If noir had a capitol it would be Los Angeles. It’a town that draws people to it with dreams that glitter on the surface, supported by a history of corruption in it’s underside. It’s glamour and grit, romance and rotten humanity. This Saturday, July 20th at 7pm at Opal Divine’s (3601 S. Congress), we will be doing an L.A. themed Noir at the Bar with Marcia Clark (Killer Ambition), Timothy Hallinan (The Fame Thief), and Josh Stallings (All The Wild Children). To keep some local flavor, we’ll have author and musician Jesse Sublett (Grave Digger Blues) there to read and play some tunes. All of our L. A. authors show the range of dark deeds in their town and the stories those deeds inspire. It made us ask our crime author friends what their favorite L.A. crime books are.
It’s no surprise that Raymond Chandler, who put L.A. on the noir map, was the most popular.
“In 1987 I left my Austin music career Behind and moved to Los Angeles because of Raymond Chandler, aspiring to become something like the rock n’ roll Raymond Chandler,” Jesse Sublett told us. “I would love to list a dozen or so super cool obscure titles about LA here, but instead will go with the one that set my brain on fire, captured that city like lightning in a bottle and, like almost every sentence he wrote about it, still feels eerily true every time I’m there in that poisoned paradise: The Big Sleep.”
Chandler’s The Long Goodbye got the most mentions. Reed Farrel Coleman (Onion Street) describes the book as “Drunken writers, deadly blonds, friendship, betrayal, and murder set against the lights of the city of angels.”
“This book breaks the mold of previous Phillip Marlowe stories and carries the reader into the realm of mystical noir.” Explains Jon Steel (Angel City). “More than that, the book is literature disguised as ‘detective fiction.’ ”
Dare Me author Megan Abbott‘s choice the second Marlowe book, Farewell My Lovely. “Yes, the choice may seem too easy, too obvious, but that’s become the perennial LA of my imagination. Tracking Marlowe from downtown to the Santa Monica pier to every far corner, it’s LA at its most glamorous, its most haunted, its darkest.”
Chandler’s influence can be seen in a lot of favorite authors who came after him, as well:
Keith Rawson (editor of Crime Factory Midnight Shift): “L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy. Because there’s no crime writer who better describes the bad old glamorous days of Los Angeles better than Ellroy.”
James Grady (Mad Dogs): “Not one novel, but James Ellroy’s “L.A. Quartet” — The Black Dahlia, L.A. Confidential, Big Nowhere, White Jazz. I’d say Chandler and Ross McDonald, too, but Ellroy’s savagery captures the monsters in the sunshine of L.A. as wonderfully as anyone else, including Nathaniel West.”
Reed Farrel Coleman: “Die A Little by Megan Abbott. Fixers, fakers, femme fatales, drugs … A fresh kind of noir/hard-boiled with Megan’s unique voice.”
Tim Bryant (Southern Select): “After Dark, My Sweet by Jim Thompson. I love Thompson’s writing because he gets into the mind of the protagonist better than most. Therefore, he gets into the mind of the reader.”
Bill Crider: “Ross Macdonald’s The Chill: Lew Archer, Oedipal madness, the past smacking the present in the face, and a great climax.”
Tom Pitts (Piggyback) “Just to upset the apple cart, I’ll throw in Get Shorty. Can’t have LA without picking on Hollywood. And as a side note, I’m reading Point Doom by Dan Fante right now. It’s a good LA crime story. HeJohn Fante’s son. Ask the Dust’s John Fante, speaking of great books about Los Angeles.”
Thomas Pluck (editor of Protectors): “I’m a big fan of Robert Crais, and I like Elvis & Joe Pike too much to choose just one, so I’ll go with a standalone – The Two Minute Rule, which really stuck with me.”
Court Merrigan (Moondog Over The Mekong): “For me it’s The Grifters. My first & still favorite Thompson.”
And then there are our Noir At The Bar Performers:
Tim Hallinan: “There are so many great ones. For now, I’m going with Edward Wright’s Clea’s Moon. Set in 1949 or thereabouts, it follows a skip tracer who was once the star of a grade-z western serial before he was thrown in jail. I think Wright writes L.A, in the 40s/50s better than anyone else who didn’t actually write then.”
Jesse Sublett: “Another one about old LA that’s a little off the beaten track that captures the mist at night and the twisted glories is A Fast One by Paul Cain. I swear when I’m sitting in my friend’s back yard near Whitley Heights where the book starts, you can still feel it.”
Josh Stallings: “Devil in a Blue Dress. Walter Mosley nails the hard side of LA, and the transient feeling that we all came from some place else and this was the last stop before hitting the sea. Yes Chandler, yes Elroy but also yes Mosley.
Marcia Clark: “The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler, L.A. Confidential, by James Ellroy, and Blonde Faith, by Walter Mosley. I know they get mentioned by everyone, but there’s a reason for that. That said, I love Jim Thompson (especially The Grifters and After Dark My Sweet), but he never felt LA-specific.”
Come out this Saturday to Opal Divines and experience LA in Austin.
(A note to those attending. We will have the latest title of each writer on sale at the event, but a limited amount of room for their backlist. We have most of the titles on the shelves at BookPeople, so stop by there if you want a favorite signed.)