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Welcome to Saint Angel is a story of development gone mad. In the bucolic So-Cal valley of Santa Rosa de Los Angeles (Saint Angel), townsfolk split into warring camps. Developers want to turn the valley into a sprawling bedroom community and appropriate its meager water supply to grow lawns in the desert. Al Sharpe and his allies want to preserve its natural beauty and rural character. The battle between them is both comic and tragic. The story of one man’s fight to save the place he loves and a rural community’s struggle to preserve its way of life and tight-knit community, the novel speaks to the impact of unbridled development and suburban sprawl on the natural environment and on people’s lives.
When his professor wife and her lesbian lover die in a plane crash, Al Sharpe moves from San Diego to the high desert with his young daughter, Finley, to begin a new life in the canyons of Second Chance Acres. They build a sprawling tree house in live oaks, and Al finds his gift as an inventor. But once development begins in St. Angel, amity ends. The town splits into warring camps: Al’s “Dirt Faction” friends versus Ches Noonan’s developer pals, who buy up St. Angel Valley and seize its water supply. After refusing to sell his land to them, desert rat Sam Jenson dies under mysterious circumstances. Hills are flattened and huge housing tracts go in everywhere; owls and coyote choruses vanish with the quiet nights. Their home under siege by L.A. suburbs metastasizing into the desert like a devious cancer, Al and his friends fight back. When Ches Noonan invites Realtors to Saint Angel for a “Realty Roundup,” they respond with a “Realty Revenge,” planting scorpions in Realtors’ motel rooms and infusing drinking water with ersatz blood to drive them away; hacker genius Tinkerspoon reroutes planes from LAX to buzz town, and local La Cienega del Diablo Indians put on war paint. It is a pitched battle between land rich St. Angelinos and small land holders. Al is assaulted by developers’ goons, the bank forecloses on his property, and his coalition is holed up on Second Chance Acres, while bulldozers dump dirt on their heads from mesas above. Meanwhile, Finley, not able to accept her mother’s death, has gone to meet a woman she has connected with on the Internet who claims to be her mom. Al flees into the badlands pursued by a posse of lawmen, while his daughter flees from her phony mom’s menacing boyfriend. All seems lost. “You can’t stop progress,” Ches Noonan often says, but in the book’s madcap ending, Al and his friends manage to do just that, with a little help from mother nature.
The book is peopled by quirky characters: sultry, irreverent Penny Noonan, Patsy K. Jones–Finley’s hypersexed, hypercerebral pal–hi-tech slob Andy Sanchez (Tinkerspoon), who hacks into World Bank computers from a sanitized lab behind his tumbledown trailer, Sam Jenson, the novel’s cranky Caliban, Al’s pet pig Wallers, Little Les, Vietnam vet and publisher of St. Angel’s Dirty Underwear, who is run down on his bicycle by “Trinkling Dan the boss’s man,” pudgy Mike and Melanie (M & M), white trash and proud of it, wealthy Ches Noonan, who suffers an efflorescence of facial warts and terrific halitosis as he gobbles up local land, and easygoing, self-deprecatory, endlessly-resourceful Al Sharpe, who reinvents himself as circumstance requires to become a local hero.
PRAISE FOR WILLIAM LUVAAS
“Beneath The Coyote Hills has cost me a sleepless night that I can scarcely afford, and has left me cold with awe at the unwavering skill and subtlety of the narrative. The sheer scope of the author’s imagination, and the almost impossibly delicate poetic weight of his prose, has made the discovery of William Luvaas’ writing one of the genuine joys of my reading-year. He is a remarkable writer, comfortably among the finest at work in America today, and this novel is a towering and maybe career-defining achievement, art of the highest order.”
Billy O’Callaghan, Irish Book Award-winning author of The Things We Lose, The
Things We leave Behind
“William Luvaas’s brilliant new collection of short stories, Ashes Rain Down: A Story Cycle, is a wildly inventive and epic comedy of prophetic visions, and a masterpiece of fiction for our own modern times….Luvaas manages to weave ten stories into a moving, gripping and often hilarious journey of wily characters—friends, lovers and conflicted family members—attempting to navigate the demands of a crumbling world.”
Jeff Biggers, Huffington Post – Book of the Year
“Ashes Rain Down is holy-smokes brilliant, ten connected stories of the apocalypse that are sharp and filthy and gut-bustingly funny, to boot. I’ve been shouting it for years, but now I’ll shout it louder: William Luvaas, my friends, is a wild-eyed genius.”
Lauren Groff, Author of Delicate Edible Birds
“Heat, flies, wind and even ghosts form the eerie landscape of Luvaas’s extraordinary collection about love, hope and the stubborn resistance of humans even in the face of doom. Jaw-droppingly brilliant and downright transcendent.”
Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You
“Going Under is told with power and authority as it explores a family’s collapse into self-destruction and abuse. Luvaas’s great power as a storyteller brings the reader up out of these sorrows and into a sense of redemption that is triumphant and true.”
Frederick Busch, Author of Sometimes I Live in the Country
“In his second novel, Luvaas skillfully peels away the layers of deception in the Tillotson family to reveal three generations of trauma and abuse. A surreal and frightening air prevails, as guilt, aggression and madness escalate in this powerful evocation of family members coming to grips with their crimes against one another.”
“Luvaas has created here a terrible and tragic picture of the ways family dysfunctions appear in succeeding generations. Reading Going Under is like watching a train wreck happen before your eyes. It’s horrifying, powerful stuff you can’t tear your eyes away from.”
“The Seductions of Natalie Bach is one of the best works of fiction about that pregnant decade [the sixties], comparable to Marge Piercy’s “Small Changes” and Lisa Alther’s “Kinflicks.” Luvaas recaptures the excitement of coming of age against a background of assassination, political activism, sexual experimentation, intellectual arrogance and generational conflict.”
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