Press for Point Dume

…Arnoldi, who also wrote Chemical Pink, about female body building, researches her novels like Hunter S. Thompson researched drugs and Hell’s Angels.
–Tony DuShane


Authors & Ideas: Katie Arnoldi on ‘Point Dume’

The characters in her latest novel share a ‘sense of belonging and yet not belonging’ that the lifelong Malibu resident believes is a central tenet of present-day Malibu.

Katie Arnoldi has lived in Malibu all her life, yet she still buzzes like a schoolgirl over its many-splendored beauty. “Just look at that break,” Arnoldi exclaims as a clutch of surfers rides a long, glassy wave just a few feet away from her house.  Read more…

–Reviewed by Marc Weingarten, The Los Angeles Times


The rest of the world has discovered Point Dume, and that doesn’t make 35-year-old Ellis Gardner happy. Not at all. For as long as anyone can remember, Ellis has been the queen of the local surfing scene, the rare female who can keep up with her male counterparts in every way. She still has her private oceanside cottage and her inherited fortune, which means that she’ll never have to let work get in the way of her surfing time. But she has lost her view, tarnished now with yuppie mansions and hobby vineyards, “back to the land” projects of disenchanted businessmen like Frank Bane.  Read more…

Reviewed by Norah Piehl


LA Times bestsellers: Books hit the beach

The L.A. Times bestseller list gets darkly beachy this week with the entry of “Point Dume” by Katie Arnoldi. The book, which is at No. 9 on our hardcover fiction list, is about crime and drugs in the Malibu community. Arnoldi isn’t the only one with a new SoCal novel — Chuck Palahniuk’s “Tell-All” riffs on classic Hollywood — it’s at No. 6. Read more…

–Los Angeles Times

Harry Crews + Joan Didion = … Katie Arnoldi?

Katie Arnoldi really wanted to see a mountain lion. That’s how one seed for her new novel “Point Dume” was planted.

Several of her friends in Malibu, Calif., had too-close encounters with the big cats, and Arnoldi — who loves to hike off-trail in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks — became obsessed with seeing a mountain lion. She would get up before dawn and head into the Santa Monica Mountains, hoping to catch up to a cougar on the prowl.  Read more…

–Jeff Baker, The Oregonian

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.  Read more…

–Paula Shackleton

“Having written novels about women bodybuilders (Chemical Pink) and rich Angelenos (The Wentworths), Arnoldi now turns an acute eye toward the aging surfer community, Mexican drug cartels, and more dysfunctional rich people. Pablo, a gentleman pot dealer, and Ellis, a tough woman surfer, are lifelong friends who’ve been surfing since they were old enough to swim. Frank and Janice have a chilly marriage in which he is the boss. They have moved to the coast so Frank can play at being a winemaker. Felix is an illegal from Mexico, brought to California by a vicious drug cartel to grow marijuana. All of the author’s trademarks are present: kinky sex, drugs, and multiple points of view. As the characters’ problems deepen and their lives converge, a massive wildfire sweeps through the mountains, altering the tenor of existing relationships and destroying lives, marijuana farms, ­megamansions, and the ecosystem VERDICT Arnoldi knows how to make readers care about her protagonists. Her well-researched, well-written novel will appeal to fans of T.C. Boyle and Cormac McCarthy as well as to readers who mourn the destruction of the environment.

Andrea Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS   (LIBRARY JOURNAL, May 15 issue)

“Arnoldi revisits the themes of obsession and amorality that she so skillfully exposed in her previous works (Chemical Pink, 2001; The Wentworths, 2008), this time pitting iconic segments of Southern California’s counterculture against each other in an apocalyptic race for survival. Flinty surfer-chick Ellis’s on-again/ off-again affair with married vineyard owner Frank is complicated by a surprise pregnancy and her equally unsettled relationship with her childhood best friend, Pablo, now a drug dealer who supplies pot to disaffected housewives, like Frank’s wife, Janice. Stealing from the contraband pot farms operating deep in the canyons, Pablo is captured by Felix Duarte, an illegal immigrant smuggled into the country by the Mexican drug cartel to manage their operation located on the periphery of Frank’s estate. When the Santa Ana winds pick up and a single spark erupts into a conflagration, Mother Nature regains control of the land everyone, save Ellis, has been wantonly abusing. Crisp pacing, caustic characterizations, and acerbic satire inform this darkly comic fable.

Carol Haggas, Booklist

“Arnoldi (The Wentworths) relies on one red-blooded character to conceal that the rest are archetypes in this ripped-from-the- headlines drama. Ellis Gardner is the surfing queen of Point Dume, Calif., feared, lusted after, and envied by the yuppie moms who filter down from the mansions overlooking the ocean to take surfing lessons. Ellis’s childhood friend Pablo is the hunky surfing instructor, but he’s also been amassing a small fortune finding and robbing small marijuana crops planted by Mexican cartels on the slopes of unsuspecting property owners, then selling his harvest. His current rival for Ellis’s affections is one of those absentee owners, Frank, a rich midlife surfing convert who’s unaware that his wife is one of Pablo’s best customers. Meanwhile, Felix Duarte crosses the Mexican border for the dangerous but lucrative job of guarding one of the secret patches from which Pablo steals. Arnoldi hothouses the concerns of all equally, so Frank’s existential crisis ranks as highly as Felix’s hunger and isolation-induced hallucinations up on the ridge and Ellis’s unexpected pregnancy.  The prose style is spare and powerful and the pages turn effortlessly(May)”

Publisher’s Weekly

“A spritely-written novel with flesh and blood contemporary characters, Point Dume is Katie Arnoldi’s latest comedy of manners.  But it is also a clever commentary on the distortions and contradictions of U.S. economic, drug and immigration policies, current social mores and behaviors, and the hidden environmental consequences of our drug war programs.  All this in an entertaining breezy, sexy, surf novel set in Malibu.  How does she do it?!”

