For those new to "the Bakersfield experience", let us initiate you by stating that reading Haslam is a must. An Oildale native, his writings always hearken back to his local roots. Armed with a Ph.D. in English, he has been called "the quintessential California writer" and "the most important writer to emerge from California's Central Valley since Steinbeck".
An incomplete list of his awards include the Western Literature Associations Distinguished Achievement Award, a Commonwealth Club Medal, the Western States Book Award for Fiction, the Josephine Miles Prize, the Benjamin Franklin Award, honors from the Bay Area Book Reviewers' Association, and the Bakersfield Centennial Foundation's Literature Award as Bakersfield's "Writer of the Century".
NOTE: Dr. Haslam's local favorite "The Great Tejon Club Jubilee" is no longer available online, but is still in-store. Call for details (661) 665-4686.
Leon Patterson was a Southwestern migrant to California who, despite being raised in poverty, became a world-class athlete. Throwing the discus and putting the shot, he left indelible memories at both Taft Union High School and at the University of Southern California. He managed to accomplish remarkable things despite being terminally ill and knowing it.
One of the most gripping images from the 1960s captures the slight figure of Dr. S. I. Hayakawa scrambling onto a sound truck parked in front of San Francisco State College amid campus unrest.
BAKERSFIELD BESTSELLER at Russo's Books (2006, 2008) A collection that brings together 30 years worth of samples of the fictions, essays, and other writing by one of California's treasured writers and chronicler of the Great Central Valley.
BAKERSFIELD BESTSELLER at Russo's Books (1999, 2002, 2006) Gerald Haslam surveys the contribution the Golden State has made to what has become America's most popular form of music today. Gene Autry, Rose Maddox, Glen Campbell, Barbara Mandrell, and Bakersfield's own Buck Owens and Merle Haggard are just some of the names that have given California deep roots in country music. Ever the "the quintessential California writer", Haslam also shows how the music provided a cultural comfort to the Dust Bowl migrant, oil field worker, hashslinger, and other "workin' men". The book's chapters are arranged by decade, from the 1920's to the 1990's.
Selected by a San Francisco Chronicle reader's poll as one of the 20th Century's Top 100 non-fiction books from the West. Now in its second edition (with 6 new essays), the book features intensely personal essays, dealing from everything from dogs to cancer. Follow one of California's most well-regarded writers from his blue-collar boyhood in Bakersfield to his white-collar manhood.
Haslam divides the state into five regions, selecting prose and poetry from each that reflects their history, terrain, and culture. Many Califonias features sixty-seven authors ranging from Jack London to Maxine Hong Kingston, making it the most diverse general-interest anthology available.
BAKERSFIELD BESTSELLER at Russo's Books (2000) This award-winning novel is Gerry Haslam's first in 25 years (non-fiction & short stories having occupied much of his writing time). The story revolves around Leroy Upton, a Bakersfield native now living in the Bay Area. Leroy struggles with his aging parents, a friend's failing marriage, and his own teenaged kids, all while trying to be a dutiful husband and college professor. Haslam's gripping narrative includes strategically placed "reminence" chapters which artfully explore Leroy's past, thus helping us understand his present. "This superb novel confirms Gerald Haslam's standing as the most important writer to emerge from California's Central Valley since Steinbeck." Gerald Locklin Winner-2000 Western States Book Award for Fiction Second Place-2000 Foreward Magazine's Book of the Year Award.
Haslam’s stories are of the quintessential California of working people who struggle to make a living. He is their spokesperson—no matter what their color or language—because he, too, has chopped cotton under the searing sun, has toiled on drilling rigs in fog thick as oatmeal, has lived in a house where Spanish and English mingled.
Half-Chicano, half-Anglo Manuel Ryan moves into his grandmother's Bakersfield house when his parents seperate. There he befriends not only fellow students at his new junior high, but his grandmother's aging neighbor ("The Madman") as well. As Manuel struggles through the challenges of adolesence, he, with The Madman's help, learns the value of his mixed heritage. A novel for young adults.