Humpty Dumpty in Oakland

Humpty Dumpty in Oakland
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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