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Published Date : April 8, 2014
Don Carpenter was one of the finest novelists in the West. His first novel, A Hard Rain Falling, published in 1966, has been championed by Richard Price, and George Pelecanos called it “a masterpiece . . . the definitive juvenile-delinquency novel and a damning indictment of our criminal justice system.” His novel A Couple of Comedians is thought by some the best novel about Hollywood ever written.
Carpenter was a close friend of many San Francisco writers, but his closest friendship was with Richard Brautigan, and when Brautigan killed himself, Carpenter tried for some time to write a biography of his remarkable, deeply troubled friend.
He finally abandoned that in favor of writing a novel. Fridays at Enrico’s is the story of four writers living in Northern California and Portland during the early, heady days of the Beat scene, a time of youth and opportunity. This story mixes the excitement of beginning with the melancholy of ambition, often thwarted and never satisfied. Loss of innocence is only the first price you pay.
These are people, men and women, tender with expectation, at risk and in love. Carpenter also carefully draws a portrait of these two remarkable places, San Francisco and Portland, in the ’50s and early ’60s, when writers and bohemians were busy creating the groundwork for what came to be the counterculture.
The complete penultimate manuscript forgotten since the author’s death, was recently discovered, and we’re thrilled to see this book into print.
Don Carpenter was born in Berkeley in 1932. Raised in Portland, he enlisted in the air force and returned to the bay area at the end of his service. He published ten novels during his lifetime, and he had a successful career as a screenwriter, living for long periods in Hollywood. After years of poor health he committed suicide in Mill Valley in 1995.
“I don’t suppose I’ll ever get over my friend Don Carpenter’s tragic death, but it helps more than a little that as his legacy he left us his best book: Fridays at Enrico’s.” —Curt Gentry, author of J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets, Helter Skelter
“Fridays At Enrico’s may be the truest depiction of literary life I’ve ever encountered. Truer than Lost Illusions, truer thanNew Grub Street; Carpenter depicts the lives of his bohemians up and down the west coast with a kind of calm radiance, and with an equipoise between hope and despair. The result is a kind of stoic classic, like John Williams’ Stoner. I can’t recommend it highly enough.”—Matthew Specktor, author of American Dream Machine, and The Sting.
“Like Chuck Kinder’s Honeymooners, Fridays at Enrico’s lovingly follows the literary fortunes of a ragtag band of West Coast hopefuls from their clumsy first drafts and drunken love affairs through bestsellerdom, writer’s block and the Hollywood script mills. Don Carpenter knows how heartbreakingly funny the artist’s peculiar unhappiness can be.” —Stewart O’Nan, author of Last Night at the Lobster, and Emily, Alone
“The writer’s life is a favorite subject for many authors, but Fridays at Enrico’s is Don Carpenter from front to back—spare but unsparing, plain-spoken but filigreed with moments of bright poetry, and focused on ordinary people climbing out of the holes they’re in only to dig deeper ones for themselves. Edited by Jonathan Lethem with a light and sympathetic touch, Carpenter’s final novel is an unexpected treat.” —Christopher Sorrentino, author of Trance, Believeniks!, and American Tempura
“Don Carpenter is a particular favorite of mine. His first novel, Hard Rain Falling, might be my candidate for the other best prison novel in American literature.” — Jonathan Lethem
“Carpenter’s masterpiece, long out of print, is the definitive juvenile—delinquency novel and a damning indictment of our justice system that is still relevant today.” —George Pelecanos, The Village Voice, screenwriter of The Wire
“Don Carpenter combines a reporter’s eye for external detail with a novelist’s sense of inner depts.” —Los Angeles Times
“Hard Rain Falling roars through dim Western streets like an articulate Hells Angel looking for a fight…The book is tough and vital, built with slabs of hard prose.” —The New York Times
“Full of lyrical evocations of a lost working—class San Francisco, the novel also contains possibly the best two—page drunken celebration of cheap, corny, vulgar, un—cleaned—up Market Street ever set in print.” —The San Francisco Chronicle