In a memoir that's "compelling, edgy, painfully alive" (Times Literary Supplement), like "stripped-down Dostoevsky" (Time), this is the personal story, both tragic and comic, of an absence of identity and a long checkered past of crimes and misdemeanors.
Born in England, Richard Rayner now lives in Los Angeles and teaches at the University of Southern California. His previous books include the novels The Cloud Sketcher, L.A. Without a Map, and Murder Book, as well as the nonfiction account A Bright and Guilty Place: Murder, Corruption, and L.A.'s Scandalous Coming of Age. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and many other publications.
So why do good things happen to bad people? Maybe a certain number of baddies are simply going to get their share of good luck. Maybe the devil is running the universe and he or she likes pleasing his or her favorites. Maybe God is playing a joke on bad people by rewarding them on earth and then punishing them in an afterlife. Or maybe Edmund Burke was on the right track when he said, All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. For evil to triumph less, it follows that good people need to do somethinglike exposing wickedness when they are confronted with it. As the saying goes: "Sunshine is the best disinfectant.
Richard obsessively pursues Barbara through a series of misadventures that take him from photography sessions in the desert to encounters with men in gorilla suits and "surf Nazis." Eventually he succeeds in wooing her, and they marry, bathed in the neon lights of Las Vegas. But their happiness unravels, and Barbara skips out. Richard determines to win her back; then he, too, takes flight, as the happy ending he had envisioned for their lives fades to black in the film capital of the world. Brilliantly candid and comedic, Richard Rayner's ironic first book is a cult favorite—later filmed starring David Tennant, Julie Delpy and Johnny Depp—and a dazzling travelogue of love, loss, and all destinations in between.
One hundred forty years ago, four shopkeepers in Sacramento, California, rose to become the force behind the American transcontinental railroad, achieving along the way wealth beyond measure. To build influence and maintain power, they lied, bribed, and, when necessary, arranged for obstacles, both human and legal, to disappear. Their names were Collis Huntington, Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, and Mark Hopkins, and they were known as "The Big Four" or "The Associates." Their drive for money—nothing more, nothing less—was epic. Their legacy is a university, public gardens, museums, mansions, banks, and libraries—and to a large degree, California itself. A captivating chronicle of a crucial period in American urban expansion, The Associates is a true-to-life tale of ruthless ambition, staggering greed, and the making of a nation.