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Blue Nile Press
PO Box 188213
Sacramento, CA 95818-8213
Phone and fax:
916-288-3060
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Books
$15.00
Seaside Stories

"These are truly stories from the heart about “the human heart in conflict with itself.” Creating a set of vivid and memorable characters, centered on Carter Hankerson and his family in northern California, S.R. Martin, Jr. presents a compact cycle of indelible vignettes about growing up black in middle-class America in the mid-twentieth century. Taken all together, they paint a portrait of a larger community and of the irrepressible human spirit at work as it struggles to realize and express itself. These stories represent a separate and unique perspective on the black experience in America and touch on what is universal in all human experience. . Race, music, and religion loom large in these pieces, and illustrate how race is never far from the surface of the American consciousness; what religion does for people and at the same time what it does to them; and the importance of art (music and, indeed, these stories) in finding personal expression and escaping the narrow confines of social stereotypes. Exploring fundamental themes--love, ambition, self-doubt and rebellion, among others; narrated in unique and distinctive male and female voices; and using graphic descriptions, these stories maintain an easy harmony between narration and dialogue. There is much to be learned and gained by pausing to spend a while in Seaside."

"Now this is cause for celebration: reading S. R. Martin, Jr.’s new collection of linked stories makes you want to jump up and shout “Amen!” Full of the juice and grit of life in all its glories and tragic breakdowns, this book never shies from telling the hard truths about loss, pain and heartache. But the stories, like the people they reveal, continue to reach for purpose and connection in a changing world that makes it hard for anyone to believe in redemption. And this is Martin’s greatest gift: to find a way through the pain, through our worst tendencies toward selfishness and greed, to our best selves. This book is a joy to read, and a defining work in the celebration of the human spirit in twenty-first century America. I really did love the book, and I’ll never look at a damp choir robe in the same way again."

"This is a beautiful collection of essays. It draws the reader into the life of a young man struggling with the twin pressures of race, and being the son of a Pentecostal preacher, in the context of a small California town at a moment of dramatic change in the country during the 1950s and 60s. The stories are vivid, personal, dramatic, and captivating."

Author

S. R. “Rudy” Martin, Jr. was a founding faculty member of The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. He taught American/African American Studies and was an administrator there until he retired in 1997. His previous major publications are the family memoir On the Move: A Black Fammily’s Western Saga (2009) and the novel Natural-Born Proud: A Revery (2010).

 

Book Signings

September 9th @ Underground Books,

Sacramento, 6 - 8 PM.

September 10th @ Women's Civic Improvement Club.

Sacramento Congress of African Peoples

Sept. 15 On Thursday @ Monterey Peninsula College

1:00 PM.

Sept. 15 On Thursday @ Seaside Branch of the Monterey Public Library

6:00 PM

Sept. 18, Sunday @ diversity organization in Chico during the day

September 19, Monday @ the diversity center at Chico State University

 

Reviews:

A One-Minute Review by Bill Ransom

Headquartered in Sacramento, California, Blue Nile Press is an imprint of Path Press, of Chicago. Blue Nile Press supports Black writers and the Black reading public, creating a venue where the two can meet.

Rudy Martin, retired from a small, public, liberal-arts college, is on a roll!  He gave us nonfiction with On the Move: A Black Family’s Western Saga (Texas A&M University Press, 2009) and longer fiction with his novel Natural Born Proud, A Revery (Utah State University 2011).  Now Martin brings us back from the Hankersons’ father/son hunting camp in Natural Born Proud to their home in Seaside, California via Seaside Stories.  Carter “Satch” Hankerson, son of Reverend Booker and Sarah Hankerson, provides the primary point of view for these stories that, taken together, tell a larger, more intimate story of the African-American diaspora.  Martin’s foray into the novel offered him a taste of extended narrative that he couldn’t resist, even while writing these individual stories, most of which focus on Carter’s mother Sarah, and her life as Mrs. Reverend Hankerson.

Carter’s growth is literal and figurative across the arc of the collective, harkening to previous short story collections that create a whole that is more than the sum of its parts:  Richard Wright’s Eight Men, William Faulkner’s Go Down, Moses and, most recently, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.  Carter chooses a path away from his father’s church and toward music, specifically composition.  Booker fears for his son’s survival because he can’t see a black man making a living as a composer; he fears for Carter’s well-being in a life surrounded by stereotypical musicians, known ne’er-do-wells and drug users.  Carter’s mother’s family choreography is intricate and effective, much like Martin’s comfortable prose.  Carter is the composer in the family, but his mother, Sarah, is the conductor who defines the melodic line that defines the prose opera of this unique African-American family.

With three books in three genres in three years, Rudy Martin has made enviable use of his retirement from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, where he was a founding faculty member.  What’s next for Martin?  Poetry?  Stage and screen?  Stay tuned, because retirement’s not slowing him down one bit.

 

With the gray weather earlier last week, I turned to a couple of books that helped me to escape the chill and damp. "Seaside Stories" by Olympia author S.R. Martin, Jr., is set on California's Monterey Peninsula and Gig Harbor author Jan Walker's "A Farm in the South Pacific Sea" takes place in the Kingdom of Tonga. Both books are based on real slices of life, then altered and embroidered with fiction. And both took me into worlds significantly different from my own.

Martin grew up in Seaside, California, during World War II. The son of an African-American preacher in a Pentecostal church, Martin recalls that tight-knit community in this collection of short stories.

The tales mostly center on the coming-of-age experiences of Carter "Satch" Hankerson, the son of a preacher and a musically gifted young man who takes in and cherishes his community even as he prepares to leave it for more opportunities out in the bigger world. These are vignettes about the gaining of wisdom at the expense of innocence. They are lessons learned in different ways and places — in the barber shop, at the beach, and in the back seat of the family Buick.

