Aspiring writers might take encouragement from the early career of Robert Carson. At the age of 27 he placed The Revels Are Ended, an ambitious first novel, with a major New York publisher. The following year he worked with William Wellman, Dorothy Parker, and others on A Star Is Born and won an Academy Award for screenwriting. So at only 28 he was well on his way to what turned out to be a 40-year literary career. The 1954 paperback edition of Revels was oddly renamed I Take All.
The Revels Are Ended by Robert Carson. Doubleday, Doran and Co. (1936), 358 pp.
Philip Cloud, sent to prison for killing his wife's lover, emerges from San Quentin a bitter and angry man. He has scorn for the friends who try to help him, contempt for his family, who failed to stand by him, and hatred for his wife, whom he blames for everything that happened. She is determined to make amends, however, and they soon move into an apartment together. But he is not prepared to settle down with her. Gradually he comes to understand that he will need to take concrete action if he is to overcome the alienation that is corroding his life.
This book comes close to being a genuine existentialist novel. Philip, the protagonist, is deeply estranged from every aspect of the life he leads after leaving prison. He looks around for meaning and finds only pettiness, hypocrisy, and misunderstanding. What distinguishes Philip from, say, Mathieu in Sartre's The Age of Reason is that Philip believes that he has a specific grievance, that he is, in the words of the book jacket, "a man betrayed," while Mathieu suffers from an ennui imposed by life itself. Philip's anger makes him a lively character, one not willing to take guff from anybody. So what he says and thinks often has an edge to it. Nor is there anything flabby about the writing, which moves along quickly with sharp descriptions and abundant dialog. This book may well be one of the most important California novels of the 1930s. Readers with an interest in the "tough guy" hero will not want to miss it.