Set in the blighted industrial landscape of the Los Angeles basin, Dreamland Court is an underground love story.
Just out of prison, Johnny Dalton returns home to find his wife Jackie, the mother of his two small children, passionately involved with one of his good friends.
Doing everything in his power to win her back, Johnny blunders his way through one criminal enterprise after another. When the cops pick him up for being the only adult present at a wild teenage party, he’s sent back to jail.
The strange thing is, as far as Jackie is concerned, Johnny’s maneuvers actually work.
Reminiscent of the pathos in Hubert Selby’s Last Exit to Brooklyn, and the comedy of John Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World, Dale Herd focuses his astute gaze on lives that are ordinarily invisible, while turning the conventional love story on its head.
“...and I like Dale Herd for prose.” Allen Ginsberg, Poetry Flash
"... not since Raymond Carver has stuff been so raw and true. It leaps out from the page/screen and bites with tender fury." J. H. Prynne
“No one writes American better than Dale Herd. His writing is like some bastard offspring of a liaison between Charles Bukowski and Joan Didion—unflinching and streetwise as Bukowski, but with Joan Didion ’s unfailing clarity and intelligence.” Lewis MacAdams, Wet Magazine, a Journal of the Avant-Garde
“Herd has an acute sense of what people say as against what they mean. This creates the tension in the prose: that something emotionally unbearable is being spilled out into completely bearable talk.” Keith Abbott, on Wild Cherries, San Francisco Review of Books
“Known for his brilliant short prose pieces as published in the books, Early Morning Wind, Wild Cherries, Diamonds, and Empty Pockets, Dale Herd is a meticulous recorder of the language we move around in, and he possesses the skill and guts to take it all the way. His underground novel Dreamland Court is simply a masterpiece.” Kevin Opstedal, Blue Press Books
Jesus Christ, Jac, I’m feeling fine now. My mind is perfectly clear and I still love you more than ever. When I got out of the lock and up into the walls I was thinking about how much Dawnie looks like Dad. It stunned me, knowing with him no longer here it makes it clear to be completely honest and straight ahead with everyone is the only way to go, especially with the kids. I remember once not going home just so I wouldn’t have to answer him about where I’d been. But I got hungry so I went home and had to lie so I wouldn’t get a beating. Then I got a beating anyway for lying. The point is, that’s what I’ve been realizing here, not to do things I shouldn’t do, and let anger control my thinking when I don’t get my way when I do do them. You know me, how things happen cause it’s myself I’m angry at, and not anyone else. Like Rube says – when I said, ‘Shit happens,’ – he says, ‘Right, specially when yus got shitheads running it.’ That’s what I’m just now realizing. And I’m gonna turn all that sorry shit around. If I ever start hassling you and carrying on again, all you’ll ever have to do is show me this goddamn letter
Back in the early 20th Century there was a lot of talk in the literary world about "The Great American Novel." Some thought it had already been written in the previous century (e.g. Moby Dick) or claimed newer titles (e.g. The Great Gatsby) or midcentury (e.g. Invisible Man) or later ones (e.g. Beloved). In this century it seems like the absurd game it always was and who cares anyway.
But if we were still playing, I'd throw Dale Herd's Dreamland Court into the mix along with the examples cited above and others. A series of mostly overlapping monologues by a varied crew of smalltime drug dealers and thieves and general fuckups and their partners and lovers and spouses and friends, Dreamland Court may not sound inviting, but once you've met them and been drawn into their stories by Herd's original styling and eye and ear for character, you're hooked,
Reading Dreamland Court is like watching one of those streaming series that you can't help binging on because you want to see what happens to these uniquely distinct individuals that you've come to know so intimately. Someone once wrote about Hubert Selby's achievement in his novel Last Exit To Brooklyn being that he got readers to care about the "lowlifes" he was writing about. In Dreamland Court the characters themselves seem to write themselves and their stories into existence, and so authentically they continue to live in my consciousness long after I reached the end of the book, which I was sorry to.