Tuesday, May 5, 2020

"The Last Blue"

Isla Morley grew up in South Africa during apartheid. She is the author of Come Sunday, which won the Janet Heidinger Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the Commonwealth Prize. Her novel Above was an IndieNext pick, and Best Buzz Book, and a Publishers Weekly Best New Book. She lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, daughter, three cats, and five tortoises.

Morley applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Last Blue, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I know what some in town say about you, we hold none of those opinions. In fact, I think you are remarkable.” He goes on calling her this and that, making out like she is snow in July.

“I’m just blue, mister. That’s all.”

“Yes, blue,” he says, as though he has just now put his finger on it.
Imagine you have hiked into a remote, inhospitable wilderness where few have ever explored, and by chance come across a young woman with shocking blue skin, someone who seems to be from a bygone era. How would you react? You’d been warned to avoid the area, but you didn’t believe the rumors that deep in the forest lived the remnant of a diseased and dangerous colony, a peculiar breed of people who preyed on outsiders. Before you now, though, is proof of something almost otherworldly. Nobody back in your office in Cincinnati, Ohio, will believe you if you return with a story of blue people. But your partner has a camera, and lucky for you it’s 1937, which means color film has just been invented.

How dangerous is she? Is her malady infectious? Apart from blue skin, she appears to be healthy. Her brother, also blue as a bruised plum, has a shotgun and looks like he’d welcome the chance to use it, especially if a camera was pointed his way.

This is the predicament of Ulys Massey and Clay Havens, documentarians for the U.S. government. Instead of sticking to their assignment to document the plight of the coalminers of eastern Kentucky, they now see in these blue-skinned people a subject fitting for a cover story of National Geographic, their ticket to publishing success. First, they must avoid getting themselves shot. Next, they have to win their trust. As targets of prejudice and superstition their whole lives, Jubilee and Levi Buford know that they have only survived this long by avoiding all contact with outsiders. Welcome to page 69, where this first tense exchange takes place.

The Last Blue is inspired by the real-life case of “The Blue People of Kentucky.”
Learn more about the book and author at Isla Morley's website.

Writers Read: Isla Morley.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Blue.

--Marshal Zeringue