Audie Award Nominee, History, 2013
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.
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 protégé. 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; evangelist Billy Graham sought his soul.
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.
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.
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.
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 Señora la Reina de los Angeles, "The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels."
©2009 John Buntin (P)2012 Tantor
"Important and wonderfully enjoyable." (Los Angeles Times)
As a lifelong Angeleno, this book was very interesting to me. I hardly knew any of this information, and I think the story is compelling enough to hold the interest of people who do not know the area at all. However, the author takes on an affected, fake-pulpy style in the first half that is pretty distracting and definitely takes away from the content. The 20's and 30's were sensational enough on their own and don't really need that, and I would have preferred something a little more historical. The second half, which covers the second half of the 20th century, is much better in that regard. This is a great topic and I think Buntin covered it competently. The narration was good.
Jen in So Cal
No, unless they wanted to relive the shame of the LAPD's last forty years.
Stop the authors notes. It distracted. They should have been incorporated into the story.
Also, the 1991 Riots from the Rodney King verdict were included in the epilogue. Why not have kept it as part of the story, unless you didn't want to explain the 20+ years in between the Watts Riots and the RK verdict?
basically, I didn't think the story lived up to the title and description of the book.
No, but he gave a good read.
Actually, I probably would because most of what would translate to the silver screen would hold my attention.
I enjoy learning about the history of L.A.; I am familiar with so many of the names involved and the action takes place in streets I drive each day. Anyone unfamiliar with the area might find it less interesting.
I love books that can bring history to life, that delve into the reasons for the decision people make, rather than simply recounting a series of events.
I have an excruciatingly long commute. Listening to books is about all that has kept me from falling into the abyss. History and bios only
I enjoyed this history of Los Angeles police chief Parker and criminal Cohen. Story moves along well, good grasp of details without dragging you down into minutia. I recommend.
Yes I would think it needs a stronger editing. A decision on which story the author is telling when should be made. Both stories are strong ,Mickey and the Chief are both strong characters,but their stories need clarification.
I would somewhat recommend this book. With the caveat that the plot is somewhat muddled.
No single scene jumps out as a favorite. The flowing tale was fascinating of itself.
Yes just for the vast amount of information on the development of organized crime and Parker's fight against it. And his development of an honest force.
The connections between historical figures is always fascinating and this book is full of unexpected ones. It is worth a listen just to understand that.
Maybe could use a little editing as it would be impossible to listen in one sitting. But worth it just to understand a small part of 20th C history
This book is probably the basis for the new movie Gangster Squad, which made no sense at all. So good to get the back story to that movie.
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