John Evans, owner of Diesel bookstore

“Once, years ago, when my first book came out and I was enormously excited about said book coming out, a much more experienced writer told me,

‘One’s a good start, but it’s not a career until you have three out.’

‘Really?’ I said.

‘Over fifty percent of first-time novelists never publish a second,’ he said.

This scared me a bit, since it had taken me ten years to learn enough to write my first and I’d thrown away at least two bad novels before finishing my first (or, third, depending on how one looked at such things). ‘So why isn’t two a career, then?’

‘Well, it’s like in math. One doesn’t mean anything. Two can be a coincidence. Three’s a pattern. Until it happens three times, it’s not a pattern. And a pattern is what constitutes a career. It means that’s what you do, for better or worse. You’re a writer.’

I’d never, at that time, heard of this fifty percent deal with first-time novelists, but it turns out, according to various studies in publishing, to be true. A lot, if not a clear majority of writers have only one book in them—which stunned me when I first heard it and still surprises me now. Why would you go through the effort and labor of learning the very difficult craft of putting a book together only to stop after the first? But I guess some writers only have one in them—one thing to say, and then they get on with the rest of their lives.

And the second book not making you a career writer? I suppose that’s open to debate, but it is true, in both math and in publishing and murder (you’re not a serial killer, after all, until you hit three, either, though I heard that is being challenged by certain FBI profilers, among others) that three is a pattern and it means that you’re probably in it (whatever your “it” happens to be) for the long haul.

So, enter Katie Arnoldi’s POINT DUME (Overlook Press, publication date, May 10th), which is as you may have guessed from this preamble, her third novel. Arnoldi, best known, perhaps, for her first novel CHEMICAL PINK (which was a long running LA Times bestseller) has returned, in many ways, to the overall feel, characters, structure and pace that made that first novel such a hit. In between, she published THE WENTWORTHS, a dysfunctional family drama/satire about a wealthy Westside LA family from 2008, which showed a growing confidence and ability in her craft.

POINT DUME is, in short, a combination of the best aspects of her earlier two books. It has the edge and grit and unconventional characters and unexpected scenes of CHEMICAL PINK along with the refined craft and narrative chops exhibited in THE WENTWORTHS.

The novel, while brief and breakneck paced, takes in a wide range of subject matter and characters. It is, in fact, one of the longer short novels you’re likely to read this year (in the best sense—the way THE GREAT GATSBY is a long short novel, surprising for all the ground it covers in a relatively few amount of pages). Arnoldi balances five major POV in the novel—from the memorable self-reliant surfer Ellis, the eccentric pot-dealer Pablo, Janice a bored and quietly despairing homemaker and one of Pablo’s main clients, Janice’s husband Frank (who’s mid-life crisis infatuation with Ellis he misreads for love), and the sad and trapped Felix, who’s been recruited (forcefully) by the Mexican drug cartel to grow pot in the public lands around Malibu in the hills around all of the other character’s homes.

This unlikely cast of characters is brought together in a series of events that always arise organically out of character desire—never because they’re forced into action by the author. Arnoldi writes in a manner that Flaubert talked about—the writer being invisible, filing her nails while the characters act of their own accord. There are two dominant schools of thought about the author’s job. Some believe the author, like a good baseball umpire, should remain unseen. That the only time he or she is noticed is if they’ve blown a call or made a bad move. Then, of course, you have the overt stylists, calling attention to themselves (either in obvious ways, such as in the metafiction of writers like Ray Federman, or the high-wire “look no hands” prose styling of someone like Lee. K. Abbot, who reminds you he’s there by showing off the conscious beauty of his own prose). Arnoldi falls into the former category—never showing the puppet master’s strings on the movements of the characters.

And it works very well. The book hits on a lot of major issues—obsessive love and desire, the death of surf culture invaded by materialistic trend seekers…people who used to be called yuppies (god knows what name they carry these days), illegal pot farms on public lands (an increasingly large issue in California), the savage, dangerous and thoughtless use of human trafficking, the increasing presence of Mexican drug cartels in California, and the environmental cost of it all.

In the end (without giving away the plot twist that brings all these character’s lives together), Arnoldi’s realistic novel takes a turn toward the Naturalistic novels of Zola and Frank Norris. The book’s climax, in many ways, is reminiscent of Norris’ amazing (and, sadly, largely forgotten) 1902 masterpiece THE OCTOPUS (a Naturalistic history of the building of California in the late 1800’s), with the earth re-establishing its dominance and its inevitable lack of concern for the petty desires of humans.

Along the way, you get a rollicking ride. The book is full of memorable characters, tight, lean prose, better sex scenes than most people seem to write these days (why is sex so awful in most books?) and filled with some downright funny and harrowing scenes. It’s, in the best sense, a well-paced, well written page-turner. Check it out.”

Rob Roberge,