The new edition of LONG HAUL by the late great AI Bezzerides is now available from 280 Steps. The book features my introduction to Buzz and his work.
Here's a preview:
Buzz just wanted to tell the truth. He didn’t consider himself a crime writer, didn’t really consider himself a genre guy at all. He just wanted to write the brutal truth about struggling for survival in America. Proletarian realism, they used to call it. The truth, Buzz called it. He’d come up hard, had seen the world beat down his old man, and he wanted to put that experience into works of fiction as clearly and candidly as possible. Of course, the fascinating thing is the way that his ambition to be honest just naturally led him to produce books that read like crime novels. Maybe that’s because, to Buzz, life looked a lot like a crime in progress.
He was born Albert Issok Bezzerides in 1908 in Samsun, Turkey—which, at the time, was still part of the Ottoman Empire—the son of a Greek father and an Armenian mother. “I can swear and pray in Armenian and Turkish,” he later told an interviewer, but when he was still just a boy, his parents packed up their son and headed to America in search of a new life. The fruit fields of California might have been advertised as a sun-dappled paradise, but A.I.—or “Buzz” as he was called—grew up working for his father in the fresh produce industry in the San Joaquin Valley, a hardscrabble experience that would mark him for the rest of his life. The young boy’s worldview was forged in the fire of hard manual labor—picking fruit, repairing shabby old trucks, driving all night, and fighting the shysters at the produce markets. “Etched into my soul,” he once wrote, “was the poverty that surrounded me as a child.”