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Hard Rain Falling

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  1,988 Ratings  ·  248 Reviews

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 L

Mass Market Paperback, 340 pages
Published March 12th 1987 by Ballantine Books (first published 1964)
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Community Reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Dec 10, 2016 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hardboiled
”He was legally a fugitive from the orphanage, and in that sense he was ‘wanted’. He did not feel ‘wanted’---he felt very unwanted. He had desires, and nobody was going to drop out of the sky to satisfy them. He tried to milk a little self-pity out of this thought, but it did not work: he had to recognize that he preferred his singularity, his freedom. All right. He knew what he wanted. He wanted money. He wanted a piece of ass. He wanted a big dinner, with all the trimmings. He wanted a bottle ...more
D. Pow
Oct 04, 2009 D. Pow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Don Carpenter’s Hard Rain Falling is the best novel I’ve read this year. Originally published in 1966, and long out of print, it has been brought back to readers in a handsome trade paperback edition by the New York Review Books Classics imprint, with a thoughtful introduction by current crime writing doyen George Pelecanos.

The book is epic in scope, covering over three decades of eventful action, from late 1920’s subsistence horse ranches to the San Francisco of the early ‘60’s, on the cusp of
Glenn Russell
Mar 12, 2017 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Don Carpenter (1931–1995) - American author who grew up in Berkeley, California and lived most of his life in the Pacific Northwest. Hard Rain Falliing was his first novel, published in 1966.

Hard Rain Falling - A clear, honest story of Jack Levitt, a young man abused and brutalized in his years growing up in an orphanage and, after running away to Portland, Oregon at age sixteen, living his hardscrabble life among his buddies and cheap whores, in and out of sleazy pool halls, dilapidated boardin
Jan 12, 2010 brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
eighth grade i had an economics teacher called dr. cole.
first day of class he gave us a list of qualities we'd potentially possess as adults.
wanted us to rank them from 1 - 20 in order of importance.
some of the stuff on the list:


cole was a strange bird. a thin meticulous type; kind of a well-toned george will with a contemptuous sneer. he watched as we scored the rankings and held them up to be collected. he didn't want them. he stoo
Jan 19, 2010 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay. You can go ahead and believe the hype. This thing is pretty great. Initially, based on a few hot steaming barely-legal facials this book has been given on this very website, I was all ready to step up on Hard Rain Falling, throw my hands up in the air, and say, 'What you got, bitch? I di'n't think so.' Or, alternately, serve up the ever-effective 'You ain't bad! You ain't nothin'! You ain't nothin'!' -- in which scenario Hard Rain Falling is played by Wesley Snipes, and my black combat jum ...more
Jun 08, 2013 Garima rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-2-cents

When a book starts with a line which is immediately reminiscent of Infinite Jest, then it’s alright to have some unrestrained expectations from it.
They can kill you, but they can’t eat you.
But with Hard Rain Falling I had to keep a lot many things in mind before letting my expectations go out of hand and to eventually give what I may immodestly pronounce as a fair reaction. The fact that this book was written in 1960’s was something I constantly reminded myself. It helped when I came across
Paquita Maria Sanchez
I've been having this Western problem lately, maybe the last year or so, where I've been reading good books. Hear me out. I mean, I've been reading books that are good. I liked them. I enjoyed them. They were well-executed, they were thought-provoking, they were stylistically interesting and experimental (or at least engaging), I did not regret reading them, they were good. I liked them. I liked them, they were good.

Dear god, I am a bored housewife to these good books. I blame goodreads in part
Sep 14, 2015 KOHEY.Y. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: home-library
Though it is hard to categorize this novel(it might not be necessary),I'd say it is more of a human tragedy than a noir or a crime.Prologue is superb and I’d go so far as to say that this part strongly influences the entire story and the way of life the protagonist tries to lead or avoid.
The story line is simple yet somewhat destined so that readers can leisurely stop to consider why the charcters think and act in the way they do in certain situations and relationships.It seems like they try to
How much emotional strength does a man have, and does it matter?

Hard Rain Falling might be as stark and uncompromising a novel as I’ve ever read. The story focuses on Jack, raised in an orphanage and proficient in petty crime and bad decisions, and Billy, a pool hustler who starts losing his touch at the tables and makes his own harrowing mistakes. The two meet in Portland as teenagers and reconnect years later in a California prison. Jack’s post-incarceration search for meaning comprise the nov
Jan 10, 2014 Tony rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Is Jack homosexual? It's a fair question because Jack asks himself that. It's just an itch, he rationalizes. Think of a creature so constructed that in order to survive, eat, sleep, procreate, get the snot out of its nose, it had to be triggered by pleasure instead of rationality.

Jack has a lot of time to think, see, because he is often in the slammer. And he's there for things he's done, for things he hasn't done; but mostly because of who and what he's not. A parable? So he scratches his itch,
Jun 24, 2012 Melanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Melanie by: Louisa
Shelves: favourites
Hard Rain Falling covers vast and desolate territory. Reading it required a degree of commitment that I was unprepared for and it took a beat to adjust to the relentless cycle of desire> action>consequence which enacts quietly, intently. It’s like everything transpires within a tight fist, fists flyin and all.

Out of the wild action, truth is delivered with clear-eyed lucidity and although the characters talk of self-pity quite a bit, the truth is clean of it. Clean of regret.

There is so
Nov 10, 2013 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2014, nyrb
Whatever made him run away from Oakland to the Wild West seemed to have been taken care of, one way or another. Maybe what he wanted was freedom. Maybe he looked around and saw that everybody was imprisoned by Oakland, by their own small neighborhoods; everybody was breathing the same air, inheriting the same seats in school, taking the same stale jobs as their fathers and living in the same shabby stucco homes. Maybe it all looked to him like a prison or a trap, the way everybody expected him t ...more
May 31, 2013 AC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels-english
Many of these NYRB's are wonderful, but the truth is that not infrequently one gets the sense that they are scraping not the bottom of the barrel, of course... but not the cream either -- and that what they are republishing often are the second and third level books... of first-rate writers or first-rate books of second (or third-rate) writers... interesting books that are... certainly 'good'.... but not always great. The books look great, though -- and so I buy them... but they don't always liv ...more
Oct 28, 2011 Janice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nyrb
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laura Leaney
Apr 11, 2012 Laura Leaney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this a deeply affecting novel. The book blurb says it's a "Dostoyevskian tale of crime, punishment, and the pursuit of an ever-elusive redemption," but Jack Levitt, the protagonist, is far from feeling the psychological guilt of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. Abandoned in an orphanage in Portland, Oregon, he pursues a life of crime and ends up naked in an isolation cell for four months and three days without light (in a scene so eerie that I doubt I'll ever forget it). There is no ...more
Aug 01, 2011 Rayroy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Never before have I read a novel that was so true, so raw and so heartbreaking, I was often filled with dread and anxiety for the characters in Hard Rain Falling, because they are flawed and can’t escape who and what they are no matter how hopeful they are, they keep failing in life and it’s as if their doomed from the start. All of this is pretty depressing but I feel Don Carpenter was writing about as realistic as possible, the American Dream simply doesn’t include everyone, and some are far

Don Carpenter does not appear to be an author revelling in fame. Actually he is not revelling in anything as he died about twenty years ago. However if the quality of his novel Hard Rain Falling is an accurate compass, he should probably be considered one of the great 20th century American authors.

Hard Rain Falling is simply brilliant. Written completely without ostentation or pretence, it is a rigorous study of the suffering and isolation of those who are born without the benefit of good fortu
The sad and very poignant story of Jack Levitt, who starts his life in an orphanage and struggles his whole life to rise above the hand that fate has dealt him.

It's not a pretty story contained within these pages. It deals with the down and out, the poolhalls the hustlers and seedier aspects of life. But it's also a book of mateship, love and redemption that are found found where Jack least expects it.

Jack's struggle against fate, his anger, his search for meaning and his relationship with Bill
Dec 30, 2009 Alan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, read-in-2010
Xmas present from my youngest daughter - boy she really listens - I only mentioned this in passing after reading a review in the Guardian, something like 'that sounds good' and a couple of weeks later here it is...
I've abandoned 'Day' for it, and read the first 50 pages today waiting to get in the bathroom (it's my eldest's 20th and we're all going out). Hard and fast stuff. Excellent.

Now read about 90 pages and it just gets better and better, it is almost miraculously good..


James Thane
May 01, 2010 James Thane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was initially published in 1966, but was resurrected by George Pelecanos and published anew in 2009 by New York Review Books as part of its Classics series. In his introduction, Pelecanos suggests that it "might be the most unheralded important American novel of the 1960s."

I'm not sure I'd go quite that far, but it is a very good book with brilliantly drawn characters. The main protagonist is Jack Levitt, an orphan whom we first meet on the streets of Portland, Oregon, in 1947. Jack is
May 11, 2010 Ken rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished-in-2010
Where has THIS oddity been hiding since its inception in the 60's? NYRB is certainly to be commended for doing all the hard work and finding gold chips in the salsa for us. Not that I found it Nirvana. Just nervy for its day. It's a pool (billiards, I mean) book, a prison book, and an echoes-of-Hemingway book all in one. Let's start with the hustling.

Carpenter has done some time in a pool hall or two. With the character of Billy Lancing, he captures the thrill of the kill (as in, killing suckers
Jenny (adultishbooks)
My exact words when I closed the book after finishing it:

"This book was dumb."

