About “Out of the Tombs”

  • The story is set in New York City.
  • The narrator works as an interpreter in the court system, presumably in French.
  • The Tombs” is a nickname for the Manhattan Detention Complex municipal jail where people are held pending trial.
  • You can see the garage doors to the Tombs from the top of Columbus Park, in Chinatown.
  • “Out of the Tombs” was published as an excerpt from a prospective novel of the same name, though Madison Smartt Bell has published no novel with that title, nor, it seems, with these characters.
  • However, in this interview from 2011, when the story was published, he said he was “contemplating … a novel about zombies (the real ones, not the spawn of George Romero and nothing at all to do with Jane Austen).”
  • He has published a trilogy on the Haitian revolution of the 18th century.
  • Here is an interview also from 2011 in which Bell compares Vodou to Quakerism, and spiritual possession to artistic practise.



  • A yueqin, also known as a moon guitar (Wikimedia).
  • The north building of the Manhattan Detention Complex (“The Tombs”) at 100 Baxter St. (Wikimedia)
  • Building at Baxter & Bayard streets, Chinatown, NYC (Photo)
  • Bayard St. looking towards the double-entrance to the Tombs on Baxter St. (Google Street View, 11.1.19)
  • Tai Chi group practicing in Columbus Park, NYC (YouTube)
  • Xiangqi (Chinese chess) players and onlookers in Columbus Park, Manhattan, NYC (Wikimedia)
  • Columbus Park, NYC, where people practice Tai Chi (Photo)

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