The Darkness Rolling by Win and Meredith Blevins follows Seaman Yazzie Goldman, returning to Monument Valley after WWII to bodyguard a star in a John Ford western (available June 2, 2015).
World War II has just ended, and Seaman Yazzie Goldman is raring to leave San Diego, where he was enlisted in the Coast Guard for the familiar delights of home in Monument Valley. But I should let the Blevins describe his feelings in these exquisitely written opening paragraphs:
I was itchy. Tingling. My skin felt like foaming surf breaking on sand, and my brain was buzz-busy, just like the soldiers who had decided to stay in San Diego after the war. Possibilities. Worlds of them. I felt them, too.
Women who’d traded their love for gasoline and stockings walked the singing sidewalks. High heels clicked, and the sun raised their red lipstick to a promise. Happy to have their young men back home. High times.
Yazzie is a truly delightful narrator, and it’s a pleasure to follow him from San Diego to a home that he isn’t sure he wants to make permanent any more. Sure, Monument Valley is gorgeous. Sure, it’s where his beloved mother and grandfather live. Sure, it sings to his part-Navajo, part-Jewish heart and soul. But he’s seen a little of the world and now he wants to see more, and he’s no longer sure where he truly belongs.
Fortunately for him, famed movie director John Ford has decided to shoot another movie in Monument Valley, allowing Yazzie to put off solving this crisis of the soul for at least the duration of the shoot. Yazzie gets to stay home but still enjoy the excitement of Hollywood as Ford hires him to provide protection for the beautiful actress Linda Darnell, whose true life story fits seamlessly into the fictional narrative. Yazzie’s mother, Nizhoni, isn’t too thrilled that her son isn’t spending as much time as she’d like him to at the trading post she runs with her father, who is recovering from a debilitating stroke with admirable grit and an unshakeable sense of humor, but she’s mollified by Yazzie’s devotion to improving their prospects with his strong sense of clan ties and financial acumen.
This wouldn’t be a crime novel if the titular darkness didn’t have a look-in, though. Yazzie’s idyllic interlude is shattered by the violence that comes with this man, whose ideas of his own Monument Valley homecoming are vastly different from our hero’s:
On the side of the highway [Zopilote] felt a warm wind on his neck, and it shivered along his skin. His insides prickled with hatred. His mind was blood-soaked. Finally, trudging through the dust alongside the highway, he was free. Free to act out his treasure-lust of dreams, the ones he’d been hoarding for twenty-five years[…]
An early-season dust devil whipped his feet, rising from the ditch beside the highway. That was all right. Let the dust devil lick him — maybe it had come spinning in from his home to greet him. No paved highways on the Navajo rez, but plenty of dust devils. He felt sort of like a whirlwind himself, a being that roiled with primal chaos. Home would be good. Plenty of red-orange dust and plenty of buzzards.
I loved the juxtaposition between Yazzie’s and Zopilote’s dispositions and homecomings, and while I’m not a great fan of switching narratives from first- to third-person, it felt natural and appropriate to The Darkness Rolling. A lot of credit for that goes to the Blevins’ writing, which also makes a book soaked in violence still feel, overall, charming and fresh. Yazzie is one of my favorite new investigators in recent memory, and I’m hoping this novel marks the first in a series to feature his ongoing adventures.
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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She
microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.
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