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Literature: Surf Tales With A Twist

by Paul Wilner

The Silver Waves of Summer (Kelp Books) Surfing proves thrilling in more ways than one in David M. Olsen’s new anthology.

A new anthology makes waves by combining beach culture and crime.

Suspense and surf culture go together — not like love and marriage, but close enough — so it seemed natural to David M. Olsen to unite them together in his new anthology, The Silver Waves of Summer.

“I was surfing in Santa Cruz with another writer named Michael Scott Moore. I just said that I wished there was more beach noir stuff out there, and we kind of launched the idea that it would be cool to do a collection of it with an old-school painted cover,” recalls Olsen, in a conversation at BookWorks store in his home base of Pacific Grove. “It took a lot to line up the artwork — a couple of people we talked to wanted a two-year lead time — but we ended up finding a really great cover artist, Jaya Nicely, who’s the in-house designer for Unnamed Press.”

Olsen notes that when they reached out to the writers they thought might be interested in contributing, the response was overwhelming. The resulting anthology of 11 very different stories was published by Olsen’s Kelp Books — he also runs the online kelpjournal.com website — and includes “The Summer of ’86,” by Palm Springs–based noir specialist Tod Goldberg, crackling with Raymond Chandler-esque dialogue about a Body Heat–like crime triad set in Pajaro Dunes.

Other offerings include “Off the 405,” a tale of beachfront infidelity (in a camper!) from Japanese American mystery novelist Naomi Hirahara, and “The Naked and the Dead,” a thriller set in a nudist colony by Charles Ardai. “Sundays Are for Robberies,” a devilish tale from Samantha Tkac, features a highly sexualized close encounter as one character’s sister wreaks revenge on the semi-stranger her sibling has picked up.

“Moby Dock,” a comic tale of the love connection between a college dropout working at Fotomat and a punk-rock-loving customer, which happens to be the first short story ever published by Steve Wynn of the Dream Syndicate fame. Rob Roberge, another writer friend of Olsen’s, who contributed “Wasteland,” a dystopian tale set in the Salton Sea (a hangout for the Rat Pack before they migrated to Las Vegas), is editing Wynn’s memoir and asked the musician if he wanted to be part of the group. “Steve was excited and sent us over a piece,” Olsen shares. “It’s kind of cool, right?”

Olsen’s own efforts are not confined to editing. His story “Bad Moon Rising,” set at the Elkhorn Yacht Club and Harbor in Moss Landing, features Moon DeMarco, a handywoman with a side hustle chartering sailing ships around Monterey Bay and a penchant for pinching catalytic converters. The plot thickens when Moon partners up with a friend to rip off some overconfident tech influencers by hacking their accounts and holding them up for ransom.

Notes Olsen: “I see on Nextdoor that people are constantly posting about getting their catalytic converters stolen. It’s sort of a hilarious crime — obviously very frustrating — but it just keeps happening. So I wanted to bring that into focus in a satirical way, and also take down influencer culture a little bit.”

The Silver Waves of Summer title for the collection is an homage to the late Florida-based thriller writer John D. MacDonald. “All his Travis McGee books have a color in the title, from the first one, The Deep Blue Goodbye to Nightmare in Pink, and on and on,’’ Olsen says. Asked how he combines his surfing obsession with his predilection for crime fiction, he explains: “Crime noir has had booms going back decades. I wanted to do something with more modern crimes but old-school characters. There’s a whole contingent of people that want to get off the grid. It seems like that escape is balanced by the fascination and appeal of the underworld.”

Getting back to the collection, he says: “I gave everyone the theme, but we allowed them a lot of freedom to see where they went with it. No one really knew what the other writers were working on, but you could see the direction that people took. It’s a genre that I obviously really enjoy, but I think it’s one that can stand a little bit more product.”

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