David T. Isaak - Poignant Coming-of-Age Story Set in 1960s Southern California
David T. Isaak (1954-2021) was an American author of both fiction and nonfiction. Dr. Isaak held a BA in Physics and MA and PhD degrees in resource systems. His professional work spanned the globe, taking him to over forty countries. He co-authored three technical, nonfiction books on oil and international politics, and wrote numerous papers, monographs, and multiclient studies.
David had an eclectic life. His first major in college was music, and he played piano and flute. He was a certified Bikram yoga instructor, an accomplished vegetarian cook, a creative mixologist, and an avid reader of fiction and nonfiction alike. He was driven by great characters and story, original voices, and especially by his love of the craft of writing, all of which are reflected in his own writing.
David passed away in April 2021. The five novels he left behind are as diverse as his life and span a spectrum of genres, including thrillers, mystery, romance, magical realism, esotericism, and cyberpunk future sci-fi. His novels are infused with his trademark humor and insights and shine with his love of style. These novels form The Isaak Collection.
Pamela Blake tells us all about David Isaak, the Isaak Collection, and his book, A Map of the Edge.
Please give us a short introduction to what A Map of the Edge is about.
Dive headfirst into the whirlwind of 1969, where the glossy veneer of Southern California surrenders to the raw, unadorned "Inland Empire". Enter the world of Rick, a fifteen-year-old balancing on the precipice of self-awareness, against a backdrop of rural chicken ranches, sun-drenched orange groves, and the unsung lives of second-generation Okie immigrants. Life for Rick is a relentless struggle.
Left behind by his mother and trapped in the shadow of an abusive father, Rick navigates his tumultuous adolescence with the aid of forbidden romances, the allure of psychedelics, and the comfort of camaraderie. Alongside the magnetic 16-year-old Linc, Rick embarks on a quest to shape the dawn of a new era they believe is within their grasp. Yet they soon discover the sinister underbelly of their utopian dream as they are drawn into the shadowy labyrinth of the California drug scene.
Battling the turbulent tides of his existence, Rick wrestles with the harsh realities of friendship and loyalty, forever scarred by the torment of abandonment. Watch as Rick traverses the complicated terrain of life, a fearless defender of those he holds dear, but constantly yearning for a loyalty that seems as elusive as a desert mirage. Rick dares to question: do unyielding bonds of loyalty truly exist?
Can Rick rise above the tempest of his life, harnessing his trials to emerge as a beacon of strength and wisdom? Perhaps, in his journey, he might chance upon the blossoming buds of love in the most unlikely of places.
Embark on this unorthodox journey of self-discovery with Rick, laced with the thrill of crime, the innocence of young love, and the raw, unfiltered viewpoint of an abuse survivor attempting to make sense of his broken world. Plunge into the vibrant turbulence of the sixties—a transformative epoch of revolt and revelation, poised on the brink of a psychedelic awakening.
Or, an even shorter description:
A Map of the Edge is the story of Rick, a precocious fifteen-year-old, coming of age in Southern California in 1969. Deserted by his mother when she flees his abusive father, we follow Rick through family conflicts, juvenile hall, freedom and friendship, and on into a strange journey immersed into the wonder and liberation of Sixties society.
What do you find fascinating about this story?
The beautiful language accurately captures the optimism, internal exploration, and desire for deep change of that period of time, while also presenting the dark side of such a tumultuous, changing world.
A Map if the Edge is not an autobiography, but it is founded in David’s actual, lived life and pulls forward his experience of that liberating, mind-expanding time of the 1960s and 70s.
Tell us more about David T. Isaak. What made him great?
David was a beautiful, brilliant, generous, luscious man, full of humor and idealism. He accepted people, effortlessly, for who they were, and loved the complex and deep interactions we all have with one another. He saw the beauty and value in diligent craft – whether in writing or in cocktail making. He brought light to me and to the people around him through his wit, his esoteric and diverse knowledge of art and culture, and even his elucidation of energy and economics. He has left an unfillable hole, and will be missed deeply.
And his writing is freaking awesome.
What is your favorite moment in this novel?
David was born and identified as male, but he truly understood female sexuality. My favorite scene is in chapter 14, in which one of the female characters – Randi, one of Rick’s lovers – is explaining the bounds and exuberances of female sexual fantasies, and comparing those fantasies to practical reality (while Rick reflects on his own, simpler, fantasies). It’s brilliant and loving, revealing and insightful, and offers the reader a chance to consider their own inner life with respect to their lived world.
David passed away in April 2021. Please tell us more about the Isaak Collection.
