Over the years, Santa Cruz writers of every stripe have managed to weave our unique blend of natural beauty, progressive politics and rich history into ideas that play out on the page. Santa Cruz may not always be the subject of the written work it spurs, but it dwells in the margins like a seductive contradiction. Local literary maverick George Hitchcock, who passed away a few years ago at the age of 96, knew this well when he published the likes of Raymond Carver and Margaret Atwood back in the 1970s, in his widely respected one-man-band of a literary journal, Kayak. UCSC’s poet in residence during that same time period, William Everson—founder and fine printer of Lime Kiln Press—knew it, too. Together they embodied the fierce coastal freedom and creative eccentricity that defined Santa Cruz during a literary renaissance that spread from San Francisco to Big Sur.
Tellers of tales close to home like Geoffrey Dunn, Sandy Lydon, and the late great Morton Marcus dig deep into local history, sharing their passion for the past in books like “Chinatown Dreams” and “Santa Cruz is in the Heart.” The legendary Jim Houston, who cut quite a figure in his Hawaiian shirt, bomber jacket and Panama hat, uncovered wartime injustice when he co-wrote the now classic “Farewell to Manzanar” with his wife Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. He went on to explore the tragedy of the Donner Party in his novel “Snow Mountain Passage,” after he moved into a historic Santa Cruz home that turned out to have been previously owned by one of its youngest members.