A Spectral Hue
By Craig Laurence Gidney
For generations, the marsh-surrounded town of Shimmer, Maryland has played host to a loose movement of African-American artists, all working in different media, but all utilizing the same haunting color. Landscape paintings, trompe l'oeil quilts, decorated dolls, mixed-media assemblages, and more, all featuring the same peculiar hue, a shifting pigment somewhere between purple and pink, the color of the saltmarsh orchid, a rare and indigenous flower.
Graduate student Xavier Wentworth has been drawn to Shimmer, hoping to study the work of artists like quilter Hazel Whitby and landscape painter Shadrach Grayson in detail, having experienced something akin to an epiphany when viewing a Hazel Whitby tapestry as a child. Xavier will find that others, too, have been drawn to Shimmer, called by something more than art, something in the marsh itself, a mysterious, spectral hue. From Lambda Literary Award-nominated author Craig Laurance Gidney (Sea, Swallow Me & Other Stories, Skin Deep Magic) comes A Spectral Hue, a novel of art, obsession, and the ghosts that haunt us all.
"This dreamy dark fantasy focuses on unraveling artistic ecstasy and obsession. After being introduced to a Hazel Whitby quilt as a child, Xavier Wentworth develops a fascination with the spectacle of the quilts that sparks a lifelong obsession. This obsession takes him to Shimmer, Md., an isolated town that seems to exist outside of time, to work on his master's thesis on the generations of black artists hailing from Shimmer. He soon suspects that many of these artists, especially queer ones, have been inspired by the spirit of a nearby marsh. Xavier's story winds back on itself and trickles revelations piece by piece until the abrupt, upsetting, entirely appropriate ending. Told through chapters that include the perspectives of several of Shimmer's residents, this lushly written fantasy raises many questions about the nature of art and its toll on artists and answers few of them. Readers prepared to be disturbed and unsettled will find this novel gripping and immersive." - Publishers Weekly
"Gidney's previous fiction and poetry have shown a daring openness when it comes to genre, and A Spectral Hue is cut from similar cloth. In one sense, it's a quiet, confidently told tale of identity — gay, black, artistic, and ancestral — that resonates on a wholly realistic level. In another, it's a hybrid of horror, folklore, dark fantasy, and magic realism that whispers and twists." — Jason Heller, NPR
Craig Laurance Gidney is the author of the collections Sea, Swallow Me & Other Stories and Skin Deep Magic, the Young Adult novel Bereft, and The Nectar of Nightmares. His work has been nominated for the Lambda Literary and Gaylactic Spectrum Awards, and he has won both the Bronze Moonbeam and Silver Independent Publishers Book Awards. He lives in his native Washington, DC.