Certainly one of the most curious events in historical fiction in decades is the decision by a writer to pen a trilogy about the Haitian Toussaint Louverture and the blood-soaked slave rebellion he led, and another novel on Nathan Bedford Forrest, a slave-owning Confederate cavalry officer who helped found the Ku Klux Klan after he hung up his uniform. I simply cannot imagine who Madison Smartt Bell will write about next!
Forrest was a man seemingly born for war. A self-made man who acquired his fortune through slaves and land, he followed his native Tennessee into the Confederate States. After killing two Union soldiers in his first engagement, the charismatic Forrest goes on to glory at Fort Donelson and Brice’s Cross Road, and infamy at the murder of white and black Union prisoners at Fort Pillow.
Bell manages to keep pace with this tarnished cavalier as “The Wizard of the Saddle” sires children from his slave mistress, rushes from battle to battle against heavy odds, quarrels with seemingly every higher ranking officer in Confederate service, and ends the war as a man who has given his all to the cause. Curiously, Bell does not include the postwar years and the KKK in the story. Filled with regional gems such as “we got ginrals don’t know when they’re a-winnen,” Devil’s Dream will find its audience.