“The pure products of America go crazy,’’ William Carlos Williams memorably wrote, and from Aurora to the weird kid lounging at the register of the local 7-Eleven, we see the proof of his perception all around us. In ‘70s Southern California, Kelly Daniels grew up amid such strangeness as the son of a drug-dealing, surfer-bum dad (who was ultimately convicted of killing a drug-dealing cousin) and a well-intentioned and loving mom, who signed up with a cult called the Church of the Living.
Although he found temporary refuge with his wealthy grandparents, Daniels grew up, understandably, confused and angry. With admirable tact and dispassion, he has channeled that turmoil into a memoir, Cloudbreak, California (228 pages; Owl Canyon Press). Warned by his father that the cousin’s son might someday seek revenge, Corleone-style, upon him, Daniels contemplates his fate: “A boy, my age, a hidden enemy, was growing up alongside me, plotting revenge.’’