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Rudolph Wurlitzer: Quake

My copy of this book has a very lurid 1950s soft-core porn type cover of chaos and semi-naked women which, to a certain extent, is what this book is about. It starts with a 7.6 earthquake as seen from the Tropicana Motel on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, with suitable gory descriptions. I have never been in an earthquake but I am guessing that, even as it happens, the last thing people do is have sex but in this book they do. However, the book is certainly more realistic than his previous works, as we follow the group of people in and around the motel and how they react to the disaster. The narrator, something of a drifter, moves away from the motel where he faces more violence and also more sex. He also bumps into people who may or may not be film stars. Indeed, Wurlitzer lays on the violence, including looting, the damage to the city and the sexual activity. As a description of how society breaks down in the face of a crisis, it is certainly an interesting work and Wurlitzer doesn’t pull the punches, leaving with us no redeeming features and no happy ending.

Publishing history

First published 1972 by Dutton