No setting says California as clearly as the beach. So many movies and TV shows have been set there that scenes of surfers and sun-bathers are now burned into the American consciousness. So it’s a bit surprising that authors of the Famous Fifty took so little interest in the place. Not any of the books are set there, and (as far as I can tell) only one, Ask the Dust, even has a beach scene. On this score, as on many others, the Famous Fifty offer a limited view of California and of life generally. Other California writers, however, saw the potential of the beach as a setting for their stories. Their novels go beyond the frolic and sunshine to present offbeat characters and complicated situations. Here is a list of six such books, each of which sees the beach as a different place:
1. Mad Hatter’s Village by Mary Cavendish Gore. A place to dig in and wait for something good to happen.
2. The Flutter of an Eyelid by Myron Brinig. A place of strangeness and surprise.
3. The Face of the Clam by Luther Whiteman. A place to hang out far from everyday concerns.
4. Gidget by Frederick Kohner. A place to meet challenges.
5. So Love Returns by Robert Nathan. A place of wonder and romance.
6. Girl on the Beach by George Sumner Albee. A place of deceptive calm.
Except for Gidget, which is in print, these books will be some trouble to find. All are available through interlibrary loan. Internet booksellers have only a few copies of the first three, and those copies are expensive, but have enough copies of the last two to keep prices reasonable.