Zoot-Suit Murders

images-1.jpgIt’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.

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High School Memories

On more than one occasion I have spoken of one of my High School friends who often showed up to school after a fun weekend with one or both of his fists in a cast … the old kind with lots of ersatz-concrete to enhance clumsiness and more than enough white-space to portray a favorite Rat Fink pose. I also have reflected on my friend’s stunning pachuco styling, especially some of the earliest bell-bottoms to appear on campus without requiring an enlistment in the Navy.

I didn’t follow my friend’s career after High School (shoot, I didn’t follow the over nine-hundred classmates I graduated with) but there are hints he was from a Navy family and may have taken service to his country as a career (besides, think of all the bar fights there are in those far-away exotic destinations). I don’t mean to denigrate my friend with the references to bar fights: to me it brings back a vivid image of his feistiness and vitality.

Sadly I received notification that my friend died last month. We were never that close but he is one of my best memories of growing up.