On December 12 Independent Lens, a weekly program on PBS, will air a documentary of the late novelist John Fante. A Sad Flower in the Sand, directed by Jan Louter, examines Fante's life and his writing through interviews with the author's family, his biographer Stephen Cooper, and writer Robert Towne, who used Fante's popular novel Ask the Dust (Stackpole Sons, 1939) as the inspiration for his screenplay of the 1974 film Chinatown, starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway.
Born in 1909 to Italian American parents, Fante grew up in relative poverty in Denver. When he was twenty-one, he moved to Los Angeles and wrote the autobiographical novels Ask the Dust and The Road to Los Angeles (Black Sparrow, 1985), among others. When he wasn't writing fiction, Fante spent his time in Los Angeles drinking, gambling, and working as a Hollywood screenwriter.
Charles Bukowski once said of Fante's Ask the Dust, "Nothing I read ever got to me like this man who wasn't afraid of emotion." Paramount Pictures released a film adaptation of the novel, directed by Towne, in March.
In 1955 Fante was stricken with diabetes. Although the disorder caused him to go blind twenty-two years later, he continued to write by dictation to his wife, Joyce. Dreams From Bunker Hill, published by Black Sparrow Press in 1982, was written during this time.
Fante died at the age of seventy-four in 1983.
For the program's schedule on local PBS stations, visit the Independent Lens Web site.