October 09, 2004


When you think of San Francisco, you think of a cosmopolitan city on the west coast. A beautiful city full of rich people with style and class. You don't think of street people, and a really gritty underground society of desperate dope dealers, two-bit hustlers and homeless crack addicts.

Peter Plate's book is about the latter. According to the liner notes of this novel, he lived as a squatter in the Tenderloin area of San Fran for eight years before he started his writing career. Peter obviously knows his subject matter, which is the people who inhabit the street.

He tells a very interesting and unusual tale. This is not a murder mystery or a romance or any bullshit like that. Fogtown is a story about Mama Celeste, Richard Rood, and Stiv Wilkins. Each has their own story, the three of which intertwine very closely, located mainly in and around an infamous SRO hotel.

A Brinks truck full of cash has a major accident very early in the morning. Mama Celeste, elderly and poor, witnesses the accident while waiting for the Social Security office to open. Yes, all the money falls out of the truck, and she and the other pensioners have a chance to grab as many Ben Franklins as they can carry. All the guards have been injured or killed.

The story grows from there. Mama doesn't know how to handle her unexpected and incredible good fortune. Stiv lives in the SRO and he owes money to Richard. Richard is not a nice guy about it. In fact he's not a nice guy at all, though his run ins with a particular police officer make you want to take his side in life. Stiv is not a smart guy, though he has some wild hallucinations along the way.

If you read this book you won't have anything to compare it to, though the settings will make you think of Charles Bukowski if you've read much of his work. I prefer the unusual and the quirky.

This was a book that jumped off the shelf into my hands at the local library. I love it when that happens.

Posted by Wayne at October 9, 2004 08:01 PM
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