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Hard Rain Falling (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – September 8, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


"Tarmac-tough dialogue and road-novel deliquent action is customised with a tender intensity about both friendship and sexual passion.  Often savage, never cynical, Carpenter brings gold to the grit."—Boyd Tonkin, The Independent


Hard Rain Falling is a unique read; violent, tender, inexorable, and melancholic; a beat-era book of disaffected young men devoid of On the Road euphoria but more poignant and gripping for its fatalistic grounding. The small lives contained herein are indelible.” —Richard Price


"You always hear that Don Carpenter was a writer's writer, hugely admired by critics and novelists for his brilliance and precision, but every civilian reader I know was putty in his hands once that person opened any of his astonishing novels. He could be hilarious, and he could break your heart and he could write about ego and frailty as well as anyone on earth. I loved him like crazy." --Anne Lamott


"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." --Jonahtan 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


"Carpenter's prose is all muscle and sinew." --Newsweek


"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


"Hard Rain Falling is Last Exit to Brooklyn amended but unaltered by cries of affection under the heap of warped and busted souls." --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


"A powerful, uncompromising book, realistically written, brutal in the raw intensity of its action...highly recommended." --Library Journal


"Mr. Carpenter's debut is most auspicious. He is a serious writer." --Book Week


"Not since...Last Exit to Brooklyn has there come a first novel of such extraordinary impact. It shouts for readers." --Cleveland Plain Dealer


"He chills us with imaginative work...boldly executed." --The New York Times Book Review


"Don Carpenter is a natural...a tough but compassionate absolutely honest writer who never strikes a false note." --Robert Brustein


"Full of passionate intensity...rough and tumble picaresque." --Charlotte Observer


"A violent, action-filled...first novel by an explosive 34 year old San Francisco writer...This tough guy novel that explores an underworld is a work of real accomplishment." --The San Francisco Chronicle

"Carpenter was a straight man to the more illustrious neo-Beat and -Dada artists of the era ... a steadying antidote to the counterculture bedlam of the tumultuous 1960s and beyond.” —Douglas Brinkley, The New York Times

About the Author

Don Carpenter (1931–1995) was born in Berkeley, California, and grew up on the West Coast. He served in the air force during the Korean War, attended the University of Portland, and received a B.S. from Portland State College and an M.A. from San Francisco State College. Carpenter, his wife, Martha, and their two daughters settled in Mill Valley, near San Francisco, and he became good friends with the local writers Evan Connell and, especially, Richard Brautigan. His first book, Hard Rain Falling, was published in 1966 and was followed by nine other novels as well as several collections of short stories. Carpenter also wrote for the movies and television and spent a good deal of time in Hollywood, the subject of several of his novels. Plagued by poor health in his later years, he committed suicide at the age of sixty-four.

George Pelecanos is the author of sixteen novels and was a writer, story editor, and producer on the HBO series The Wire.

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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; First Printing edition (September 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590173244
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590173244
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #408,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Lonya VINE VOICE on September 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
Where black is the color, where none is the number, . . ."

Bob Dylan, A Hard Rains A Gonna Fall.

Jack Levitt has had a hard rain fall on him his entire life. The unwanted, abandoned product of a furtive coupling between two feral teens in the Pacific Northwest; the result of what Jack describes as a compulsive itch between two strangers, his life is not the stuff that dreams are made of. But Jack Levitt's life is the stuff of a great and absorbing story in Don Carpenter's brutal and powerful "Hard Rain Falling". "Hard Rain Falling" is one of those books which, after I read it, made me wonder why I'd never heard of the book or the author before.

In his Introduction, George Pelecanos writes that this book may be "the most unheralded important American novel of the 1960s." I read that with a grain of salt, thinking that this may just be a bit of overblown flattery not uncommon in Introductions written by other authors. But as far as I'm concerned this book is every bit as good as Pelecanos made it out to be. He was not exaggerating.

