You might think that John Steinbeck, who set most of his fiction in Monterey County, had pretty much exhausted the possibilities for stories in that part of California. Actually, however, what he chose to write about, primarily agricultural workers or men living together without women, gave the impression of the county as a bucolic backwater. While he was still living there, other authors pretty much left the place alone. Once he made his final departure to the east coast in 1950, however, they began to look at the county in different ways and to write about different sorts of people. Here’s a list of good reads set in Monterey County and published from 1951 to 1954:
1. To Hell Together by H. Vernor Dixon. 1951. The second of Dixon’s noirish novels about breaking into the upper crust. Set in Carmel.
2. Big Red’s Daughter by John McPartland. 1953. A briskly told story of an average guy getting into trouble and then into more trouble. Set in Monterey and Carmel.
3. The Marina Street Girls by Rae Loomis. 1953. A companion-piece to Sweet Thursday in which Steinbeck makes a brief, anonymous appearance. Set in Monterey.
4. Their Nearest and Dearest by Bernice Carey. 1953. A left-wing murder mystery from an author barely interested in the identity of the killer. Set in Salinas
5. Dark Dominion by David Duncan. 1954. A multi-faceted piece of science fiction centering on the construction of a space station at a top secret military installation. Set in a fictionalized Fort Hunter Ligget.
While you might well enjoy reading these books, your chances of finding them vary quite a bit. Big Red’s Daughter is available on demand. You should also be able to land a copy of Dark Dominion, which leads the others in library holdings and listings in internet book store inventories. The Marina Street Girls, meanwhile, finishes last in availability. Only nine copies are for sale on the internet and only one library in the world has a copy.