In Anything Goes, Madison Smartt Bell's 13th work of fiction, the author follows a Tennessee country/rock cover band as it plays dives up and down the Eastern seaboard. The main character, Jesse Melungeon, capitalizes on a new lead singer's abilities and the shuffling of band personnel by slipping in his original numbers (and those of the former lead guitarist), much to the crowds' delight.

Bell provides us with a strong sense of who Jesse is: a twentysomething kid of mixed race, drinking and carousing on tour and trying to cope with a once-abusive father who reappears to attempt reconciliation. Other characters, unfortunately, drift in and out, and interesting band members are left half-developed. He does, however, capture the excitement of a band when it clicks, of the adrenaline rush stemming from the audience, and of the delight in finding music for words. After Jesse and the new lead singer, Estelle (depicted as a Dolly Partonesque rural beauty/singer), have a flirtatious encounter, Jesse thinks: "Lover was the word in my mind; I had known lots of girls, women, but hadn't called them that. Or maybe it was something else in Estelle's smile. It was like we had a pleasant secret between us--except she knew what it was and I didn't." The secret, however, is not well disguised; its revelation comes as no surprise. Even Bell's longtime readers may be disappointed by the unevenness of Anything Goes. --Michael Ferch

Genre: Literary Fiction

Used availability for Madison Smartt Bell's Anything Goes

Hardback Editions

June 2002 : USA Hardback

Title: Anything Goes
Author(s): Madison Smartt Bell
ISBN: 0-375-42125-4 / 978-0-375-42125-9 (USA edition)
Publisher: Pantheon
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU