The Color Inside a Melon

John Domini (Author)


"The narrative has its requisite share of mobsters, cops and bloodshed, but for Domini these are mainly pegs upon which to explore Risto's sense of displacement and belonging. ... Domini's novel is determined to push the noir--and us--out of well-worn ruts." --The Washington Post
A disastrous earthquake has Naples reeling. While the government scrambles to maintain appearances, poverty and anarchy rack the people on Italy's margins--the illegal immigrants out of Africa, known as the clandestini. One of whom has just been horrifically murdered.

Enter Risto, a rare success story: a refugee from Mogadishu, orphaned in his teens, he's now married the Neapolitan Paola and is the proprietor of a celebrated art gallery. The murder recalls the deaths of his loved ones years ago in Mogadishu, a trauma Risto can't outrun.

Thinking to force the hand of the white authorities, Risto begins his own investigation. But once he starts playing detective, he quickly gets in over his head. Worse, his digging seems to have brought on a strange hallucination: a golden halo only he can see, like a visionary's foretelling of death. Everyone he knows, including the woman he loves, seems to brim with secrets; every discovery Risto makes drives him toward an earthquake of his own.

A portrait of turmoil inside and out, The Color Inside a Melon explores race and class, belonging and exclusion in one of the world's ancient cities. Prolific author, critic, and essayist John Domini delivers an unforgettable portrait of humanity's endless struggle between moving on and making a home.

Product Details

$16.95  $15.59
Dzanc Books
Publish Date
June 11, 2019
5.4 X 1.0 X 8.5 inches | 0.9 pounds

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About the Author

The Millions hailed Domini's latest book as "a new shriek for the new century." This was MOVIEOLA!, his third collection of stories, and he also has three novels. Awards include an NEA Fellowship. His work has appeared in The New York Times and elsewhere, as well as in Italy. He's a widely read critic and has taught at Harvard and Northwestern. He has family in on the East Coast and West, as well as Naples, and lives in Iowa with his wife, the science fiction writer Lettie Prell.


"John Domini enters the world of African immigrants in Naples living on the edge of the law, in a gripping, noir-ish thriller written in prose that somehow manages to be both elegant and hard-boiled. An absorbing read."
-Salman Rushdie

"The Color Inside a Melon is about a man consumed by secrets and lies in a city on the edge. Disguised as a murder mystery, it twists, turns, then coils into a scorpion's sting."
--Marlon James, Booker Prize-winning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings

"A dark, brisk-paced, and intriguing--if sometimes slightly ungainly--hybrid. ... A dark, buzzing, sometimes-chaotic literary noir written in lively and often elegant prose with an intriguing meditation on immigration and assimilation at its center."
--Kirkus Reviews

"A brisk, literary mystery that marries art and the investigation of a murder with questions of immigration, race, and class. Domini is at the top of his game in what may be the surprise hit of the summer."
--The Nervous Breakdown

"What a dazzling cast of desperate characters Domini serves up in his post-earthquake depiction of Naples, an international maelstrom of refugees, criminals, and artists. Lawless ambition threatens to destroy the life of this city, but like the best authors and the best men, Domini fights to make room for justice and human dignity."
--Bonnie Jo Campbell, National Book Award finalist and author of Mothers, Tell Your Daughters

"Domini tells the story of Risto, a Somali orphan now become a successful gallerist in Naples, in the process producing a compelling portrait of African immigrants and refugees in Italy while reinvigorating the murder mystery genre and illuminating the complexities of a twenty-first century marriage. In so doing, he draws his Neapolitan trilogy to a close, with the poetic compression and painterly verve that has become a hallmark of his impressive oeuvre."
--John Keene, MacArthur Fellow and author of Counternarratives

"An ambitiously conceived, utterly original novel. This book is a puzzle--all the elements from the knife-edged prose to the absorbing plot are intricately linked in service of a larger narrative. Risto's quest to find his countryman's murderer is also his quest to reconcile his dual identities as a Naples resident and businessman and a refugee of war-torn Somalia. But more than this, this book examines the formation of self and the sacrifices required to find a place called home."
--Allison Amend, author of Enchanted Islands

"Part literary noir, part detective story and set in Domini's beloved Naples, The Color Inside a Melon addresses the issues of our age head on: race, class, and violence. The real mystery being unwound in the piazzas and dark underbelly of old Italy is humanity's true nature and bottomless capacity to love and hate one another.."

"At once an erudite and urbane detective story, an unlikely love story, a mordant cultural history of today's Naples, a gritty and compassionate portrait of both its demimonde and its new immigrant underclass, and a meditation on the resourcefulness with which outsiders, in their high-wire attempts to thrive, can push back on the very machinery that betrays them."
--Jim Shepard, National Book Award finalist for Like You'd Understand, Anyway

"The Color Inside a Melon is a barbed and scintillating take on Naples at its margins, a noirish journey through a world not just glimpsed from outside but enlivened from within with remarkable brio."
-Zachary Lazar, author of Vengeance and Sway

"What a timely novel John Domini has delivered. More importantly, what a magnificent work of art The Color Inside a Melon is--an absolute tour de force with life bursting from each line. These pages don't speak. They sing."
-Steve Yarbrough, author of The Unmade World and The Realm of Last Chances

"One of those rare novels full of secrets and mystery that will keep you thinking long after you're finished turning the pages. Full of rich humor, the novel follows Risto's adventures as he tries to uncoil a murder that too quickly consumes his life. Domini proves once again he is among the strongest writers of contemporary fiction working today. I loved it."
--Brandon Hobson, National Book Award finalist and author of Where the Dead Sit Talking

"Culture, conflict, character, color--the stuff of real life swirls through Domini's new novel, and it will take your breath away even as it buoys you up and bears you along."
-Jon Clinch, author of FINN and KINGS OF THE EARTH

"Question: Is there a white American writer from Des Moines, Iowa, audacious enough to write a novel from the perspective of a successful black African refugee from Mogadishu, Somalia, living in Naples, Italy, with an eye toward exploring race and culture via a literary murder mystery? Answer: yes, there is. His name is John Domini, and the novel is The Color inside a Melon. Domini is fearless, his prose is brilliant, and The Color inside a Melon is relentlessly engaging."
--Ed Falco, author of Wolf Point and Saint John of the Five