Don Carpenter’s Hard Rain Falling is a tough-as-nails account of being down and out, but never down for good—a Dostoyevskian tale of crime, punishment, and the pursuit of an ever-elusive redemption. The novel follows the adventures of Jack Levitt, an orphaned teenager living off his wits in the fleabag hotels and seedy pool halls of Portland, Oregon. Jack befriends Billy Lancing, a young black runaway and pool hustler extraordinaire. A heist gone wrong gets Jack sent to reform school, from which he emerges embittered by abuse and solitary confinement. In the meantime Billy has joined the middle class—married, fathered a son, acquired a business and a mistress. But neither Jack nor Billy can escape their troubled pasts, and they will meet again in San Quentin before their strange double drama comes to a violent and revelatory end.
Don Carpenter is a particular favorite of mine. His first novel, Hard Rain Falling, might be my candidate for the other best prison novel in American literature.
— Jonathan Lethem
Carpenter’s masterpiece, long out of print, is the definitive juvenile—delinquency novel and a damning indictment of our justice system that is still relevant today.
— George Pelecanos, The Village Voice
Don Carpenter combines a reporter’s eye for external detail with a novelist’s sense of inner depts.
— Los Angeles Times
Hard Rain Falling roars through dim Western streets like an articulate Hells Angel looking for a fight…The book is tough and vital, built with slabs of hard prose.
— The New York Times
Full of lyrical evocations of a lost working—class San Francisco, the novel also contains possibly the best two—page drunken celebration of cheap, corny, vulgar, un—cleaned—up Market Street ever set in print.
— The San Francisco Chronicle