The Earthquake Shack: A Sausalito Love Story
It’s 1959 in Sausalito, California—right across the water from San Francisco, but with a culture and personality all its own. Characters abound, from Will Dumont, recent transplant from Ohio; to his artist girlfriend, Maggie, who has an incredible sense of smell; to Varda the Greek; Buck Buckworthy, the rich Texan interloper; Mephisto, his motorcycle; his sidekick bird, Marilyn Macaw; and many more.
The main character of the story, however, is Will’s residence: the so-called Earthquake Shack, a quickly-assembled squatter’s residence built just after the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, which was then ferried over to a Sausalito inlet as the City rebuilt and prospered. The various residents of the Earthquake Shack have all left traces of themselves, including the two spirits, Mi-Wash and Malachy, whose dialogue frames the narrative. The story is straightforward: boy (Will) meets girl (Maggie); boy has commitment issues; girl risks life trying to prevent capitalist developers from building a cruise ship dock on the waterfront…well, perhaps there are a few twists and turns which barely hold together as a story. However, the many character sketches—see motorcycle-riding bird, above—along with a lot of local history (most of it true) provide some quite entertaining moments.
This is Diedrichs’ debut novel, and much of it reads like a writing-workshop opus; it feels as if he shoehorns in every possible name, place, and character in case he never gets a chance to publish anything ever again, leading to reader overload. There’s enough Sausalito history for more than one novel, and there’s more than one novel in this book. For those seeking historical tidbits, dive right in, while the rest can wait for Diedrich’s next, perhaps less frenzied, tale.