Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles… Frank Lloyd Wright


L.A. noir : the struggle for the soul of America’s most seductive city  John Buntin  New York : Harmony Books, c 2009  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xii, 419 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [349]-408) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

lanoir003

Midcentury Los Angeles. A city sold to the world as “the white spot of America,” a land of sunshine and orange groves, wholesome Midwestern values and Hollywood stars, protected by the world’s most famous police force, the Dragnet-era LAPD. Behind this public image lies a hidden world of “pleasure girls” and crooked cops, ruthless newspaper tycoons, corrupt politicians, and East Coast gangsters on the make. Into this underworld came two men – one L.A.’s most notorious gangster, the other its most famous police chief – each prepared to battle the other for the soul of the city.

lanoir001

Former street thug turned featherweight boxer Mickey Cohen left the ring for the rackets, first as mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s enforcer, then as his protege. A fastidious dresser and unrepentant killer, the diminutive Cohen was Hollywood’s favorite gangster – and L.A.’s preeminent underworld boss. Frank Sinatra, Robert Mitchum, and Sammy Davis Jr. palled around with him; TV journalist Mike Wallace wanted his stories.

lanoir005

William H. Parker was the proud son of a pioneering law-enforcement family from the fabled frontier town of Deadwood. As a rookie patrolman in the Roaring Twenties, he discovered that L.A. was ruled by a shadowy “Combination” – a triumvirate of tycoons, politicians, and underworld figures where alliances were shifting, loyalties uncertain, and politics were practiced with shotguns and dynamite. Parker’s life mission became to topple it – and to create a police force that would never answer to elected officials again.

lanoir002

These two men, one morally unflinching, the other unflinchingly immoral, would soon come head-to-head in a struggle to control the city – a struggle that echoes unforgettably through the fiction of Raymond Chandler and movies such as The Big Sleep, Chinatown, and L.A. Confidential.

lanoir006

For more than three decades, from Prohibition through the Watts Riots, the battle between the underworld and the police played out amid the nightclubs of the Sunset Strip and the mansions of Beverly Hills, from the gritty streets of Boyle Heights to the manicured lawns of Brentwood, intersecting in the process with the agendas and ambitions of J. Edgar Hoover, Robert F. Kennedy, and Malcolm X. The outcome of this decades-long entanglement shaped modern American policing – for better and for worse – and helped create the Los Angeles we know today.

lanoir004

A fascinating examination of Los Angeles’s underbelly, the Mob, and America’s most admired – and reviled – police department, L.A. Noir is an enlightening, entertaining, and richly detailed narrative about the city originally known as El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles, “The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels.”

Advertisements

Comments Off on Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles… Frank Lloyd Wright

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments are closed.