It’s easy to see why George Pelecanos admires Don Carpenter’s 1966 novel, Hard Rain Falling. Carpenter’s unvarnished style, empathy for the underclass, candor about race, and detailed descriptions of prisons and juvenile institutions all echo Pelecanos’ interests as a novelist, especially in his latest book, The Way Home. “It might be the most unheralded important American novel of the 1960s,” Pelecanos writes in the introduction to a new edition of Hard Rain Falling; it certainly reads like the unjustly neglected cousin of City of Night and Last Exit to Brooklyn. Its hero, Jack Levitt, is a hard-luck type who bounces down the West Coast, taking on life as a gambler, prisoner, and family man. There’s plenty of outward conflict in the story, but Carpenter (who died in 1995) also brilliantly lays bare Jack’s interior—few novels this side of Sartre so powerfully describe the struggle to break free “from the loneliness of being alive.”

PELECANOS DISCUSSES AND SIGNS COPIES OF HIS WORK AT 6:30 P.M. AT BUSBOYS AND POETS, 2021 14TH ST. NW. FREE. (202) 387-7638.