Monday, January 11, 2010
"L.A. Noir" by John Buntin
This book is a real page turner. Los Angeles has a very colorful and sordid history. From the 1920's through the 1960's is like one big film noir story.
In this book Mr. Buntin explores that history and the characters involved in the making of the legend that Los Angeles has become. This story involves Bugsy Seigel, Mickey Cohen, Clark Clifford, Billy Graham and a host of others. The Billy Graham-Mickey Cohen connection is truly amazing all by itself. The whole book is one long narrative of how crime, vice, politics and religion play such a large role in our daily lives. In this case the connection of these forces shaped the direction of a major city.
If you have ever seen the movie "LA Confidential" you will be amazed at how much of that movie was taken from real life. "Bloody Christmas" really did happen in 1951 Los Angeles. This was a time when people left bottles of whiskey on the corner for the police to pick up for the annual holiday bash at Central Division.
Illegal wiretapping, beatings, prostitution and gambling are the mainstays of Organized Crime and Los Angeles is determined to keep Organized Crime out of the city. They had their own "Combination" going and wanted no competition. The battle was on for control of the city and its' criminal enterprises.
With the advent of the Kefauver Committee in the 1950's Robert Kennedy enters upon the scene as counsel for the hearings. This role helps pave the way for his brother John's Presidential run in 1960. And Los Angeles would be the site of that years Democratic Convention. It is also the city where Robert Kennedy would be killed in 1968 at the height of his own Presidential campaign.
There is a scene in the movie "Mulholland Falls" in which Nick Nolte and his fellow detectives take an out of town hood and throw him off a cliff. If it seemed far fetched in the film- it wasn't. In real life it actually happened- more than once.
The book is gritty and carries the tension of the struggle between law enforcement and the Mob on every page. The personal peculiarities of Mickey Cohen and his henchman make dramatic and sometimes amusing reading.
The book is extensive and follows the history of crime in Los Angeles from the 1930's through the racially charged times of the Watts Riots in 1965 and beyond. It is well written and has an extensive bibliography. And through this book I have learned that Mickey Cohen wrote an autobiography. You can be sure I will be reading that one!