This novel was four star material for a long while of the reading process due to too much of pool games descriptions in the early and middle chapters. Masterful pool games descriptions, I reckon. Save that I cannot stand billiard.
Anyway, just like it happened with all that baseball business in 'Underworld' by Don De Lillo, eventually I won over my lack of interest (and knowledge) for the sake of the engaging plot.
For Don Carpenter certainly knew where to find pool joints of ill fame in the US West Coast and spent days looking at the fellows playing there, but - most importantly - he knew how to write a eight ball of a first novel at the age of 33. Yes, it's hard to believe that, but this is a first novel.
I won't lie here.
'Hard Rain Falling' took a good 50 pages to get me (blame it on the snooker), but at the end of the day it deserves the highest mark. This is a sincere, brave and poignant novel.
It's sincere because the author never tries to be cheeky, but rewards the reader writing about people rather than characters. People who think and double-think, bluff and double-bluff. People who pose questions to themselves and often struggle to find the appropriate answer, but never stop trying.
It's brave because Carpenter writes about heavy topics such as social isolation, gambling, racial issues, alcoholism, flawed justice, incarceration, masturbation, homosexuality, and postpartum depression. These contents are always handled at just the right time and delivered in a straightforward and yet profound way.
It's poignant because one cannot help but feeling more and more emotionally attached to Jack Levitt and Billy Lancing - the two protagonists of the novel - in all their misadventures. Levitt and Lancing are actually pretty distasteful cats at the beginning of the novel, but Carpenter let them be and somehow they both grew on me.
I'm glad this book got republished. It was a shame to let it fade neglected.
In some parts this novel reminded me of 'In Cold Blood' by Truman Capote, but 'Hard Rain Falling' is more realistic than that and displays a much better psychological insight on the main protagonists. Which is kind of funny if you think that this is a work of fiction while Capote wrote about something that really happened.
Unlike the one by Capote this is not a novel about crime and its punishment. And neither a novel about moral redemption and its social rewards.
'Hard Rain Falling' is a book about outcasts looking for something they're not fully aware of: their real selves.
Johnny Cash would have loved it.