Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Up until recently, my forays into non-fiction were almost entirely restricted to university writing assignments.

Only one example springs to mind. I read a biography of Ludwig II of Bavaria after finishing Gabriel Knight II: The Beast Within.

Now it's almost all non-fiction. I just finished up "Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age" and prior to that it was "Big Bang: The Origin Of The Universe." Now, I'm reading "L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City" which has so far been fascinating.

I've probably recounted here or elsewhere my love of the stories of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler and their "hard boiled" detective fiction, the multitude of radio dramas that rolled out from the 1930's and 1940's, and Rockstar's "L.A. Noire" game from 2011. No doubt this has affected my enjoyment of "L.A. Noir" -- specifically, I'm probably enjoying it more than most.

The author, John Buntin, chronicles the parallel rise of gangster Mickey Cohen and (eventual) LA Police Chief, William Parker, but there's so much more going on in the story of life in Los Angeles' earlier years. Through the Great Depression, during the onset of World War II and it's aftermath, Los Angeles, as conjured in my imagination, seems like it was always about 48 hours from outright chaos and societal collapse.

It's hard for me to think that this is no longer the case.

Every time I've been in LA -- mostly for E3 -- it always felt like it was on the verge of unraveling. Maybe it's the fact downtown is devoid of people after normal working hours or the dust; a perfume of asphalt, concrete, and car exhaust; those burrito places that open walk-in churches when the sun goes down. There's just something desperate about the place.

I realize that it's quite possible my brain has just imprinted the "hard boiled" sensibility on the entire place, so maybe that feeling will be inescapable no matter what I do, but "L.A. Noir" isn't helping dissuade my assessment of the place.

Another thing the book does -- at least for me and it's probably inadvertent -- is draw parallels between the way the Los Angeles police operated in terms of wire tapping and the current operation of the US's National Security Agency. As I wrote previously, it's very good read so far!