Hermosa writer draws on Sweetwater, Balboa Island
“St. James Infirmary,” by Steven Meloan (Roadside Press, 78 pp, $15)
by Kevin Cody
Steve Meloan writes his first memory of Los Angeles upon driving out from the east was “the distant roar of traffic, which I imagined to be the ocean.”
Meloan settled for a time in Hermosa Beach, a fact made evident by the settings of many of his short stories in his newly published “St. James Infirmary.”
“Sweetwater was a local club…. with a feathered animal skull mounted high above the stage, like something out of an early Eagles album,” he writes in “Hold me tighter.”
The story recounts performing at the now legendary Harbor Drive club where Vince Gill, and The Sweethearts of the Rodeo (one of whom Gill married), performed, and going home one night with “a beach girl — low cut tube top, and faded jeans with stylishly placed tears.” At her home, the girl falls asleep before anything can happen.
Most of the 14 stories in Meloan’s collection are told in the first person, suggesting they are semi autobiographical. But maybe not. Like Joyce’s Dubliners, the stories are more sketch- than narrative-driven. They end with the reader sometimes having to turn back the pages to find the subtly slipped in epiphany.
“In the same spirit that Henry Miller brought the voice of American bohemia to print, and Bukowski brought the voice of the blue-collar worker forth, Meloan is part of a movement of writers working to bring the voice of the garage rocker, the heads of the underground, and other cultural outsiders into literature,” Westley Heine (“Busking Blues”) writes in the forward.
“Balboa” is set on Balboa Island, where the narrator lives in a beach cottage, and the surroundings, sounding not unlike Hermosa, were “bustling at night with bright neon and laughter, milling children, couples holding hands. And then two blocks in the other direction, a beautiful and expansive sandy beach…. But during the entire several quarters I lived there, I never visited either place — not once. Looking back, it almost seems a form of madness.”
But to the reader it seems more a retreat from madness.
Meloan writes in his introduction the stories were “amassed” out of the necessity to have something to read during Sonoma Writers’ Workshops, held quarterly at the Bump Wine Cellars tasting room off the Sonoma Plaza.
The self described “recovered software programmer” has been widely published in magazines that include “Wired,” “Rolling Stone” and Lummox Press.
A book signing, and reading from St. James Infirmary will be hosted by The Third Friday Salon at the Rapp Saloon on Friday, September 15 at 8:30 p.m. The Rapp Saloon is at Hostelling International, 1436 2nd Street, Santa Monica.
“Saint James Infirmary,” by Steven Meloan is available at local bookstores and at MagicalJeep.com.