Archive for the ‘American Literature’ Category

Walter Tevis (1928-1984)

June 12, 2016


Walter Tevis (February 28, 1928 – August 8, 1984) was an American novelist and short story writer.

He is the author of six novels and one short story collection. Three of his novels have been made into films: The Hustler, The Color of Money and The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Walter Tevis taught English literature and creative writing at Ohio University from 1965 to 1978, where he was a university professor.

He spent his last years in New York as a full-time writer.

Walter Tevis died of lung cancer in 1984.


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The Hustler 1959 (novel)

The Hustler tells the story of a young pool hustler, Edward “Fast Eddie” Felson, who challenges the legendary Minnesota Fats. After losing to Fats, Eddie meets Bert Gordon, who teaches him about winning, or more particularly about losing. Tautly written, The Hustler is a treatise on how a loser is beaten by himself, not by his opponent; and how he can learn to win, if he can look deeply enough into himself.

The Hustler was adapted into a 1961 film, starring Paul Newman as Fast Eddie. The film was a critical and commercial success. It remains widely regarded as a classic.

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The Man Who Fell to Earth 1963 (novel) 

The Man Who Fell to Earth is about an extraterrestrial that lands on Earth seeking a way to ferry his people to Earth from his home planet, which is suffering from a severe drought.

The Man Who Fell to Earth was made into a 1976 film, starring David Bowie as the extraterrestrial, Thomas Jerome Newton. It was directed by Nicolas Roeg.

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Mockingbird 1980 (novel)

Mockingbird opens with the failed suicide attempt of Spofforth, the dean of New York University, who is an android who has lived for centuries, yet yearns to die. Spofforth then brings a teacher, Paul Bentley, to New York. Bentley has taught himself to read after a Rosetta Stone–like discovery of a film with words matching those in a children’s primer. Bentley says he could teach others to read, but Spofforth instead gives him a job of decoding the written titles in ancient silent films. At a zoo, Bentley meets Mary Lou and explains the concept of reading to her. They embark on a path toward literacy. Spofforth responds by sending Bentley to prison for the crime of reading, and takes Mary Lou as an unwilling housemate. The novel then follows Bentley’s journey of discovery after his escape from prison…

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Far from Home 1981 (short stories)

Far from Home is a collection of short stories, written between 1955 and 1984 by Walter Tevis. Tevis wrote more than two dozen short stories for a variety of magazines. “The Big Hustle”, his pool hall story was published in Collier’s on August 5, 1955, and was illustrated by Denver Gillen. Over the next twenty years, Tevis published short stories in The American Magazine, Bluebook, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Galaxy Science Fiction, Playboy, Redbook and The Saturday Evening Post. These stories were collected together and published as the short story collection Far From Home in 1981.

The Big Bounce (first published in Galaxy, February, 1958) is one of the stories from the collection:



The Steps of the Sun 1983 (novel)


The Steps of the Sun is set in the year 2063. China’s world dominance is growing, and America is slipping into impotence. All new sources of energy have been depleted or declared unsafe, and a new Ice Age has begun. Ben Belson searches for a new energy resource.


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The Queen’s Gambit 1983 (novel)

The Queen’s Gambit traces chess prodigy Beth Harmon’s life from her childhood in an orphanage through her struggles with tranquilizer and alcohol addiction to her triumphant rise through the Grandmaster ranks.

Eight-year-old orphan Beth Harmon is quiet, sullen, and by all appearances unremarkable—until she plays her first game of chess. Her senses grow sharper, her thinking clearer, and for the first time in her life she feels herself fully in control. By the age of sixteen, she’s competing for the U.S. Open championship. But as she hones her skills on the professional circuit, the stakes get higher, her isolation grows more frightening, and the thought of escape becomes all the more tempting…


The Color of Money 1984 (novel)

The Color of Money is a sequel to Tevis’ first novel, The Hustler (1959). The novel is set twenty years after The Hustler. Fast Eddie now runs a pool hall of his own. After seeing a lookalike of Minnesota Fats on the television, he decides to go in search of the real one, whom he finds in the Florida Keys. Eddie persuades Fats to go on a national tour. He meets Arabella, an English woman, who moves in with him. The finale is set at Lake Tahoe, where Eddie manages to beat a number of younger players.

The novel was adapted into a 1986 film directed by Martin Scorsese. The film differs greatly from the novel in terms of plot, and does not feature the Minnesota Fats character.


Information on Walter Tevis and his works is available at:


Walter Tevis’ novels and short stories are available at:



Walter Tevis (1928-1984)

Copyright © R J Dent (2016)


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Richard Brautigan

June 5, 2016

Richard Brautigan (January 30, 1935 – September 16, 1984) was an American novelist and short story writer.


His writing is often considered to be either black comedy, parody or satire – or a combination of these.

