Monday, November 9, 2009

Hard Rain Falling

The 1966 novel Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter is an extremely well regarded "forgotten work" of American realist fiction, highly praised by lovers of classic crime novels and scholars of Northwest literature. The book was recently reprinted by the ever reliable New York Review Books, and I've been looking for an open window of time in which to start reading it. I'm even more eager to crack it open after reading George Pelacanos' appreciative essay in a recent edition of The Rumpus.

[Hard Rain Falling] is the kind of infrequent reading experience that can only be described as a revelation. Inexplicably long out of print, its republication by New York Review Books is cause for celebration...

Having escaped from his orphanage, [protagonist Jack Levitt] now runs with a group of hard teenagers who hang on the corner of Broadway and Yamhill in Portland, Oregon...Carpenter’s descriptions of pool halls and the intricacies of various billiard games are top shelf, as are his tours of the rooming houses, diners, and boxing arenas of the Pacific Northwest. After an incident involving a break-in, Jack is sent to reform school in Woodburn...Jack’s next stop is a stint in the state mental institution in Salem. He is released, boxes semi-professionally, does jail time in Peckham County, Idaho for “rolling a drunk,” and gets work in eastern Oregon, “bucking logs for a wildcat outfit.”

“I’m an atheist,” said Carpenter, in a 1975 interview. “I don’t see any moral superstructure to the universe at all. I consider my work optimistic in that the people, during the period I’m writing about them, are experiencing intense emotion. It is my belief that this is all there is to it. There is nothing beyond this.”

The complete essay is here. More about Don Carpenter here.

No comments: