James Brown (author)

James Brown (author)

James Brown (b. 1957, Santa Clara, California) is an American novelist who has also written short fiction and nonfiction.

His acclaimed memoir, "The Los Angeles Diaries" (HarperCollins, 2003) is an intimate portrait of his dysfunctional family, covering his childhood, Hollywood script meetings, his splintered marriage and life with his older brother, the actor Barry Brown (1951-78), and his sister, the actress Marilyn Brown (1953-98), who both committed suicide. "The Los Angeles Diaries" was named a Best Book of the Year by "Publisher’s Weekly", "The San Francisco Chronicle" and "The Independent of London". [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C05E4DF1139F932A0575BC0A9659C8B63 Brown, James. "Lives; Detour" (excerpt from "The Los Angeles Diaries", "The New York Times", August 31, 2003.] ]

Novels and memoir

Living in San Jose, Brown studied creative writing at San Francisco State University and then attended the University of California, Irvine where he received an MFA degree in creative writing. His first short story was published when he was 16. His first novel, "Going Fast" (1977), published in a limited edition by Border Mountain Press, was reviewed by Merritt Clifton in "Samisdat"::Going nowhere at 16, bored and frustrated with school, aware of the world's flaws but feeling helpless to correct them, James Brown's hero/narrator, Virgil, idly picks up a spray paint can and says in bold script what he thinks of it all, on the side of an abandoned building. Accosted by two burly policement, in an instant he is Going Fast. First to reform school, where he meets JT, a confirmed incorrigible. Then into a low-paying, grimy job, living in the San Jose slum. Learning from JT, becoming his partner, Virg gradually claims his own destiny and identity, through ten rapidly moving, freewheeling days in and around San Francisco drug traffic... There are no bad or good guys, angels or devils, only people, who can be and often are both.

His second novel, "Hot Wire" (Arbor House, 1985), focuses on the struggles of a waitress and her three sons. The semi-autobiographical "Final Performance" (Sceptre, 1988), about two brothers in Los Angeles, was reviewed in "Library Journal" by Kimberly G. Allen, who commented, "Its characters imbued with an honest emotional depth, this work is compelling and profoundly moving."

He followed with "The Second Story Theatre and Two Encores" (Story Line Press, 1994), collecting together a novella and two short stories, "The Rat Boy" and "The Friend." His novel "Lucky Town" (Harcourt, 1994) follows a young boy who runs away from a foster home to meet his ex-con father. When "The Los Angeles Diaries" was published by HarperCollins in 2003, "Publishers Weekly" reviewed::Brown's tales are harrowing: at five, he and his mother traveled from their San Jose home to San Francisco, where she set an apartment building ablaze. Arson couldn't be proven, but she was imprisoned for tax evasion. At nine, he shared his first drink and high with his siblings; when he was 12, a neighbor attempted to molest him; by 30 he was an alcohol- and cocaine-addicted writer-in-residence. During his marriage's early years, Brown often left his wife to feed his addictions, repeatedly promising her he'd reform. Desperate to fuel his writing career, he attempted screenwriting, but everything he pitched seemed too dark. Brown's genius compels readers to sympathize with him in every instance. Juxtaposed with the shimmery unreality of Hollywood, these essays bitterly explore real life, an existence careening between great promise and utter devastation. Brown's revelations have no smugness or self-congratulation; they reek of remorse and desire, passion and futility. Brown flays open his own tortured skin looking for what blood beats beneath and why. The result is a grimly exquisite memoir that reads like a noir novel but grips unrelentingly like the hand of a homeless drunk begging for help. Brown's most recent novel is "A Fine Madness", which he described in an "Esquire" interview::The novel’s basically about two bright kids who fall in love in college, become addicted to methamphetamine, and set up a lab in student housing. Things go terribly wrong, and the entire apartment complex is burned to the ground. They survive, though a friend of theirs does not, and before you know it Sally and Bobby are wanted on a series of charges ranging from murder and manufacturing of a controlled substance to fleeing arrest with special circumstances because they temporarily escape to Mexico. “At what point,” Bobby, the narrator, says, “did we veer so far from the path of the good and moral that we all but destroyed any possibility of a peaceable surrender?” Their lives, as they once knew them, are destroyed, and so with the money from a steroid smuggling deal with the Mexican Mafia (Bobby absconds with the proceeds), Sally and Bobby buy a Winnebago and travel the California coast, cooking meth, and selling it to a lawyer who’s a high ranking officer in a biker gang. Since Sally’s dream of one day being a famous actor (she was a theatre arts major) is ruined, and because Bobby feels responsible for their troubles and loves her deeply, they begin making their own movies, filming their crime sprees to showcase Sally’s genuine acting talent. They’re a modern day Bonnie and Clyde, hunted by the FBI to the ATF to your run-of-the-mill state troopers. It’s a wild romp with plenty of twists and turns along the way. [ [http://www.esquire.com/the-side/last-line/lastline030308 Brown, James. "Last Line: I Need My Mania to Write." "Esquire", March 3. 2008.] ]

His personal essays have appeared in "GQ", "The New York Times Magazine", "The Los Angeles Times Magazine" and "Ploughshares". His writing has also been featured in "Denver Quarterly" and "New England Review". He has been anthologized in "Best American Sports Writing of 2006", "Fathers and Sons" and "Sports: An Anthology of Great American Sports Writing" (ESPN, 2008), scheduled for May publication.


Brown received the Nelson Algren Award for Short Fiction, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in fiction writing and a Chesterfield Film Writing Fellowship from Universal/Amblin Entertainment. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference,

He teaches at California State University, San Bernardino and lives with his family in Lake Arrowhead, California.


*"Going Fast" (Border Mountain Press, 1977)
*"Hot Wire" (Arbor House, 1985)
*"Final Performance" (Sceptre, 1988)
*"The Second Story Theatre and Two Encores" (Story Line Press, 1994)
*"Lucky Town" (Harcourt, 1994)
*"The Los Angeles Diaries" (HarperCollins, 2003)


Listen to

* [http://link3.streamhoster.com/?u=idstaff&p=/Metafile/Excerpt/9780060521523.m3u&odaid=3929 James Brown read an excerpt from "The Los Angeles Diaries"]

External links

* [http://www.jimbrown.info James Brown official site]
* [http://www.harpercollins.com/author/authorExtra.aspx?authorID=25117&isbn13=9780060521523&displayType=bookinterview HarperCollins: interview]
* [http://www.jimbrown.info James Brown (includes CNN interview clip)]
* [http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,485210,00.html "Entertainment Weekly": review of "The Los Angeles Diaries"]
* [http://www.undergroundvoices.com/UVBrownJames.htm "The Screenwriter"] , short story in "Underground Voices", originally in "The Cocaine Chronicles" (Akashic Books, 2005).

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