Adultery often plays a role in California novels. In stories of femmes fatales, for example, at least one of the two main characters is usually married. But the main focus of attention is on the crime that the fatal female schemes to commit. Only a relatively few novels present the motivations and rationalizations behind extramarital affairs and ask the reader to consider what will happen to the marriages once the relationships come to an end. Here are five successful books that look at adultery in that sort of depth:
1. My Face for the World to See by Alfred Hayes. One of the most powerful Hollywood novels, recently reprinted to glowing reviews.
2. Puttering about in a Small Land by Philip K. Dick. A rendering of an affair in the L. A. suburbs from America’s most incisive chronicler of the 1950s.
3. Late September by Gladys Johnson. A surprisingly modern and sophisticated take on the subject, written more than eighty years ago.
4. Memory and Desire by Leonora Hornblow. Plotted similarly to My Face for the World to See but presented from multiple viewpoints.
5. Red for Passion by Florence Stonebraker [as Thomas Stone]. An upbeat, feminist tale from California’s maven of sleaze.
The first two are available in paperback and Kindle editions. The next two will take some effort to dig out, probably from interlibrary loan. The final entry borders on the unavailable.