A few years ago, Nick Mamatas posted on his LJ about John Fante, a great writer from the 1930-1950s who’s work had got shelved in the obscurity section of the library until Charles Bukowski named him as one of his major influences.
I found the collection THE BIG HUNGER at one of my favorite used book stores in Toronto, SHE SAID BOOM. I bought it in 2008 sometime but it got packed away with all my books and lay dormant until I finally unloaded my book collection in 2010.
Most of the stories were unpublished, from his early days, when he was trying to learn his craft and working at a manic speed. Surprisingly, the first handful are really great. “Horselaugh on Dibber Lannon” is about his alter ego, Bandini, as a kid, observing how his friend’s brother, who everyone thinks is a good egg and bound to be the next Pope, is really a sociopathic shitbird. Told in clear voice and explosive language, Fante’s story is a great tiny diorama of the rough life of kids in the 1930s, and the monsters or saints or everyday people they can change into over time.
If you dig Bukowski, Kearouac, Algren and their ilk, check out Fante. His son, Dan Fante, is also a hard nosed gritty writer of the grim and eclectic. His memoir of his and his father’s life, FANTE, is pretty rocking. And terrifying.