Richard Brautigan has written ten novels. They are:

A Confederate General from Big Sur (1964, ISBN 0-224-61923-3)


Trout Fishing in America (1967 ISBN 0-395-50076-1)


In Watermelon Sugar (1968 ISBN 0-440-34026-8)


The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 (1971 ISBN 0-671-20872-1)


The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western (1974 ISBN 0-671-21809-3)


Willard and His Bowling Trophies: A Perverse Mystery (1975 ISBN 0-671-22065-9)


Sombrero Fallout: A Japanese Novel (1976 ISBN 0-671-22331-3)


Dreaming of Babylon: A Private Eye Novel 1942 (1977 ISBN 0-440-02146-4)


The Tokyo-Montana Express (1980 ISBN 0-440-08770-8)


So The Wind Won’t Blow It All Away (1982 ISBN 0-395-70674-2)


An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey (1994 ISBN 0-312-27710-5)


Richard Brautigan has also written a collection of short stories, Revenge of the Lawn: Stories 1962-1970


Richard Brautigan’s novels and short stories are available from:






In R J Dent’s Library – Truman Capote

October 24, 2013


A look in R J Dent’s library at the works of journalist, essayist, playwright, short story writer and novelist – the inventor of the non-fiction novel – Truman Capote.




In R J Dent’s Library – Truman Capote


Text © R J Dent (2013)

Film © R J Dent (2013)

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In R J Dent’s Library – Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

October 23, 2013

A look in R J Dent’s library at Ken Kesey’s classic novel of institutional rebellion  – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.



In R J Dent’s Library – Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Text © R J Dent (2013)

Film © R J Dent (2013)


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In R J Dent’s Library – Jack Kerouac’s On The Road

October 23, 2013

A look in R J Dent’s library at Jack Kerouac’s classic beat novel of travelling across America in pursuit of freedom – On the Road.

In R J Dent’s Library – Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

Text © R J Dent (2013)

Film © R J Dent (2013)


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In R J Dent’s Library – J.D. Salinger

October 14, 2013

A look in R J Dent’s library at the short stories and novels of reclusive author J.D. Salinger

(and a look at To Die For, the novel written by Salinger’s former partner, Joyce Maynard).



In R J Dent’s Library – J.D. Salinger


Text (c) R J Dent (2013)

Film (c) R J Dent (2013)


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William S. Burroughs – Prophet of the Apocalypse

October 20, 2008

William S. Burroughs


Along with JG Ballard, Angela Carter and Anna Kavan, William S. Burroughs has probably done more to influence my writing, my reading, and my appreciation of literature than any other writer. And of all four of these writers, it’s Burroughs that I have the most admiration for.


When I first read Naked Lunch, it felt as though my head had imploded. I didn’t know what I was reading. I found the ‘novel’ – if that’s really what it is – fascinating, nauseating, insightful, funny, serious, sickening, intelligent and profound. In a way, it was an anti-novel. In it, Burroughs juxtaposed the scatological with the philosophical. It often contradicted itself. It often subverted itself; but those factors were an integral part of its appeal.

After that, I bought everything I could by William S. Burroughs and read the lot. Here’s the list:

Junkie (1953)

Queer (written 1951-3; published 1985)

Naked Lunch (1959)

The Soft Machine (1961)

The Ticket That Exploded (1962)

Dead Fingers Talk (1963)

Nova Express (1964)

The Last Words of Dutch Schultz (1969)

The Wild Boys: A Book Of The Dead (1971)

Port of Saints (1973)

Ah Pook is Here (1979)

Cities of the Red Night (1981)

The Place of Dead Roads (1983)

The Western Lands (1987)

The Job: Interviews with William S. Burroughs (1969)

The Electronic Revolution (1971)

Exterminator! (1973)

Cobble Stone Gardens (1976)

Blade Runner (a movie) (1979)

The Burroughs File (1984)

The Cat Inside (1986)

Interzone (1987)

Paintings and Guns (1992)

My Education: A Book of Dreams (1995)

A William Burroughs Reader (Ed. John Calder)

The Letters of William S Burroughs (Ed. Oliver Harris)

Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs (Ed. James Grauerholz)




A very good place to start is Naked Lunch, followed by Interzone, then Cities of the Red Night /The Place of Dead Roads /The Western Lands trilogy. I mention these because if you can’t cope with these five books, then William S. Burroughs is probably not the author for you. He’s not to everyone’s taste. Reading Burroughs is definitely not for everyone. The Cat Inside would be a gentle start, but also a bit misleading. Junkie and Queer are very well-written, very warm in tone and form a pair. My Education: A Book of Dreams is also very good.


Here is a short film (made by R J Dent) about the works of William S. Burroughs:



The thing to remember about Burroughs is that he’ll take you to places you’ve never been before – some of them absolutely disgusting, and then he’ll show you something amazing, and you’ll forgive him making you wade though whatever to see it. That’s how I found reading the works of William S. Burroughs.


Here’s a link to the trailer for the documentary William Burroughs: The Man Within:


If you’re about to start reading the works of William S. Burroughs, you’d better strap yourself in, because you’re in for a very bumpy – but nonetheless pretty amazing – ride. If you let it, his writing will last you a lifetime and you’ll never forget it – or the man that wrote it – the 20th century’s most extreme prophet of the apocalypse: William S. Burroughs.


