Consider this month’s Hot Off the Press a Santa Barbara-flavored variety pack for 2009. Whether your New Year’s resolutions involve recommitting to gardening, casting off your addictions, embarking on more ocean adventures, scrap-booking about your UCSB days, or simply taking more time to read for pleasure, one of these S.B. authors will have published something right up your alley.
I Quit! Cigarettes, Candy Bars & Booze
by Linda Joy Allan
In I Quit!, Linda Joy Allan takes the already wildly popular genre of the addiction-kicking memoir to the next level. While most books of this kind scrape by on a single addiction, Allan admits to having had-and proudly declares having quashed-no fewer than three: cigarettes, candy bars, and booze. That these addictions aren’t particularly exotic might help readers identify with her; who hasn’t, at one time or another, felt as if they were hitting either the drinks, the smokes, or the sweets a little too hard? Even those who haven’t ridden the edge of addiction’s crevasse can still get a bit of entertainment from those solid draws of the addiction memoir: the harrowing low points, which in Allan’s text are headed with such promising titles as “Dating the Bartender,” “The Wedding Incident,” and “Easter Fiasco.”
Random Lingering in Isla Vista
by J. Mike Knox
It wouldn’t be proper to discuss irresponsible behavior in the Santa Barbara area without mentioning good old I.V. Mike Knox’s Random Lingering in Isla Vista draws from genuine memories of substance-fueled antics best forgotten-or what remains of genuine memories, anyway-though it takes a decidedly nostalgic attitude. Knox mixes what appear to be his own dissolute experiences in UCSB’s legendary near-campus community and mixes them with what must be a sizable helping of fantasy, or perhaps it’s just the Hunter Thompson-esque “gonzo” prose in which he delivers it all. He has an ear for slacker dialogue, but it’s actually his chapter titles that most amuse. When faced with “Microscopic Forms of Insanity Intertwined Together in a Sort of Crude Volatile Fluxion to Create Axiomatic Systems of Debauchery,” who could fail to read on?
Waiting for Daybreak
by Kathryn Cushman
Though “pharmaceutical thriller” may not yet be an established literary genre, Kathryn Cushman’s Waiting for Daybreak comes just about as close as any book ever has to earning it. Drawing on her own earlier years spent dispensing pills, ointments, and syrups, the Tennessee-born, Santa Barbara-based novelist has crafted a tale of yearning, desperation, and intrigue, and has placed it, improbably, in the surprisingly risky and unforgiving world of those who fill prescriptions. Clarissa Richardson, the book’s protagonist, just wants to run a good pharmacy, but when her granddad hires the increasingly suspicious Paige Woodward, Clarissa’s well-ordered life appears to teeter on the brink of chaos. Thus arises the novel’s central question: Does the secretive Paige really mean well, or is she out to leave Clarissa’s pharmaceutical dreams in utter ruin?
Escape from Ensenada: A Sailing Saga
by Harris T. Vincent
There’s nothing so commonplace as a pharmacy counter in Harris T. Vincent’s work. What starts for the novel’s three main characters as an absolutely ordinary sailing trip from Santa Barbara to Ensenada rapidly becomes a bizarre odyssey overflowing with magical artifacts, ambitious international criminals, and eccentric bit players. The story contains a couple of stolen masterpieces, a cursed mystical sphere, a parapsychologist, a friar, a thinly veiled Michael Jackson clone, and a looming Armageddon, and it spans not just the modest Santa Barbara-to-Ensenada route but more or less the entire globe. And that’s leaving out the second- and third-act plot twists.
The Gourmet Garden
by Virginia Hayes
If neither high adventures, nor high seas, nor high times are your bag, Virginia Hayes’s The Gourmet Garden may prove more fascinating, and certainly more useful. Despite containing recipes for such delectable-sounding dishes as chicken and bean wraps and Goan prawn curry, it’s not exactly a cookbook. It’s more of a full-on guide to building one’s own food-producing garden from the ground up. Hayes leaves no task, no matter how minor, undescribed: composting, soil preparation, weed control, mulching, and artificial season extension are all covered. A brisk flip through the pages reveals how much a home gardener really has to know and do, but given the current craze for eating so locally that one’s backyard serves as one’s produce market, there’s sure to be an eager audience for the book’s tips, tricks, and procedures. Anything to reduce those food-miles.