A veteran author assesses a reissue, his latest novel and the namesake band
Your novel, Love & War in California (Reviews, Oct. 30), is due out in April, and your classic western, named for a California town, Warlock, was recently bought back into print to acclaim (Reviews, Oct. 10, 2005). What other books of yours should we be re-reading?
Well, what a good question! There are two more westerns: The Bad Lands, which is the big cattlemen vs. the homesteaders, and the Billy the Kid story, Apaches. And there are historical novels I'm rather proud of: Separations, about the first trip down the Grand Canyon after Powell's exploration; The Children of the Sun, about the Cabeza de Vaca expedition across North America in 1528; and The Adelita, about the Mexican revolution. Those are all books I'd go to the wall on.
Love & War in California, which is centered on the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, takes in a big swath of the 20th century Why this era?
I'm sure you'll be shocked and surprised that this follows my own life story a little bit. Pearl Harbor was pretty important for my generation. Then there was Manzanar [one of the U.S. internment camps for Japanese-Americans], but not all of what happened was bad. It was the end of the old way of life. And people could forget about their stupid, boring jobs and go off and do something exciting. I don't think anybody's felt like that in a war since [WWII].
How did you first find out about your namesake rock band, Oakley Hall?
My son is named Oakley Hall—he's Oakley Hall III. And he has a son who is Oakley Hall IV. One day a few years ago we were on the Internet looking at all of these Oakley Halls, and there was this group of decidedly vagabond-looking types in Brooklyn. And if you look now, I have a little tiny corner, and the band has completely taken over—along with a couple of retirement homes in England. They really know how to humiliate you.
Why did the band take your name?
They used the name because they liked Warlock, and they think the band is doing the same thing that the novel does. I don't understand that, but it's no doubt true. They were all very nice. When they came to town to perform, the guy who runs the band went running across the street to Walgreens to buy a couple of earplugs for my wife to use during the concert.