When you think of first-person narrators in California, your mind hits immediately upon Raymond Chandler, who regales readers with clever descriptions, sardonic commentary, off-kilter similes and snappy repartee. When it comes to punchy prose, no one else is in his league. But many other California writers employed the first person in ways of their own, adding something unusual to the stories and challenging readers in unexpected ways. Here are five novels in that category:
1. Remember Valerie March by Katherine Albert -- A precisely executed tale of a female movie star told by a male narrator and written by a female author.
2. Now and on Earth by Jim Thompson -- A defense worker’s intense recounting of immediate events punctuated by flashbacks to his boyhood.
3. I Remember Christine by Oscar Lewis -- An account of a novelist’s struggle to write an objective biography that jibes with his own experiences.
4. Hope of Heaven by John O’Hara -- An unstructured story told by a screenwriter who has little idea of what’s going on.
5. Pandora by Florence Lucie Salzscheider -- Eerily postmodernish tale, set mostly in San Francisco, of a self-obsessed young woman who mocks her self-obsession.
You’ll need to use interlibrary loan to find a copy of Remember Valerie March, but the other books are readily available. Now and on Earth and I Remember Christine are in print. Used copies of Hope of Heaven are for sale at many internet bookstores. And Pandora is in print on demand.