I have heard of the famous author, Clyde Edgerton, often throughout my reading life. For one reason or another I never had the chance to read one of his books until now. Clyde Edgerton's the NIGHT TRAIN is what I would call a regional novel. The setting of the story is 1963 in a North Carolina town. In this town the black and white people live close together and not so close together. The off and on relationship between the two races is like The Bermuda Triangle. It's very mysterious. I think only those who experience this environment can understand it. It's like a class system?
"You might try some of the colored women from across the tracks.
Mama wouldn't like that."
The boys wanting to form The Amazing Rumblers are the main players in the novel. The idea is to become James Brown for at least a moment of time. "I don't suppose there were many white people in Starke over twenty-five years old who'd ever heard of James Brown, much less the album."
Here is an example of the oddities or eccentricities of the South. When Dwayne, a white boy, wants to go to the drive in with his girl friend, he wants Larry Lime, a black friend, to come along with him and bring his girl. Ouch! Not in a small Southern town. Larry Lime and his girl must hide in the trunk of the car until they get pass the ticket window. Then, they can jump out of the trunk and get in the back seat and enjoy the movie with their friends.
I didn't enjoy the novel from the very beginning. At first, I didn't know what in the heck was going on. Perhaps, I should blame myself. I'm an admixture of North and South. For example, that chicken really bothered me. I didn't get it. I didn't understand how any child teen or adult could have so much fun with a chicken. I did feel sorry when the chicken died. I also didn't understand the long names. Larry Lime's name is Larry Lime Beacon of Time Reckoning Breathe on Me Nolan. I guess this is just an exaggeration of the Betty Lous, Mary Janes, Jimmy Rays and Billy Joes in the South. Thank goodness he didn't keep naming people with such long names. Now, I can laugh about those long names in the novel. I guess this novel had to grow on me. When I read the next Clyde Edgerton, I'll laugh from the beginning of the book.
I did wonder whether regional mores can overwhelm people who know nothing about a particular place. I feel Clyde Edgerton became narcissistic about the world he knows so well. Leaving me thinking what in the world is he talking about. I think there is a need for caution when striving to make our personal communities known to other people. Be gentle with those who might not know a thing about dancing chickens, a sentence like "Well, it won't too little" or other regional vocabulary or happenings.
I definitely liked the parts in the novels about sit-ins in Greensboro. There is so much history in this novel.
"Back when they was doing the sit-ins, Flash told Tinker he was going to Greensboro and kill one of them sit-in guys. You remember--at the lunch counters?"
Yes, I liked the novel. I'm looking forward to my next Clyde Edgerton novel. Thanks to the author for a good day of laughter and nostalgia.