By the late 1970s LA poet-playwright-journalist Ben Pleasants had begun a series of interviews with a declining Fante and published an important overview of his life and work in the LA Times Book Review in 1979. However, it was Pleasants's friend, the now famous poet and novelist Charles Bukowski, who played the most important role in bringing [John] Fante and his great novel back into public view.
As a struggling young writer haunting the streets of Los Angeles, a la Arturo Bandini, Bukowski had stumbled upon a copy of Ask the Dust in the public library. Fante immediately became a huge influence on the younger man's writing, to the point where Bukowski would later declare that "Fante was my god." Much later Bukowski introduced Ask the Dust to his publisher, John Martin. Martin recognised the novel as a classic and Fante as a major writer, and soon republished it from his Black Sparrow Press where, over the next three-plus decades it would slowly gather a large, adoring audience, while reaping seemingly endless critical praise.
Several years ago, Martin sold Black Sparrow Press. At this point Ask the Dust (along with most of Fante's oeuvre, which Black Sparrow also now published) found its way to Ecco Press, an imprint of HarperCollins, where it has garnered an even larger audience. It's amazing to think, though, that if a young Charles Bukowski had missed Ask the Dust during his time in the LA library, the book's later success might never have come about: it likely would have stayed out of print and Fante would probably be remembered, if he was remembered at all, as another burned-out old screenwriter and failed novelist. Instead, he's seen today as a powerful pre-Beat writer who wrote one of the most influential and important novels of the last, well, 70 years.