Rueful and wildly comic, this boisterous, boozy novel by the author of Snakehunter (1973) offers a carnal salute to that disappearing literary species, the unrepentant American bad boy writer.
Imagine The Ginger Man set in San Francisco during the 1970s. Kinder sets loose two talented writers, Ralph and Jim, on the West Coast literary world of Ken Kesey and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, among others, and in the process provides enough sex, booze, pot, friendship, perfidy, betrayal, bad checks, black humor, and politically incorrect insouciance to satisfy almost anyone. Drunk, loquacious, and broke, Ralph Crawford (based loosely on Raymond Carver) is snared in an ongoing love/hate relationship with his wife, the volatile, spirited, foul-mouthed Alice Ann, and with his two thieving teenaged children, who are lost to sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. He’s also in love with a woman in Montana, a flower-child goddess named Lindsay with a penchant for budding writers. Ralph enlists his best friend Jim, a tough, laconic writer/occasional drug -dealer, to deliver a packet of letters to Lindsay, and Jim promptly falls in love with her too. He and Lindsay subsequently marry, and Ralph seems to accept this situation, but does he still love his friend’s wife? Does she still love him? And will Alice Ann succeed in her latest attempt to rejuvenate her sagging, vindictive marriage to Ralph? Complications ensue, both hilarious and sad, as this foursome and various lowlife literary friends careen around the Bay Area, drinking, partying, fighting, walking out on checks, placating the police, and trying to resolve their romantic entanglements. As the story progresses, Ralph publishes a short story collection, and Jim a novel, both to critical acclaim, but neither event has much immediate impact on the messy particulars of their lives.
Easy, accessible prose tinged with nostalgia; characters both well developed and sympathetic in spite of their bad behavior: a fine, funny slice of literary life.