I’m going out on a limb to say Dick has a bitter and cynical view of marriage and relationships. In The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike, Leo Runcible bickers with his alcoholic wife Janet, and Walter Dombrosio fights viciously with his wife Sherry.
Runcible and Dombrosio, neighbors in the small California town of Carquinez, don’t like each other. When Dombrosio invites his black mechanic over for dinner, it costs Runcible, the local realtor, a sale. Runcible retaliates by calling the police on Dombrosio when he sees him driving drunk, and Dombrosio loses his license. Dombrosio then plants a fake fossil of a Neanderthal skull on Runcible’s land which Runcible tries to exploit for the publicity until he realizes he’s been had. It turns out Dombrosio dug up the malformed skull from the unmarked grave of someone who lived in old Carquinez several generations ago. These chupper-jawed people resembled Neanderthals because of a deformity caused by poisoned water in the area. At the end of the story, Runcible invests everything he has in order to fix the tainted Carquinez water supply.
Dick filled this novel with thoroughly unlikable people. Dombrosio rapes his wife in order to get her pregnant so she can no longer work, because it insults his manhood or something to have her support him after he quits his job. He also throws a chair at her, but they stay together. The 1950s were messed up.
Dick wrote this one in 1960, and it was the first of his unpublished mainstream novels to be published after he died. He would reuse the idea of the Neanderthal chuppers in one of the many subplots of The Simulacra.
Cast of characters
Leo Runcible – realtor in Carquinez
Janet Runcible – Leo’s wife
Walter Dombrosio – package designer at the Lausch Company
Sherry Dombrosio – Walt’s wife
Norm Lausch – owner of the Lausch Company
Chuck Halpin – Walt’s black mechanic
Michael Wharton – a fourth grade teacher and fossil enthusiast
Seth Faulk – reporter for the Carquinez newspaper
Tom Heyes – Carquinez veternarian
Dr. Freitas, Jack Bowman & Dudley Sharp – University of California anthropologists investigating Runcible’s skull
In Mary and the Giant, twenty-year-old Mary Anne jumps from job to job and man to man trying to figure out her life in the small California town of Pacific Park. She first has a fling with the black singer Carleton Tweany before getting involved with recently-arrived Joseph Schilling who has decided to open a record shop.
It’s creepy for fifty-something Schilling to have an interest in Mary Anne, but she seems to be a willing participant in the relationship until she begins to act like he’s a monster, even though he’s the only somewhat sympathetic person in this otherwise dismal book.
By the end of the story Mary Anne decides to run off to San Francisco with the idiot piano player Paul Nitz, and in the last chapter we see they started a family.
Cast of characters
Mary Anne Reynolds – our protagonist. A twenty-year-old girl
Joseph Schilling – businessman who opens a record store in Pacific Park
Max Figuera– Schilling’s business partner
David Gordon – Mary’s fiancé
Taft Eaton – owner of the Lazy Wren bar
Paul Nitz – pianist at the Lazy Wren
Carleton B. Tweany – black singer at the Lazy Wren
Ed and Rose Reynolds – Mary’s parents
Beth and Danny Coombs – a couple who follows Schilling to Pacific Park. Beth had a brief affair with Schilling in the past
Chad Lemming – a local folk singer
Leland Partridge – hosts a party for music wholesalers in San Francisco
Sid Hethel – an obese composer at Partridge’s party
Dick wrote the mainstream novel Humpty Dumpty in Oakland in 1960. It was published after he died, in 1986.
Al Miller, a used car salesman on a lot next to Jim Fergesson’s auto repair garage, has to figure out what to do with his life when the old man decides to sell the shop and retire. Through the businessman Chris Harman, Jim finds out about an investment in an auto repair business in the expanding area around Marin County. Paranoid Al, convinced Harmon is a crook and a swindler, does all he can to sabotage Jim’s plans.
Dick has a tendency toward over description in these mainstream books. I prefer his sci-fi when he can get a trip done with something like ‘the flapple flew from San Francisco to New York in an hour’ instead of this where he spends five pages on the old man’s uninteresting drive on the highway out to Marin County.
The book picks up once it focuses more on down-on-his-luck Al rather than Jim Fergesson. It’s not bad, but just like The Broken Bubble, there isn’t a whole lot to recommend.
Cast of characters
Jim Fergesson – owner of an auto repair garage
Lydia Fergesson – Jim’s wife
Al Miller – runs Al’s Auto Sales next to Jim’s garage
Julie Miller – Al’s wife
Mrs. Lane – a black realtor helping Al find a new spot for his auto lot
Chris Harmon – runs Teach Records. Suggests that Jim invest in a new repair shop in Marin County
Bob Ross – works for his father-in-law Chris Harmon
Boris Tsarnas – Jim and Lydia’s lawyer
The Dolittles – middle-class black family. Mrs. Dolittle rents to Al and Julie