cover image The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

Dawnie Walton. 37 Ink, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-1-982140-16-8

Walton’s spectacular debut pulls off a polyphonic oral history of a fictional proto-Afro-punk performer and her white musical partner. The novel begins with the sensational origin story of unlikely duo Opal & Nev, described by magazine editor S. Sunny Curtis in 2017 as the “progenitors of dissidence and dissonance.” After Opal Jewel arrives in New York City from Detroit in 1970, where she’d been an outcast for her radical politics, fashion, and musical style, she meets “goofy white English boy” Nev Charles, a songwriter from Birmingham, at an open mic. Nev is impressed by her performance, and the two team up to produce a phenomenally successful sound. Their star quickly rises, but after a photo appears in 1971 showing Opal blanketed in a Confederate flag as Nev carries her away from a gig turned riot, their career flames out in controversy. The novel’s diverse group of voices are cobbled together by Curtis as she searches for the truth behind the iconic “picture of chaos.” The story is also personal for Curtis—her father, a drummer, had been having an affair with Opal, and he was killed in the melee. The novel is bookended by an equally violent reunion that confirms a shocking secret, and Opal proves herself the champion of the “marginalized, bullied, discriminated against.” Walton pumps up the volume with a fresh angle on systemic racism and freedom of expression. This is a firecracker. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Apr.)