A couple of the stories offer the bittersweet perspectives of some of the adults in Carter's life, too — his mother, and his dad's friends.

"Seaside Stories" spans several decades, allowing us to see how those adolescent fits and starts come to fruition in Carter, the grown man.

Martin effectively conveys the feel of middle class, West Coast, African-American life in the middle of the last century.

 

There should be more African-American fiction like this, recapturing a time when our communities were more-or-less intact and families were solid. S. R. Martin, Jr., a former teacher of African American Studies at Evergreen State College and author of this marvelous work, puts the readers in the way-back machine and sends us back to his childhood neighborhood, Seaside, on California’s Monterrey Peninsula in the World War II era.

The pleasure we share with the author in discovering the quirks and follies of his characters in these vignettes is something that most Black folks will know. We’ve all know some of these people from our communities: Hucklebuck and Deke, Sista Sarah, Satch, Carter, Glorious, Mattie Phelps, Rev. Booker and the Hankersons, and the boys at Beckwith’s barber shop. These stories brought back such sweet memories.

Mr. Martin also has a way with storytelling and a flair for the dramatic. A murderous fire in the story, “Cowboy’s Dance,” is the centerpiece in the fable of a senseless killing of Willie Russell James, a sometimes abusive drunk with bowed legs. The author’s power is in the economy of his language, the humanity of his characters, and the assured choices of his fiction.

He knows his sense of place, where a community can be celebrating life with its warm chatter and glorious aromas of a church basement occupied by the sisters cooking dinners in his tale, “The Silver Kings.” But with a seaside community, there is danger and finality in everyday life as when it mourns a young boy’s days ended with a bloody run-in with a shark.

With the story, “Privacy,” Rev. Booker, a holiness preacher has a tight rein on his boys; no games, movies, dances or watching TV. However, when a box of condoms is found in the boys’ bedroom by their mother, the moment of truth arrives as she has to trust the explanation of her son against the temptation of the outside world. Every mother will love how she rationalizes what she does.

Some of the great novelists caution against too much description and verbose detail in fiction, too much fat and no muscle. Mr. Martin achieves a proper balance with his dialogue filling in the gaps in his characters’ personalities, like his revealing talk from the startling story, “Glorious.”

“If Doc saw how his ‘babies’ carry on, I don’t know what he’d say or do,” Martin writes. “One of em has three babies and no husband anywhere to be seen. I’m not sure she even knows exactly who their daddies are. And she jus drops em on me to take care of without even asking. I mean she comes in from work, takes her shower and she’s gone. ‘Don’t wait up, Mom,’ she hollers and she’s out the door. And I don’t see her again until morning when she’s ready to go to work.”

Slightly sentimental but culturally accurate, Martin’s Seaside Stories recall the best and the worst of our communities before the onslaught of integration and gentrification. The people in these stories are survivors, real folks with tragedies and triumphs. This perceptive book is one to be relished and enjoyed to the last page.

 

There should be more African-American fiction like this, recapturing a time when our communities were more-or-less intact and families were solid. S. R. Martin, Jr., a former teacher of African American Studies at Evergreen State College and author of this marvelous work, puts the readers in the way-back machine and sends us back to his childhood neighborhood, Seaside, on California’s Monterrey Peninsula in the World War II era.

The pleasure we share with the author in discovering the quirks and follies of his characters in these vignettes is something that most Black folks will know. We’ve all know some of these people from our communities: Hucklebuck and Deke, Sista Sarah, Satch, Carter, Glorious, Mattie Phelps, Rev. Booker and the Hankersons, and the boys at Beckwith’s barber shop. These stories brought back such sweet memories.

Mr. Martin also has a way with storytelling and a flair for the dramatic. A murderous fire in the story, “Cowboy’s Dance,” is the centerpiece in the fable of a senseless killing of Willie Russell James, a sometimes abusive drunk with bowed legs. The author’s power is in the economy of his language, the humanity of his characters, and the assured choices of his fiction.

He knows his sense of place, where a community can be celebrating life with its warm chatter and glorious aromas of a church basement occupied by the sisters cooking dinners in his tale, “The Silver Kings.” But with a seaside community, there is danger and finality in everyday life as when it mourns a young boy’s days ended with a bloody run-in with a shark.

With the story, “Privacy,” Rev. Booker, a holiness preacher has a tight rein on his boys; no games, movies, dances or watching TV. However, when a box of condoms is found in the boys’ bedroom by their mother, the moment of truth arrives as she has to trust the explanation of her son against the temptation of the outside world. Every mother will love how she rationalizes what she does.

Some of the great novelists caution against too much description and verbose detail in fiction, too much fat and no muscle. Mr. Martin achieves a proper balance with his dialogue filling in the gaps in his characters’ personalities, like his revealing talk from the startling story, “Glorious.”

    “If Doc saw how his ‘babies’ carry on, I don’t know what he’d say or do,” Martin writes. “One of em has three babies and no husband anywhere to be seen. I’m not sure she even knows exactly who their daddies are. And she jus drops em on me to take care of without even asking. I mean she comes in from work, takes her shower and she’s gone. ‘Don’t wait up, Mom,’ she hollers and she’s out the door. And I don’t see her again until morning when she’s ready to go to work.”

Slightly sentimental but culturally accurate, Martin’s Seaside Stories recall the best and the worst of our communities before the onslaught of integration and gentrification. The people in these stories are survivors, real folks with tragedies and triumphs. This perceptive book is one to be relished and enjoyed to the last page.