Like The Last Spin, Happy New Year, Herbie (1965) is a collection from the versatile and multi-named Evan Hunter. However, unlike The Last Spin, this collection is less prone to wander across genres: the eleven stories contained within are all contemporary literary fiction.
The opening story, "Uncle Jimbo's Marbles", is the longest, and perhaps my favourite of the collection. A young man is convinced by his girlfriend to become a camp counselor for the summer. It is better for them to across the lake from one another at "Camp Marvin" and "Camp Lydia" than trapped in New York under the scrutiny of her disapproving father. At least, so the theory goes.
Unfortunately, Marvin himself - the head honcho - has other ideas. A polio scare means that he declares 'quarantine', and the two camps are no longer allowed to come into contact (except for passed notes). As Camp Marvin goes stir crazy, a new obsession arises: marbles. Soon, it turns out that one of the counselors - Jimbo - is a marble maven, and threatens to capture all the glassy loot available. The story describes the camp's slow degeneration into madness, as marbles become objects of current, despair and, ultimately, a sort of cultish fixation. Our narrator, grounded by (what we assume is) puppy love, is the only one to keep his head - but even he can't escape his bizarrely dystopian setting.
"Uncle Jimbo's Marbles" is a coming of age story, but also one that mixes an improbable tension with a heart-warming resolution. Definitely a camp story, but one that comes equipped with some strange life lessons.