William S. Burroughs – Prophet of the Apocalypse


© R J Dent (2013)





What Ayn Rand Did For Me

June 15, 2008

Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand was born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum on February 2, 1905. She died on March 6, 1982. She was a Russian-born American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is best known for her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism. She advocated rational individualism and laissez-faire capitalism, and categorically rejected socialism, altruism, and religion. She left Russia and arrived in America where she adopted the name Ayn Rand and became a successful writer.

My first contact with Ayn Rand’s writing was when I found, in a tiny bookshop, a second-hand copy of her novella, Anthem.

I read Anthem and found it wonderful, insightful, inspiring. At the back of the book, there were advertisements for two other books of hers: The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Within the year, I’d bought and read The Fountainhead.


The Fountainhead did what books are supposed to do; it changed me. It changed my life, my outlook, my views, my method of thinking. And then I read Atlas Shrugged. It is a powerful and moving story of what happens when the people who really run things go on strike.

It was followed by We The Living. The cover of We The Living (by Nick Gaetano) was one of the most haunting pictures I had seen for a long time.

I won’t give you a plot synopsis, but if you want to read a great novel with an individual versus the state theme, then The Fountainhead is the book for you. After that you could try Anthem, Atlas Shrugged and We The Living. They’re all excellent.

Here’s a short film of Ayn Rand’s fiction and non-fiction I have in my library:

As a writer, I learned a lot from Ayn Rand. I can now see that she’s not a particularly elegant stylist – her prose is quite clunky in places – but she is able to convey some rather large ideas in fairly fast-paced and well-plotted narratives. What Ayn Rand did for me was show me that as a writer I could incorporate philosophical ideas into my stories; that I could anchor them to the plot, to the characters, to the subtext, and the story would gain another layer of meaning.

When my novel Myth was published, I dedicated it to Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum, the young Russian woman who dreamed of making her way to America and becoming a successful writer.

In short, Ayn Rand’s influence on me is such that I dedicated my novel, Myth, to the memory of the woman who became Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand’s books are available at:

R J Dent’s books are available at:

What Ayn Rand Did For Me

© R J Dent (2009 & 2015)


In Praise of Ray Bradbury

June 14, 2008

Ray Bradbury

As a writer, Ray Bradbury showed me how it was done. As a young boy, I loved his short stories – The Pedestrian, Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed, The Fog Horn, The Lake, and The Sound of Thunder in particular. As a teenager I loved his collections that masqueraded as novels, such as The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles. As a man I love his novels: Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Death is a Lonely Business, A Graveyard For Lunatics, and most recently, Farewell Summer.

However, I admire Ray Bradbury for more than just his writing talent. I admire him for having the courage to live as a writer, to spend his time writing, writing, writing – and not really bothering about anything else. I also admire him because he abandoned formal education and educated himself in the library – and then became a very successful writer.

As a writer he was prolific – novels, short stories, essays, poems, plays, film scripts and teleplays. He has written many of each. As a person, he was a living legend.

Ray Bradbury was born in 1920, He died today (5/6/12) aged 91. Until today, he was still writing and still enjoying his life. He said in a recent interview that it was his love of writing that kept him young.

Here is a bibliography:


(1950) The Martian Chronicles

(1953) Fahrenheit 451

(1957) Dandelion Wine

(1962) Something Wicked This Way Comes

(1972) The Halloween Tree

(1985) Death Is a Lonely Business

(1990) A Graveyard for Lunatics

(1992) Green Shadows, White Whale

(2001) From the Dust Returned

(2004) Let’s All Kill Constance

(2006) Farewell Summer

Short Story Collections:

(1947) Dark Carnival

(1951) The Illustrated Man

(1953) The Golden Apples of the Sun

(1955) The October Country

(1959) A Medicine for Melancholy

(1959) The Day It Rained Forever

(1962) The Small Assassin

(1964) The Machineries of Joy

(1969) I Sing The Body Electric

(1976) Long After Midnight

(1980) One Timeless Spring

(1983) Dinosaur Tales

(1984) A Memory of Murder

(1988) The Toynbee Convector

(1996) Quicker Than The Eye

(1997) Driving Blind

(2002) One More for the Road

(2004) The Cat’s Pyjamas

(2007) Now and Forever: Somewhere a Band is Playing & Leviathan ’99

(2007) Summer Morning, Summer Night

(2009) We’ll Always Have Paris

Through each new book, I grew up with Ray Bradbury. He has a place in my heart and in my mind that no other writer has. He is the most important person to me in terms of literary influence; possibly more important than J.G. Ballard, Angela Carter, William S. Burroughs, Anna Kavan, or even Ayn Rand, who was so important to me that I dedicated my first novel, Myth, to her. Here is a short film of the Ray Bradbury books that I have in my library:

There is a wonderful piece of film in which Ray Bradbury talks to university students about writing. It is witty and informative – and at times very profound. It is worth watching for Bradbury’s insights into writing. Here it is: