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Hard Rain Falling

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4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  1,050 ratings  ·  149 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...more
Paperback, 308 pages
Published September 8th 2009 by NYRB Classics (first published 1964)
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Community Reviews

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D. Pow
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...more
Garima

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 l...more
David
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
brian
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:

rich
healthy
happy
married
employed
famous
intelligent
powerful

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...more
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...more
Louisa
Jan 22, 2014 Louisa rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
I want this front cover framed and hanging on my wall, STAT. Putting visual beauty aside, my attention was immediately captured from the first line "They can kill you, but they can’t eat you” That roused my interest and excitement, because I knew deep down that this was a book I could get into. Turns out, I was right. I couldn’t put this damn book down. I even took it to the toilet with me.

The main character Jack Levitt is a tough, no-nonsense person whom from an early age found himself orphaned...more
RandomAnthony
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...more
Melanie
Feb 18, 2014 Melanie rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
AC
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
Tony
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,...more
Mary
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
Janice
Jun 14, 2012 Janice rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: nyrb
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rayroy

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...more
Alan
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..

SPOILER ALERT...

Thi...more
Laura Leaney
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 n...more
Erik Simon
On rare occasions, I read a novel that makes me think, "This is exactly what a good novel is supposed to be." The protagonist in these books isn't quirky or cute in some way that makes more palatable the world's pain (see AND THEN WE CAME TO THE END or OSCAR WAO). The character doesn't have some precious name (see Edgar Sawtelle, Edgar Mint, et. al.). The narrative voice isn't hiply distant and ironic and always cool, always in control, as if above our foolish little humanness. All the books tha...more
James Thane
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...more
Newengland
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...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...more
David
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...more
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
Eugene
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 incl...more
Erin

I have terrible, terrible things to say about this book. I thought it was Valley of the Dolls for men. But I am apparently the only person ever to have not liked it on GoodReads and I’m wondering what that says about me…
The best thing about this book was the author photo on the back of my library copy. I can’t find a copy of said picture on any sort of search I do on Google Images, and it’s too bad, because it’s the kind of author photo I dream of when I publish my first book – shadowy, over-exp...more
Tony
Carpenter, Don. HARD RAIN FALLING. (1966). ***. This novel by Carpenter, his first, has been reissued by New York Review of Books publishers after being out of print for many years. Carpenter has a limited following among writers today, but there is always a reason a book goes out of print – it’s not selling. This novel follows in the footsteps if Lanny Budd and other cardboard figures of literature who use the page as their pulpit for airing their pretty basic philosophical beliefs. The main ch...more
Wendy
Hard Rain Falling reminds me of American Rust by Philipp Meyer in some ways. The overall mood of the book is dark and, well, sad. Too, there is that immoral ambiguity which runs through it. There is a hopelessness there but also a sense of hope. The characters always seemed to be seeking redemption or a better life only to be dragged down by circumstance or their own choices. The major and minor characters in the novel all felt trapped and longed to be free.

Jack was not a character I liked all t...more
Hood
HARD PRINT

http://theleadmiamibeach.com/2009/101...

A Lonely Life
Don Carpenter’s Brutal Hard Rain Falling Could’ve Been about Himself

By John Hood

Maybe it was his name. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, mind you. It’s as strong and as sensible an American name as any other that springs from the Scottish practice of employing a person’s occupation. But (a certain cinematic superstar withstanding) it’s hardly the kinda moniker one would choose if they wanted to be noticed. And in the writing...more
Kirk Smith
A hard-edged tale about an orphan, Jack Levitt, who as an un-loved product of society goes through life angry with a chip on his shoulder and consistently manages to make the wrong choices every time. He can't be helped, because he can't help himself. Then after years of shallow development, most spent in prison, he is amazed to find it is possible to love someone more than himself. After some consideration he places the burden of his love on the least deserving person. That is the least likely...more
Michael Livingston
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carl Brush
Hard Rain Falling, I suppose would fall under the heading of classic noir. Don Gardner gives us a protagonist who can't get along with society, but it's clearly society's fault. Dumped in an orphanage as a baby, Jack Leavitt learns about life from within institutions, and he can't seem to get enough of them--including jails and prisons. Never have I read a more insightful accounting of the criminal mind this side of Les Edgerton's The Bitch and Just Like That.
The difference between Gardner's Jac...more
Walter
Jun 16, 2009 Walter marked it as to-read
This guy wrote the script to the most intriguing movie about music and Americana called PAYDAY; it has a ribald and glorious Rip Torn performance that would not be possible without the words of Mr. Carpenter. So, hell, this book should be pretty good.

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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
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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.”
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“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.” 2 likes
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