Last fall I taught two books I loved, Dennis Lehane’s “Mystic River,” set in Boston, and James Welch’s “Fools Crow,” set in the Montana territory before there were states, to graduate students. Both those novelists eventually left their homelands, but I haven’t, and I wanted to talk about what it’s like to write about a place where you know every tree.
This week — because my house was full of people and I wanted quiet — I wrote in a notebook while parked in the middle of an orange grove. As I did all I could hear from the open windows were mockingbirds. I have been writing about this place for more than 20 years. It’s not Los Angeles; it’s not San Diego; it’s Riverside, inland Southern California, land of tumbleweeds and citrus and people who I always knew had fascinating lives though I’d never read about them.