There you go.
Nancy Oakes
A tough novel to categorize, Hard Rain Falling isn’t going to do it for you if you need a book that offers warm fuzzies and a happy, feel-good ending. It is dark, gritty and real, a no-holds barred kind of novel that goes well beyond the much overdone “angry young man” trope to become a story that is intrepidly honest. Considering its initial publication date of 1966, it’s also a novel much ahead of its time in the way that the author deals with racism, homosexuality and the harshness of unreaso ...more
Lorenzo Berardi
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
Daniel Villines
Nov 18, 2014 Daniel Villines rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I once spent five hours flying on board an aircraft watching consecutive episodes of Lockup Raw. I was hooked by the inmates and their stories. In episode after episode, prisoners, outcasts of society, were interviewed and each one told of their crimes (or of their innocence) in an honest straight forward manner. While on camera, they acted like they were talking to their next door neighbor. And yet, during all those hours of Lockup Raw, there was never an understanding of who these people were ...more
May 22, 2013 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-white-square
I loved this for the prisons and the pool halls. Absolutely fantastic. Thrilling action, enjoyable dialogue ... and interior monologues that felt incredibly special.

The canter through the marriage weakened it, however. Something was lost after San Quentin and, whilst there were certainly flashes of the earlier brilliance ... going back to find Billy's cue! ..., the last third lost focus.

But I'm still giving it five stars.

Who knew Americans played snooker?

"Jack and Denny had ditched the Cadilla
Peter Landau
Aug 03, 2015 Peter Landau rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When the New York Review of Books reissues something I pay attention. They’ve got good literary taste, sure, but they’ve also have a sense of style. I’m very easily influenced by style. I judge a book by its cover, and the New York Review of Books has developed a strong brand with its text box floating over an alluring image. The cover of Don Carpenter’s HARD RAIN FALLING is especially evocative: the speeding muscle car, just out of focus, on a lonely country road. I wanted to read the novel the ...more
Apr 23, 2012 Eugene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
who knew macho came in so many delicate colors? evidently don carpenter did. and displayed the entire spectrum in his great brutal HARD RAIN FALLING... with a palpable adherence to some unsaid code of defiant honesty, carpenter's first novel anchors itself in a historically determined idea of manhood that dates itself much less than one might at first assume.

three very different eras in one man's life: a raging early hoodlum boyhood of poolhalls and not-so-petty crimes; then stints at prison inc
Sep 06, 2012 Chrisl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4/10/17 - Adding 5th star ...

When I read this, memories ... walking some of the same nightlife streets, knowing some hustlers, and having heard the Rocky Butte Jail's big steel doors close behind me* ... the story's power had personal connections. (*For college credit, I "volunteered" as a Parole Officer's "assistant.")

Have subsequently started re-reading a couple times, but couldn't long stay in the reality.


Here's one of those Kirkus Reviews I like to copy and paste:


"Bored, indi
Jan 16, 2017 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It would be nice if we had more prison novels than prisons.
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NYRB Classics: Hard Rain Falling, by Don Carpenter 1 10 Oct 23, 2013 01:05PM  
  • Nightmare Alley
  • A Meaningful Life
  • The Expendable Man
  • On the Yard
  • Warlock (Legends West, #1)
  • Dirty Snow
  • Fatale
  • The Book of Ebenezer Le Page
  • The Pilgrim Hawk
  • The Tenants of Moonbloom
  • Blood on the Forge
  • The Outward Room
  • Sheppard Lee, Written by Himself
  • Butcher's Crossing
  • The World as I Found It
  • Berlin Stories
  • The Slaves of Solitude
  • Fat City
Don Carpenter was an American writer, best known as the author of Hard Rain Falling. He wrote numerous novels, novellas, short stories and screenplays over the course of a 22-year career that took him from a childhood in Berkeley and the Pacific Northwest to the corridors of power and ego in Hollywood. A close observer of human frailty, his writing depicted marginal characters like pool sharks, pr ...more
More about Don Carpenter...

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“How do you wake up? It was one thing to know that you had been asleep all your life, but something else to wake up from it, to find out you were really alive and it wasn't anybody's fault but your own. Of course that was the problem.

All right. Everything is a dream. Nothing hangs together. You move from one dream to another and there is no reason for the change. Your eyes see things and your ears hear, but nothing has any reason behind it. It would be easier to believe in God. Then you could wake up and yawn and stretch and grin at a world that was put together on a plan of mercy and death, punishment for evil, joy for good, and if the game was crazy at least it had rules. But that didn't make sense. It had never made any sense. The trouble was, now that he was not asleep and not awake, what he saw and heard didn't make sense either.

Mishmash, he thought. You know enough to know how you feel is senseless, but you don't know enough to know why.”
“All night long, in his cell, he burned with hatred. It did not matter what he thought, it was how he felt; and alone in the darkness of his cell, with the muttering noises of the tank around him, he felt like murdering the universe.” 4 likes
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