Gerald Locklin’s The Case of the Missing Blue Volkswagen, first published by Applezaba Press in 1984 and recently rereleased by Sprout Hill Press, available for order online and from select local bookstores, must certainly have inspired and influenced Charles Bukowski’s Pulp, as the two were friends (small press followers will recognize Locklin as the only academic to gain the respect of avowed non-tryer Bukowski). Volkswagen is first in a trilogy which is both a postmodern spoof of detective novels and an instructive exploration of unplanned precision. Los Angeles poet Gerald Locklin is now a Professor Emeritus of English at California State University, Long Beach, where he taught from 1965 through 2007, and continues as an occasional part-time lecturer there and in the Master of Professional Program at the University of Southern California. He is the author of over 125 books, chapbooks, and broadsides of poetry, fiction, and criticism, with over 3000 poems, stories, articles, reviews, and interviews published in periodicals, and, as John Brantingham states in his introduction to the first book, uses “style and structure to have a conversation with his readers about what the limits of fiction are.” For years an avid supporter of the small press, h has frequently served as poetry editor of the Chiron Review, and was also among the first enthusiastic responders to this reporter’s recently founded press, for which I thank him. now and always. The Case of the Missing Blue Volkswagen is Gerald Locklin’s classic of post-modern gumshoe L.A narrating the adventures of a private dick named Bear in search of a particular blue Volkswagen through the mean streets of LA all crowded with blue Volkswagen vans, buses and trucks as decoys. In its course, the novella provides a lighthearted overview of the various cultures and subcultures of the 1970s.
The second installment, Come Back, Bear, makes artful use of the inventive dynamic in portraying the furtherance of Mass American decay while lacking any sheen of smugness. Unlike Rico f’n Slade, another metafictionalized private enforcer, Bear doesn’t need to shoot anyone in the face to get his one liners across. The sharp, sweet chapters include excursions into subconscious imaging and cultural and literary associations delivered in Locklin's clear and purely lucid prose. Where Locklin opened this series with an exploration of the subconscious mind, in this second volume, he spoofs the Western novel and the idea of loyalty using his own text as the examplar, including an overview of the beloved cowboy novel’s standard form, and a canny diagnostic of sta-free American culture. Like the best of Bukowski, reading Locklin’s work conveys a feeling of inspiration and creative health, In the author’s own words, “I just try to say what I have to say about anything that strikes me as worth saying something about. And to what I hope is good prose I try to add the music of poetry, including the division into lines and stanzas, and the fun of titles.” Last Tango in Long Beach completes the trilogy by toning down his traditional causticism to examine the interior lives of a couple in love, spoofing the 70s-era sex drama in so doing. Last Tango covers the eighties zeitgeist—from "post-post deconstructionist works" on the bookstore shelves to the emergence of the AIDS virus, calling into question the sexual liberation of the sixties grown lax in the seventies and tinging it with doom. Not to worry, this third book isn’t mournful, rather bringing to mind the eloquence of James Thurber or Bukowski in Hollywood, a summing up of youthful idealism with a gritty seasoning of reality.
Recent years have seen a revival with renewed appreciation of the works of pioneering “stand up poet” Gerald Locklin, of which your reporter considers himself a dedicated exponent. What’s next for him? “I have three poems, "Green Corn Tamales," "A Green Thought?" and "No Green Berlin," in GREEN: An Eclectic Anthology of Poetry and Prose, Silver Birch Press, edited by Melanie Villines and contributing editor, Joan Jobe Smith, March, 2013. Also available from amazon.com. I also have three poems, "Dorothea Tanning: Birthday, 1942," "Sylvia Fein: The Tea Party, 1943," and "Eugene Berman: Hugh and Bridget Chisholm, 1940," in The Mas Tequila Review, Issue # 6, Spring, 2013. I have a poem, "The Wedding of Tyler and Nicole," in Snail Mail Review, Issue Number 5, Spring 2013. I recommend these publications to you for their editorial taste, their readable and attractive formats, and the professionalism of their staffs.”