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Maritta Wolff was born in 1918. Whistle Stop, her first novel, won the Avery Hopwood Award in 1940. A runaway bestseller, the book was also printed as a special Armed Forces edition for American troops during World War II. Whistle Stop was made into a movie (starring Ava Gardner) in 1946. In the next two decades, Ms. Wolff authored more than five novels, but she hid her final, unpublished manuscript in her refrigerator until her death in 2002. Recently rediscovered, that novel, Sudden Rain, is now available from Simon & Schuster.
The Veech family are trouble-prone. A large and poverty-striken tribe, they live in a small Michigan town on the outskirts of the city. With six children and three adults crowded into an old and ill-kept house, they bicker and brawl within walls that are, quite literally, sagging. Big, handsome, graceless: a drunkard and a wastrel who has never worked, Kenny Veech nevertheless possesses some kind of arrogant charm that makes him irresistible to women. After fawning on him, yearning for him and paying for his drinks, woman after woman is cast out with a cold brutality. For no woman will ever take the place in his heart occupied by his cool, poised and beautiful sister, Mary. Although living quite openly with a wealthy semi-gangster, who helps support the Veech family, Mary reciprocates Kenny's unnatural affection for her. Their twisted, thwarted love provides titillating morsels of scandal for the neighbourhood through the course of a hot and breathless summer. Things reach a head after Mary and her gangster boyfriend get married and it is made clear that there is not enough room for three people in their relationship . . .
Sally Otis works as a waitress in order to support her three children and a jobless younger sister. They live in a down-trodden apartment house, which they share with other working class tenants. Her husband is in a State mental hospital and most likely there for good. Her deadbeat younger brother and a lodger from across the hall pay board to eat in her crowded little flat. As Christmas approaches, there is no money for gifts and no prospect of her husband returning home. As her burden becomes intolerable, Sally's sturdy courage begins to falter. To make matters worse, the sleazy, suspicious owner of the local night club - Nick Toresca - takes a fancy to Sally and won't leave her alone. As he is the brother of her boss at the greasy spoon, she is in no position to call the shots. Things are shaken up when Sally's sister - the swaggering, glamorous, independent Petey Braun - appears on the scene. All loud laugh, deep voice, self-confident aplomb and worldly generosity, Petey grabs the spotlight and centre of the stage and never lets them go. She is an American career woman - one who makes a career of men: she is a master of her trade. To give Sally a break, Petey sets about to dazzle Nick so that he has no eyes for Sally. Nothing is straightforward when Petey gets involved, however, so what follows is a swift-paced tale of tension, excitement and sibling rivalry as the very different worlds of Sally and Petey collide . . .
A riveting, resonant story that captures perfectly the emotional rhythms of suburban Los Angeles in the 60s and early 70s. Tom and Nedith have been married for thirty years, but their union is rooted firmly in the mores of the 1950s: he works hard as an engineer, she stays home; neither is happy. Meanwhile, their son Pete has recently split from hs wife, Killian, after less than a year of marriage. Their neighbour, Cynny, sees herself as reasonably happy in her marriage to Jim -- until she has an eye-opening conversation with one of her girlfriends, and begins to stray. Cynny's friend Nancy -- who knows she's unhappy in her marriage -- determines to go looking for fulfilment but stumbles into something so unexpected, it may make everyone in the community reconsider the choices they've made. The novel all takes place one stormy L.A. weekend, as a literal fog of unrest blows into town and alters these marriages forever. As a vivid distillation of its time and place, Sudden Rain is a spellbinding achievement and an exciting discovery.