A prosperous beginning for San Francisco-based reporter and stage critic Moore.
In 1984, high-school sophomore Eric Sperling died during a car accident with his violently upset buddy Tom Linden at the wheel. Fifteen years later, in purgatory, Eric’s lonely ghost still hangs about Calaveras beach in South Los Angeles, trying to haunt Tom—who actually murdered Eric, who wants vengeance. Vengeance may consist of awakening Tom to the foulness of his deed in murdering his friend, although Tom has spent some years in jail for the death he caused while smashed out of his mind. Throughout the story, we know only that it happened in a car that struck the back end of a big truck. Eric has never seen another spirit like himself, although he’s become a spiritual Jewish being who studies in purgatory, in purgatory, in purgatory, a set of the 20-volume Zohar. In fact, he reads a lot in nearby libraries, and his tale illustrates an aspect of Jewish mysticism. He also has some physical abilities—to make floors creak, slam doors, even to float high over the beach. Back in their high-school days, Tom’s alcoholic father died by falling off a fishing boat and striking his head on the prop. Tom lives with his German-American mother and has been sucked into the violent mindset of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. He slips LSD into a teacher’s coffee and is later expelled for a year. Repellent though Tom is, Rachel falls for him and becomes his lover. Then Rachel accepts Eric as a lover as well, and when Tom finds out he kills Eric. While much of the story offers a big mix of secondary cultural figures, it turns on Tom’s character, his hardening in prison, his strange later life as he becomes his father, lies around stoned and drunk and shielded by booze from even seeing or hearing Eric until the unbearable moment comes when the dead boy appears before him.
A first novel that deserved hardcovers.