Journalist Ray A. March has lived much of his life on California's Monterey Peninsula. His first major book, an oral history, Alabama Bound: Forty-Five Years Inside A Prison System (University of Alabama Press), was nominated for the National Book Award. March is co-founder, with his wife, Barbara, of Modoc Forum, which sponsors the annual Surprise Valley Writers' Conference. His most recent book, released by the University of Nebraska Press in April 2012, is River in Ruin: The Story of the Carmel River.
On your nightstand now:
I recently finished The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje, whose work I greatly covet and admire. After that I read William Kennedy's Chango's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes, another of my favorite contemporary authors, but the transition between the two books was difficult because of their vastly different styles. In between I read books by journalists, particularly works on Watergate.
Favorite book when you were a child:
When I was in the second grade, my maternal grandmother gave me a subscription to "Wee Wisdom," but I couldn't read and subsequently flunked the second grade. Later, when I could read, I moved on to books by Howard Pease and his sea-going adventurer Tod Moran character.
Your top five authors:
A tough one because five doesn't cover it: Albert Camus, Walker Percy, John Hawkes, Franz Kafka and Robinson Jeffers. Trust me, it's not as dark as it sounds.
Book you've faked reading:
The Bible, but I got an "A" on my high school book report. It was the only "A" I ever got in English because I transferred to typing, but as it turns out I wasn't good at that, either.
Book you're an evangelist for:
I don't think "evangelist" is the right word as it's used here, but I will go along with it. What I "push" on my friends depends on the circumstances. One book is The Morning the Sun Went Down by Darryl Babe Wilson. Another is Michael Ondaatje's Coming Through Slaughter.
Book you've bought for the cover:
When I was younger, any book by Mickey Spillane, especially My Gun Is Quick. But maybe it was the title I went for! I was also a sucker for the covers of H. Vernor Dixon's Gold Medal paperbacks, such as The Hunger and the Hate.
Book that changed your life:
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger did not change my life but it certainly validated it after identifying with Holden Caulfield when I was about 16--when the book first came out.
Favorite line from a book:
"There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it." --from Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. I've read it twice over the years.
Authors who have most influenced you, positively or negatively:
From a negative point of view, I would say Ernest Hemingway because we all tried to imitate him, not seeing that his simple lines were not so simple after all. From a positive view, I think J.D. Salinger gave many of us permission to break through traditional writing and develop new voices, new dimensions.