book Review 94 (5 February 1989): 34.
Notes Bell's understanding of "the way many people must struggle to live."
A review of Soldier's Joy. The New York Times Book Review 95 (8 July 1990): 28.
Brief commendation for Bell's narrative tack.
A review of Barking Man. The New York Times Book Review 96 (2 June 1991): 34.
Sees the collection as "a humane and mature work."
(The entire section is 295 words.)