Don Carpenter

On this date in 1931, writer Don Carpenter was born in Berkeley, Calif. He completed high school in Portland, Ore., where his family moved in 1947. After graduating he enlisted in the Air Force and served during the Korean War, stationed in Kyoto, Japan, where he reported for the military newspaper Stars and Stripes. Upon returning home, Carpenter attended Portland State University, where he met Martha Marie Ryherd. They married in 1956 and moved to San Francisco. Carpenter received an M.A. in creative writing from San Francisco State University and taught English before becoming a novelist.

Carpenter’s writing is often perceived as cynical and ominous. He is best known for his novel Hard Rain Falling (1966), which follows the adventures of an orphan from Portland caught in a life of crime and punishment. The novel attempts to answer the question of our existence in a provocative way while additionally addressing issues of systematic conformity in America. Carpenter’s other works include Blade of Light (1968), Getting Off (1971) and From a Distant Place (1989).

He also spent some years in and out of Hollywood during which he wrote the cult film “Payday” (1973) about a rags-to-riches country singer ultimately driven to ruin. He later settled in Mill Valley, Calif., and became a full-time writer. Carpenter struggled with health issues, including tuberculosis and diabetes. He took his own life during the summer of 1995. His novel Friday at Enrico’s (2014), was published posthumously. It is a partially autobiographical take on the lunches he had in the 1970s with other notable authors. (D. 1995)

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