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Point Dume: by Katie Arnoldi

abstract:If you crossed T.C. Boyle's Tortilla Curtain with Kem Nunn's surf noir trilogy novels and added breasts you would almost get this book, Point Dume written by Los Angeles author Katie Arnoldi (published by Overlook Press, May 28, 2010). Katie grew up in a tiny beach enclave just north of Malibu called Point Dume, popular among surfers. Sounds like she may have been the bad-ass version of Gidget, that is if she bears any similarity to her novel's saucy protagonist, Ellis Gardener. Somewhere between hanging up her own surf board, a short body-building stint and obtaining a degree in art history, Katie learned to write. She likes obsessive and damaged characters from dysfunctional families set in throbbing plots within issue-related themes. This is her third novel. The first thing that intrigued me was the rave review printed on the back cover by one of my literary icons, Joan Didion in praise of her first novel Chemical Pink a story about the weight lifting culture. It's written from Arnoldi's real life experience as an amateur competitive weight lifter. Point Dume is also a real place, and like all idyllic locations within close proximity to a thriving metropolis, it has been invaded by the rich: film directors, A-list actors, successful business types all looking for that fresh salt air, unobstructed sun and wide-open space. They've bulldozed the surf shacks and built mansion compounds verily driving out the original residents and their way of life. The beat-up pickup trucks along the beach loaded with short boards tacky with layers of thick bumpy wax are being crowded out by the BMW-driving wanna-be's who ride squishy 7-9 footers enabling them to take up the sport and in Ellis's opinion, fake the lifestyle. Yuppy yoga practicing housewives exchange psychologist referrals and drink soy-chai lattes while their hispanic nannies, gardeners and pool boys enable their privileged lifestyles. With the Pacific Ocean in the front yard, there's a whole big back yard consisting of miles of hills covered in tall wild scrub brush made accessible by a crisscross network of trails and fire access roads. Add a little water via an illegal tap into state water pipes and domestic irrigation systems, and you've got a thriving local industry of clandestine grow-ops run by various drug cartels looking to avoid the post 9-11 border hassle importing las herb. Point Dume the novel, could be on the bibliography list for a college degree in hydroponic canibisology. That seems to be Arnoldi's forte - capturing the underbelly of her subject with...


May 22, 2010
a large measure of sex thrown in, though I think the sex actually detracts from what could be focused writing using her solid psycho-social behavioral observations in her character development. As Arnoldi warns us, there's a dangerous situation in Southern Cali where the innocent (and not so innocent) become entangled in the illegal commercial-eco nightmare raging in the hills of Southern California like the Santa Anna winds that rage in October.

I particularly liked the simple dignity of her Mexican character, Felix, who is brought illegally into the country (via grueling methods enacted every day in the US-Mexican border zone) by one of the drug cartels to manage a grow-op. His isolation in the hills spurns some believable survival tactics that are a patent reminder of the realities of human trafficing and the low value placed on their lives.

Having lived 30 minutes from this region myself for roughly ten years, I can attest to the accuracy in Katie's writing. She's managed to capture the blend of culture clash that is SoCal in the beach communities in particular. Obviously she is a fan of T.C. Boyle - she even mentions him in her novel, and the catacalysmic flood at the end of Boyle's Tortilla Courtain is echoed in Katie's firestorm in Dume. If you're looking for a summer read that doubles as a sexy page-turner, check out Point Dume. Check out the author's website and her trailer for this book at

Other Books by Katie Arnoldi

  • Chemical Pink about a Pygmalian-type character who is manipulated to extremes in body-building by a sleazy millionaire with obsessive sexual proclivities, and the sordid culture around them.
  • The Wentworths An extremely wealthy Los Angeles family shows what it means to be rich, dysfunctional and self-destructive, with characters from her first novel making cameo appearances.

    Additional Links of Interest
    LA Times, March 2008 from the Home section about Arnoldi's home in Malibu and her life with noted painter Charles Arnoldi. Charles Arnoldi's paintings are held in prestigious collections such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Norton Simon in Pasadena and New York's Metropolitan Museum and Museum of Modern Art. The couple and their teenage daughter live in a pretty cool shack on the Malibu cliffs it appears: twenty foot ceilings and concrete floors and windows in between, by the sounds of it. Husband Charles consulted the Canadian-come-Californian architect Frank Gehry, so for all her whining in Point Dume... it's difficult to tell which perspective Katie knows better, the surfer or the people usurping their lifestyle.

    Katie's own collection of book reviews for her first novel Chemical Pink.



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