California’s Famous Fifty includes several novels featuring slackers -- not merely a single deadbeat, mind you, but groups of guys who hang out together. Their lives are not centered around their jobs, if they actually have jobs, but their interactions with one another. John Steinbeck is especially drawn to such groups. One shows up in Tortilla Flat and another in Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday. Jack Kerouac also likes the idea of men not tied to work and even gives his bunch a name, The Dharma Bums. Other California authors have their own takes on slackers. The pictures they paint, even when comic or satirical, are not so upbeat:
1. The Face of the Clam by Luther Whiteman. These zany guys, who hang out on the beach without much worldly care, come close to living the Steinbeck prototype.
2. Low Tide by John Truesdell. Here are more beach dwellers whose lack of real jobs has its amusing aspects but overall doesn’t seem like much fun.
3. North of Market by Arthur Foff. The denizens of a San Francisco bar, not so different from those in Saroyan’s The Time of Your Life, carry on their lives in a drunken haze.
4. The San Felipians by Roger Cowles. A houseful of rich folks keep themselves amused but accomplish nothing.
5. Married at Leisure by Virginia Lederer. Wives of Hollywood bigshots obsess about one another and ignore the purposelessness of their own lives.
All the books are out of print. Low Tide and The San Felipians are the least accessible, but determined readers should be able to borrow copies through interlibrary loan.