50 best cult books from The Telegraph.
I first read "Ask the Dust" in 1971 when I was doing research for "Chinatown". I was concerned about the way people really sounded when they talked, and I was dissatisfied with everything else I had read that was written during the '30s. I wanted the real thing, as Henry James would say. When I picked up Fante's "Ask the Dust," I just knew that was the way those kids talked to each other—the rhythms, cadences, racism. Robert Towne on adapting John Fante's novel for the big screen. More inside.
Olaf Stapledon was a man ahead of his time. His epic 'novel' Star Maker (1937) considered the emergence of genetic engineering, the outcome of the many worlds interpretation and delved deeper than any book before or since into the consequences of evolution on the cosmos. His fans have included the likes of Arthur C Clarke, Jorge Luis Borges and Virginia Woolf. Even his greatest detractor, C.S.Lewis, wrote an entire Cosmic Trilogy in response to his imaginings. Yet despite Stapledon's magnetic prose and extraordinary influence on speculative fiction his name remains largely forgotten by the world. Yet his words still resonate with insight: "Did not our life issue daily as more or less firm threads of active living, and mesh itself into the growing web, the intricate, ever-proliferating pattern of mankind?"
"It has always been as if I carry chaos with me the way others carry typhoid. My purpose in writing is to transcend my existence by illuminating it." Crime novelist Edward Bunker, who died last Tuesday at age 71 (LATimes obit), became at 17 the youngest inmate at San Quentin after he stabbed a prison guard at a youth detention facility. It was during his 18 years of incarceration for robbery, check forgery and other crimes that Bunker learned to write. In 1973, while still in prison, he made his literary debut with "No Beast So Fierce", a novel about a paroled thief James Ellroy called "quite simply one of the great crime novels of the past 30 years" and that was made into the movie "Straight Time" starring Dustin Hoffman. Also a screenwriter ("Runaway Train"), Bunker appeared as an actor in nearly two dozen roles, most notably as Mr. Blue in "Reservoir Dogs." (more inside)