David always wanted to write – since he was a child and certainly ever since I met him in 1969. But we got caught up in “practical” education and careers and he didn’t go for it. (Yes, this is one of my deep, deep regrets.) But he was a great writer, bringing style and ease even to the topics of the oil & gas industry and global energy economics. But he still wanted to write novels. So, in a period when we were financially healthy and stable, he took time off – from 2002 to 2007 – to write.
He wrote 5 full novels, plus a few other concepts and starts. He couldn’t find an agent though who wanted the diverse genres of his books, or an editor (except for one book, which was part of the Macmillan New Writing experiment). He became discouraged and went back to doing the energy consultant work that he also loved, and which was appreciated.
The self-publishing industry was not, then, what it is today: self-publishing was basically a writing graveyard where poor fiction went to die, and he didn’t want to lumber off, like a great, sad elephant to that graveyard.
He believed his novels were really good. I, and his friends and family who read them, thought they were mind-bogglingly great. When he passed away in 2021, I realized that my mission in life was to publish David’s amazing, thought-provoking, humorous, beautiful novels, and to keep this brilliant, lovely man’s work alive.
I have encapsulated the 5 novels he wrote during that lifelong dream period as, The Isaak Collection.
In which way is A Map of the Edge a coming-of-age novel?
At the beginning of the story, the protagonist, Rick, is an innocent 15-year-old living alone with his abusive father after his mother took his two siblings and left him behind. When he learns why she left him there with his dad, his world view suddenly opens up and he sees himself in a broader, more expansive, context than life as a child with his family. That is a moment of epiphany. As he explores his new-found view of his life, he realizes that he is an individual on his own journey, and begins to navigate the world on his terms, and chart his own course—with some glitches and pitfalls along the way.
What, would you say, made the Southern California of 1960 such a wild time?
Ah! The freedom! The demand for personal and individual freedom, including sexual freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom to explore our inner selves through meditation, esoteric studies, and the use of mind-expanding psychedelics. The freedom to love one another as we wished, regardless of race or gender or contract.
And the music, the music, the music! The Beatles, King Crimson, The Rolling Stones, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan (and Bob Dylan going electric), Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary and others leading the protest movement through their beautiful voices --- the list goes on and on.
How, would you say, did the sixties' counterculture change the world?
I think the truly lasting effects of the Sixties cultural revolution were to open up critical, and sometimes heart-wrenching, discussions—and change beliefs and laws—surrounding civil rights, gender equality, and animal rights. People felt emboldened to speak up—and stand up against—discrimination, and in protest of government decisions about mandatory military service, sexual repression, and war (and pretty much any topic). This overall mindset that differences are valuable and should be embraced, rather than inferior and wrong, also opened up our collective appreciation for new ways of thinking, new music, new movies, and wild and colorful individual fashion choices. Would we have the freedom of gorgeous purple hair and beautiful body tattoos if not for the 60s protests against mainstream culture? Would we have so many plant-based food options now, if not for the environmental protests against the wanton killing of animals? Would we have people around the globe banding together in peaceful marches down the streets of major cities if not for the sit-ins and peace marches of the 60s? I don’t think so.
Interesting cover. Please tell us more about this.
The person who designed all the covers for The Isaak Collection, Jeff Brown (of Jeff Brown Graphics), is a madly intuitive and creative artist! Through conversations he and I had about A Map of the Edge, he caught the mood of the novel: the psychedelic paisleys, the swirl of mind-altering meditations, and the plunge of a young and nakedly exposed Rick into the maelstrom of life and freedom, surrounded by the essence of female energy.
What is your favorite line in this book and why?
“Pack your head. We’re going on a trip.” This line (well, ok, 2 lines) encapsulates Rick’s deeply curious, open-minded, ingenuous excursion into life, freedom, sex, and, yes, psychedelic-fueled appreciation of the profoundness of the universe. He and Linc embarked on an unforgettable journey – and invited us on their trip.
Which other books are in the Isaak Collection?
In addition to A Map of the Edge, the other 4 books in The Isaak Collection are Tomorrowville (dystopian sci-fi, available now), Things Unseen (a murder mystery with metaphysical elements, available for pre-order), Earthly Vessels (magical realism, available later in 2023), and Smite the Waters (a political thriller, with a twist, available in early 2024).
Where can our readers discover more of the books?
Please check out my publisher’s web page for information about The Isaak Collection:
(Utamatzi is a pivotal character in David’s novel, Earthly Vessels.)
Also, please follow on David’s social media pages for up-to-date information about book launches, promos, etc.:
And, I hope you will click here and add your email to receive regular updates about The Isaak Collection and join David and me on our journey:
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