My friend DJ Palladino–my first real editor, after my brief stint at the UCSB Daily Nexus–has written a very sweet profile of me for the Santa Barbara Independent:

“Rachel Howard?s The Lost Night is a riveting book about growing up in the wake of her father?s murder. Stabbed in the throat near or in his bed, Howard?s beloved dad, Stan, stumbled through their Fresno home, a scene she, then 10 years old, horribly witnessed. The murderer has never been found. The act and its psychological aftermath?a mix of memory and denials?are the subject of Howard?s lucid book, written almost entirely without cant or self-pity.

The book?set mostly in California?s Central Valley, an often forgotten and seedy corner of our glorified state?chronicles her attempts to fit in after the traumatic events of 1986, in a troubled home life with a druggy stepfather named Howdy and an adolescence plagued with sexual tension. Escaping south to UCSB, Howard, who is now working on a novel, took fiction-writing classes but also tried her hand at the Daily Nexus. She interned at The Independent in the late 1990s, and became a writer and dance critic (I was one of her editors, and we are still friends) before being named our calendar editor. Though her talents quickly became obvious?a clear, incisive writer blessed with an uncommon work ethic?journalism was always a kind of second career choice. She explained, ?I just wanted to write books. But when you live in a place like Fresno, it?s not one of those things people tell you you can do.?

Most of us never knew that even in the midst of her impressive reporter years here, she was suffering an acute emotional breakdown replete with hallucinations. ?A lot of my friends have started to get copies of the book and read it,? she told me over lunch at the Natural Caf? last week, ?people I haven?t seen in years, who say, ?I had no idea, I feel like I never knew you.?? Even a former boyfriend with whom she was deeply in love called to say he didn?t know her father was murdered. ?That?s how much I was trying to keep it from people,? Howard said. ”

Alas, the Independent’s website is still a bit cumbersome; you can read the whole article here, but you will have to scroll down through all the other arts articles to find it under “Childhood Noir”–or read the other articles, especially if you live in SB!

The occasion for the piece? I’m reading at the Santa Barbara Borders tomorrow night, Tuesday Aug. 16 at 7:30 p.m. For details, click here. If you live near SB, come out and say hi.

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