Reading California Fiction

April 28th, 2007

Cover of 'The Flesh Merchants' by Ross Thomas, from the Reading California Fiction siteDon Napoli has created a wonderful site, Reading California Fiction, devoted to his admirable quest of reading his way through the archives of fiction set in California.

Don’s work so far has led him to books good, bad, and indifferent. Among the first are some long-forgotten but worthy titles as David Duncan’s The Serpent’s Egg, of which he writes,

A labor arbitration case? Am I going to tell you that someone could produce a great novel about a labor arbitration case? Yes, I certainly am. A skilled writer can present complicated characters and an interesting story against even the most unpromising of backgrounds. And David Duncan is a terrific writer. Here he cuts back a bit on the usual energy of his prose to tell his tale in all of its complexity. I like this book a whole lot. When I get around to compiling a list of favorite California novels, The Serpent’s Egg will be near the top.

Don’s also honest in admitting that his journey sometimes leads to a dead end. Of Ruth Comfort Mitchell’s Play the Game, he writes, “Sometimes the only nice thing you can say about a book is that you’ll never have to read it again.”

Reading California Fiction is well-conceived, attractively presented, well-organized, and full of books you’ve never heard of but may want to pursue, thanks to Don’s literary archaeology. It’s among the very small number of sites I’d care to browse through in entirety.

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