It is a common structural element in classical detective stories to gather all the persons involved in the narrative in a strategic room where the detective (Charlie Chan comes to mind, despite the ethnic controversy) and meticulously recreates the crime, often trapping the perpetrator who attempts to subvert the final solution, even if the final solution was not fully resolved by the detective’s recreation.
Then there was the Ellery Queen structure where the reader (or viewer) was invited to solve the mystery based on a clue Ellery hinted at but wouldn’t specify until the criminal was revealed (following the “suspects gathered in a room” formula).
Continue reading “Dino’s Address Was Not 77 Sunset Strip”
I am enjoying another month of somewhat light reading. I can’t simply say “light reading” because I am encountering twisted or barely-conceivable plot elements, putrid and gory dead bodies, cockroaches, and an occasional virgin or two. One pleasure I find is references to Los Angeles, whether by a struggling script writer or a grizzled homicide detective.
I left Los Angeles in 1968 but have nurtured a nostalgia for the city since the early ’50s. I have admitted this before when discussing the Philip Marlowe stories. I was born so I could experience the Los Angeles of ’30s and ’40s just as that world was slipping away. My college years at the university, my struggles of (too) early marriage, and a 1950 MG TD with the doors tied together by a frayed rope and a rag-top permanently fixed in the down position, gave me further insight into the city. My most vivid image: riding in that MG down Wilshire Boulevard in a misty rain with an large umbrella held over my head.
Continue reading “My Papa’s Waltz”
Gary Indiana had an unusual career, as a writer, filmmaker, visual artist, actor and playwright. He briefly studied at UC Berkeley but dropped out to help a friend make pornographic films. After soaking up the sunshine noir and punk scene of 1970s Los Angeles, he moved to New York City and settled into a cheap East Village apartment — the same one he lives in today. Since 1987, Indiana has published novels, nonfiction, plays, short stories — all with an unmistakable, sardonic voice embedded in the text, and all experimenting with the traditions of form.
The title of his latest memoir, I Can Give You Anything but Love is “really about disconnection between sexual desire and love, in my life,” Indiana says. A graphic and funny memoir, it finds the author reinventing yet another genre — this time using his own personal narrative. He becomes the connective tissue that binds together a diaspora of subcultures: the beatnik-era experimental writing and happenings of downtown New York, the 1960s co-opted counterculture gone awry, the punk movement that followed, and the art and intellectual circles of the Reagan ’80s, when the AIDs crisis was wiping out a generation of young gay men like him.
(revised from the introduction to an interview with Indiana by J.C. Gabel in the L. A. Times.)
Continue reading “I Can Give You Anything But Love”
It’s war time and the City of the Angels is experiencing a great deal of influence and intrigue from religious, communist, fascist, and government operatives seeking to control the population or to overthrown the government or to find loose women to satisfy a sailor on shore leave or just to make a fashion statement in the Barrio.
The history of the Barrio, the pachuco, and the zoot-suiters make for fascinating reading. Add to that some rioting, espionage, combat, and baseball (not to mention a love story) and Thomas Sanchez’s novel is a fast mover with just enough nostalgia for the Los Angeles of the forties to make it really interesting.
Zoot-Suit Murders reminded me of two similar stories: The Day of the Locust and the movie Chinatown (not to mention all those wonderful Philip Marlowe adventures).
Thomas Sanchez writes novels that eschew arcane literary values and instead provide a good, entertaining story with fine attention to the visual detail of his subject. Sanchez is also in the movie business, so it makes sense.
Continue reading “Zoot-Suit Murders”