Three Great Novels from Local Writers
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Percival Everett has published over 20 novels and other books, and although very well known in literary circles, he does not always get the wider recognition he deserves. This latest, with characteristic playfulness, has on its cover "Percival Everett by Virgil Russell by Percival Everett." Everett often appears in his novels, sometimes in small walk-on roles, sometimes the central character. He usually appears as a bit of dolt, a charlatan, a fool; he makes himself out a terrible fraud of a teacher (which his USC students dispute) and worse. This fictional Everett shows up here with his father (we assume at a similar distance from the facts) who doesn't think much of his son, either. These are not just postmodern, metafictional games; beneath the fun (and it is fun) is a serious examination of aging, fathers and sons, and the vagaries of memory.
Marisa Silver first made her mark as a film director, but is now a highly respected fiction writer; her last, The God of War, was nominated for major prizes. In Mary Coin, inspired by Dorothea Lange's iconic photograph "Migrant Mother," she imagines the meeting of the Dust Bowl mother ("spitting out children like melon pits") and a WPA photographer, and weaves their 1930's story with another, set in 2011, of a historian who discovers a family mystery after the death of his parents. A beautifully executed piece of work.
Alex Espinoza's first novel, Stillwater Saints, was set in a fictionalized Inland Empire town like the one where he grew up, and was published to rave reviews. His excellent new novel, The Five Acts of Diego León, begins at the height of the Mexican Revolution, which dominates the life of the young Diego. Escaping the violence in 1927, he arrives in Hollywood, while the US is in one of its cyclical infatuations with the idea of the 'Latin Lover.' He works his way up through the glamorous and sordid business, but never escapes his past. This novel has many of the elements of the classic Hollywood novel, but works on a much larger canvas.