• The Mirage Factory

  • Illusion, Imagination, and the Invention of Los Angeles
  • By: Gary Krist
  • Narrated by: Rob Shapiro
  • Length: 11 hrs and 55 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (315 ratings)
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The Mirage Factory

By: Gary Krist
Narrated by: Rob Shapiro
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Publisher's summary

From best-selling author Gary Krist, the story of the metropolis that never should have been and the visionaries who dreamed it into reality 

Little more than a century ago, the southern coast of California - bone-dry, harbor-less, isolated by deserts and mountain ranges - seemed destined to remain scrappy farmland. Then, as if overnight, one of the world’s iconic cities emerged. At the heart of Los Angeles’ meteoric rise were three flawed visionaries. William Mulholland, an immigrant ditch-digger turned self-taught engineer, designed the massive aqueduct that would make urban life here possible. D.W. Griffith, who transformed the motion picture from a vaudeville-house novelty into a cornerstone of American culture, gave LA its signature industry. And Aimee Semple McPherson, a charismatic evangelist who founded a religion, cemented the city’s identity as a center for spiritual exploration.

All were masters of their craft, but also illusionists, of a kind. The images they conjured up - of a blossoming city in the desert, of a factory of celluloid dreamworks, of a community of seekers finding personal salvation under the California sun - were like mirages liable to evaporate on closer inspection. All three would pay a steep price to realize these dreams, in a crescendo of hubris, scandal, and catastrophic failure of design that threatened to topple each of their personal empires. Yet when the dust settled, the mirage that was LA remained.

Spanning the years from 1900 to 1930, The Mirage Factory is the enthralling tale of an improbable city and the people who willed it into existence by pushing the limits of human engineering and imagination.

©2018 Gary Krist (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

“[Krist’s] dramatic portrayals of politics, scandals, sabotage, and bombings make for a rich, rewarding read.... An entertaining, intertwined tale of triumph, hubris, and Manifest Destiny in the city of angels.” (Kirkus)

"[Krist] marshals his considerable storytelling skills to capture Los Angeles at a critical moment...expertly weav[ing] together the stories of Griffith, Mulholland and McPherson.... But above all Krist is a nimble scene-setter, and it's the indelible details he offers that give The Mirage Factory its mesmerizing pull." (The New York Times)

"As a writer, Krist is a dream-weaver...exquisite pacing and seamless shifting between the characters allow their stories to connect.... I've read dozens of histories of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and none are as viscerally compelling or as clear in detailed descriptions of the complicated machinations as Krist's account.... Krist's book is so good that, like the best movies, it ends up inverting the genre." (The Washington Post)

What listeners say about The Mirage Factory

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Great start, weak completion

The Mirage Factory grabbed my attention from the beginning with its discussion of the battle to bring water to L.A. It then segued to the nascent film industry of silent films in the Eastern U.S. and it’s speedy move to L.A. I found this all very informative and interesting. But when the author introduced Aimee Semple McPerson I felt the book came apart. Her bizarre story, though apparently important around the 1920s, might interest evangelicals but not me. It sounded like a fantasy story with too much detail. I wish the book stuck with water and film beyond the 1930s.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Must read for any Los Angeleno

The history of Los Angeles is told in this book through the lives of three larger than life characters. William Mulholland, D.W. Griffith and Aimee Semple McPherson, who helped made the city what it is. One of the great books of all time that tells the Mulholland story is Cadillac Desert by the late Marc Reiser. This audiobook tells the creation story of Los Angeles through the lives of Mulholland, Griffith and Aimee Semple McPherson, the tireless, and widely popular (at the time) Canadian-American Pentecostal evangelist who, Krist argues, gave birth to the spiritual side of the city, helping create the notion of LA as a place of spiritual awakening and fulfillment. The audiobook is an easy listen, the narrator has a very even but charismatic voice. The audiobook is strewn with fascinating details about how Los Angeles grew from the 35th largest city in the early 20th century to the second largest by the 1950s. It's a really interesting and enjoyable listen. Highly recommended.

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Fascinating!

An amazing intertwining of the several makor enterprises that created Los Angeles and the people who made it happen!

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Why did it have to end

This book was fantastic. The story was educational and entertaining. Krist's style of writing and Shapiro's narration not only made the story easy to picture but it actually felt like I was there at times. I could feel the mood or the emotion of the moment. Highly recommend.

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Page turner

Shapiro’s performance was captivating and the histories provided were extremely informative and were well written

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AMAZING! Birth of LA

This book not only shows us how LA came to be, but also covers some huge disasters and scandals in LA most people never heard of. It’s so fun just to imagine what it would have been like to be in LA or Hollywood at the start of the film industry and the aqueducts

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Acting History

A must read for anyone living in the city, especially for artists and transplants looking to make their mark.

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Transplanted to LA

As an immigrant to Los Angeles 50 years ago, I was knowledgeable enough about the three stars of this extravaganza but very ignorant of the specifics of the County, City, suburbs and history of the people & places & how they got to be what they have become in 2022. The fact that the DWP is still corrupt, that enough water for a growing community is an ever present problem & that pervasive racism still abounds is amazing. “Hollywood” now is more a concept than a specific place is also apparent.
I loved the story; the presentation is exquisite & the future is still cloudy. It is well written if a little bit jumpy from place to place & time period to time period.
I highly recommend this tome to everyone interested in this magnificent country of ours & specifically LALA LAND.

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Very Good

Worthwhile exposition of some of the major historical events and figures of Los Angeles. Storylines keep it interesting and the narrator is fine.

I highly recommend it.

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Amazing history of LA

Loved this book. If you know little of LA history, and even if you don't care of how it came to be, this book is an amazing account of a city that only came about because of the focus of brilliant - yet flawed - people. I couldn't put it down.

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