who knew macho came in so many delicate colors? evidently don carpenter did. and displayed the entire spectrum in his great brutal HARD RAIN FALLING. with a palpable adherence to some unsaid code of defiant honesty, carpenter’s first novel anchors itself in a historically determined idea of manhood that dates itself much less than one might at first assume.
three very different eras in one man’s life: a raging early hoodlum boyhood of poolhalls and not-so-petty crimes; then stints at prison including one tremendous tear of writing and existential fury describing a solitary confinement episode and also, later, a very moving and tragic love story between inmates at san quentin… the book perhaps should have ended there but gives us a final portrait of the ex-con as a young father… this bit, while burning not quite as hot, also has its philosophical rewards. this last domestic section may also only seem a letdown because by then you’ve become accustomed to the explosive miracles carpenter seems to be pulling off scene after extended scene.
usually i dislike books where i’m constantly wondering what happens next because i feel manipulated, as if i’m on some kind of ride. i wondered what came next here, but i didn’t mind.
when he took his life at the age of 64 don carpenter was at work on a final book called FRIDAYS AT ENRICO’s about his particular san franciscio literary scene. he was good friends with evan connell, anne lamott, and richard brautigan. the obits report that carpenter was badly effected by his friend brautigan’s suicide. here’s a memorial written by carpenter about their friendship.
here’s an interview with NYRB editor edwin frank about how the reprint came about — mostly it seems from the support of george pelecanos.
and here’s pelecanos reading from HARD RAIN FALLING.