Pat Hartman´s first book, Call Someplace Paradise, was concerned with the public face of Venice, California - the boardwalk and boutique Venice visited by between one and two hundred thousand tourists each weekend. Ghost Town is about the other Venice.
There is a book genre described by Russ Rymer as "inspecting America´s racial trauma through the lens of private experience, as it plays out in the daily difficulties of particular persons in one or another microcosmic place." Here the microcosm is Oakwood, a hotbed of diversity and danger called Ghost Town by its own citizens. The particular persons are a white single mother, age 30, and her 11-year-old, half-black daughter, along with a stellar cast of roommates, boyfriends, and neighbors.
Ghost Town: A Venice California Life is a psychological adventure story that takes place in a challenging environment where many people would never consider trying to live. Much has been said and written about racial dynamics by people who, however well-informed and well-intentioned, may talk the talk but haven´t walked the walk. Whether by lack of inclination or of opportunity, many experts on race relations have never actually lived in a racially mixed neighborhood, let alone where their own group is a minority. In an environment that forces thought about race issues every single day, it´s a different world.
How are attitudes about race formed? Why is it that even the most willing participants of the melting pot sometimes can´t take the heat? These and other questions are precisely as relevant now as they were in the period covered here, 1978-84. Unfortunately the subject of race will probably continue to be relevant into the next millennium and beyond, given that the human race as a whole is still around that long.
Despite being burglarized, mugged, vandalized, menaced, caught in the black/chicano crossfire, and visited by men in suits who travel in pairs, the author found existence in Oakwood rewarding and positive an many ways. (Film director Barbet Schroeder, who lived in Oakwood during the same time period, told an interviewer it was "the best year of my life so far.")
Like the diary of Samuel Pepys in London, like Alexander King´s memoirs of Greenwich Village, Ghost Town is a record of a fascinating and frightening urban environment through the eyes of an articulate and meticulous observer.