Novels in which a community is more important than individual characters do not make much of an appearance in California’s Famous Fifty. Saroyan’s The Human Comedy fits the bill, of course, but putting any of the other books in that category is a stretch. Other California authors, however, especially those intrigued by life in small towns, have explored the connection between place and human behavior. Here are five such novels, different in many ways, about communities in California:
1. Parched Earth by Arnold Armstrong. California’s great Marxist epic plays out in a small city north of Los Angeles.
2. Cloud by Day by Ward Moore. Residents of a place in San Diego County, too unorganized to be called a town, try to quell a raging fire.
3. The Year of August [in paperback, Come Desire Me] by Anton Fereva. Convoluted concerns from the past reemerge in a closely knit Sacramento Valley town.
4. The Mountains Have No Shadow by Owen Cameron. A modern western, set near Red Bluff, explores the difficulties of going home again.
5. Ripe Fruit by John McPartland. Tensions between Anglos and Mexicans fester beneath the surface of an agricultural town in the San Joaquin Valley
None of these books is in print. Ripe Fruit is the easiest to obtain from internet booksellers. Parched Earth is the most available through interlibrary loan. The Year of August and The Mountains Have No Shadow should be available from one source or the other. A search for Cloud by Day, however, may prove fruitless. Only one internet bookseller has a copy for sale, and only one American library has a copy to borrow.