Written in 1964, Hard Rain Falling opens with the `itch' in 1929 that brought Jack Levitt into this world but quickly moves to the result. It is 1947 and Levitt is a hard-nosed teen on the run from the orphan asylum he was raised in. He gets by on his wits and with his fists, hangs out in bars and pool halls looking for a mark, and lives in flop houses. He in angry and unformed, he is grown up but devoid of an inner life. The story takes Jack and his some time `friends' through Portland, Seattle and finally to San Francisco in the early 1960s. There are also stops in county jails and a stretch in San Quentin.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By R. Sohi on September 25, 2009
Format: Paperback
For many people reading "Hard Rain Falling" will offer the thrill of discovering a brilliant unheard of author. It was for me. The novel grabs you with the force of its authenticity and maintains its hold through the power of both Don Carpenter's beautiful writing as well as the depth of his insight. The characters grow and evolve, sometimes in surprising directions, but they always come across as being fully realized and emotionally complex. They are constantly brutalized by the world they live in, and the passages describing some of their experiences are harrowing. It is at times oppressive in its intensity but there isn't a false note.

The novel's introduction is written by George Pelecanos, who was one of the writers for HBO's amazing series, "The Wire." This is fitting. Both the novel and the series share a focus on the violent struggle and tortured inner lives of characters living in an unforgiving world. Both also ask questions about who we really are and what meaning we are to make of all we endure.

"Hard Rain Falling" is the best novel I've read in a long time. It's excellence makes me want to read it again and seek out the author's other work.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By JAK on February 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
This novel was published in 1966 and was a commercial flop.That is understandible.It's quite good and never fails to hold your interest.However it might have stood a better chance if it had come out 10 years later.Carpenters calm, matter of fact take on homosexuality was without a doubt a deal breaker for many readers, even in the mid '60s.A larger problem can be summed up with a question ,who was this books audience in 1966?It has many of the elements of a genre novel.There is crime ,violence,straight sex, gay sex,prisons,reformatories ,orphanages,lots of drinking and a little drugging.The characters are by and large urban low lives who drift through the Pacific North West and Northern California.In 1966 the distinction between high and low was still strong and a novel with this much of a whiff of genre to it wasn't going to appeal to high brow readers, let alone those looking for uplift.On the other hand I suspect genre readers would have tended to be irritated by the brooding intellectualism of the book.Carpenters' literary antecedents are Nelson Algren and Dreiser.Carpenter lacks Driesers' touch of genius but is vastly superior to the atrocious Algren.So the book undoubtedly wound up being a fish out of water.It's too bad someone didn't try to revive it while Carpenter was still alive to benefit.That said NYRB Classics once more deserves praise for reissuing a good book most of us have never heard of.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Keith A. Comess VINE VOICE on September 29, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sometimes books enter the out-of-print category because they aren't any good and no one wants to read them. Sometimes the book is good (or even superb) and nobody will bother to read it anyway. This book falls into the second category.

The plot of "Hard Rain Falling" is linear: in other words, "that" follows logically and immediately from "this". The book is written in the French style of "roman dur" (a "hard novel", a la Georges Simenon). It is terse, set in grim and gray surroundings and is stark in its descriptions. There are, for the most part, few words wasted.

Jack Levitt, the protagonist, is a "hard case" orphan born of hard case parents. As anticipated, Jack's life follows an Oedipal-like trajectory (i.e, a fate which he apparently cannot escape, not that he is especially motivated to do so). Only the most obtuse reader could fail to anticipate the bad end which Carpenter has pre-ordained from the patently bad beginning. Jack drinks too much, resents too much, fights too much, bucks society too much, is too individualistic and, later on, spends too much time engaged in introspection: a toxic combination of character traits, indeed. Aside from all that, he falls into a homosexual relationship with Billy Lancing (the other major character) while in prison. He later marries a red-hot "nympho" rich woman with whom (yes, you guessed it) he has a child who he seems to love (but later on evidently forgets). Sally, the woman in question, then leaves him, taking the child along for a "better life" with a rich, philosophically-inclined patron. She dumps him as well and takes up again with her first husband, a bit-part but quite successful actor. The child's fate can be surmised, namely a likely reprise of Jack's.
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