Novels set in the 1970s?
October 21, 2008 12:33 PM   Subscribe

What are some good novels set in the US of the mid-late seventies?

Specifically I'm looking for ones dealing with the wild political election of 1976, the bicentennial, and assassination attempts on President Ford, but I'd be interested in anything written fairly recently set in 1974-1979 on any subject.

(Tags explain why I'm wondering!)
posted by Potomac Avenue to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series.
posted by brujita at 12:47 PM on October 21, 2008


The Ruins of California.
posted by GuyZero at 1:11 PM on October 21, 2008


Rabbit is Rich by John Updike is a great book which seems to encapsulate the period.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:28 PM on October 21, 2008


King Suckerman, by George Pelicanos, is one of my favorites, and it all takes place during the Bicentennial. Even better, it's set in the underworld of Washington D.C. It's gritty and pulpy, but fantastic. Pelicanos can write the shit out of a sentence. Not for the faint of heart.
posted by incessant at 1:28 PM on October 21, 2008


Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail - it is about the '72 election and mostly not a novel, but is a fascinating bit of political writing.

When the White House Was Ours

posted by caddis at 2:36 PM on October 21, 2008


The Son of Sam killings took place between '76 and '77. Anything written about that would fit your time period.
posted by Nelsormensch at 3:02 PM on October 21, 2008


I'm reading one right now. Cutter And Bone by Newton Thornburg. Published in 1976. Made into a movie called "Cutter's Way". No specific mention yet of Pres Ford or the bicentennial but it's definitely a good hard look at corruption, political and otherwise.
posted by philip-random at 3:13 PM on October 21, 2008


I haven't read When the White House Was Ours because it just came out, but it seems to fit your bill. Crossing California, which I have read and liked a lot is set towards the end of your period.
posted by craichead at 3:27 PM on October 21, 2008


Seconding The Ruins of California . It is a novel that reads like a memoir of growing up in the 70's in California. The title makes it sound like a book about Ancient California or something bizarre; it's not - the family's name the story revolves around is "Ruin." That was a great suggestion from GuyZero above - excellent book!
posted by Gerard Sorme at 3:31 PM on October 21, 2008


Although it's a video, not a novel, Swingtown is available on DVD in December. It has the 1976 election as a sideline, and captures the 70s feel very well. I remember this time very well, as one of the teenagers. I can't recommend it more highly.
posted by Robert Angelo at 4:10 PM on October 21, 2008


"Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides is set in the 70s in Detroit (with major flashbacks and flashforwards). It's about how the burning of Smyrna in 1922 led to the narrator being born with indeterminate gender. For what it's worth, I grew up near Detroit in the 70's, and thought it was a reasonable depiction, but it has little to say about politics.

Maupin's "Tales of the City"- yes, lovely.
posted by acrasis at 4:57 PM on October 21, 2008


Not a novel, but Tom Perotta's "Bad Haircut" uncanniloy captures coming of age in northern Jersey in the 70s.
posted by 1016 at 5:23 PM on October 21, 2008


D'oh!
posted by 1016 at 5:23 PM on October 21, 2008


Not sure if these are quite what you're looking for, but Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Still Life with Woodpecker, both by Tom Robbins, leapt to my mind right away.
posted by kristi at 8:45 PM on October 21, 2008


Nelsormensch, others: Any specific fiction revolving around the Son of Sam killings? Besides Summer of Sam, which I loved.

So far this is pretty heartening, in that I'm planning a novel that isn't a bildungsroman. Except for King Suckerman, I feel like this era is pretty underexploited in terms of crime or literary fiction.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:53 AM on October 22, 2008


That's because we're all longing to forget that decade.

Not fiction, but "The Bronx is Burning" was a lovely evocation of 1977.

I'm irritated to discover that Amazon.com doesn't easily give you the original publication date of books, so I can't tell you which Elmore Leonard books were written nearabouts the 70's. "FreakyDeaky"? "Stick"? But if you love crime, you've already read Leonard.
posted by acrasis at 4:32 PM on October 22, 2008


You could try the Star Wars series, Mr. Troll
posted by KokuRyu at 5:04 PM on October 22, 2008


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