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L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive Cityby John Buntin
Synopses & Reviews
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."
"Buntin documents the history of 1950s Los Angeles through the epic rivalry between the city's police chief, William Parker, and its organized crime leader, Mickey Cohen. Buntin traces the rivals' humbler beginnings, their confrontations, and how the city was shaped by them both. Narrator Kirby Heyborne's narration is clear and well paced, but not compelling. And while he infuses his reading with a hint of raspiness — something that could invoke the crime and corruption of 1950s L.A. — his voice is not deep or commanding enough. His narration is too congenial for a book this menacing, and he fails to convey the drama of his subject matter. Heyborne's timing is excellent, however, and he brings appropriate emphasis and nuance to important passages.Â A Broadway paperback. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A journalist and case writer presents a social history of Los Angeles, from Prohibition to the Watts riots, focusing on the long-running war between notorious gangster Mickey Cohen and the man who would become the city's most famous police chief, William H. Parker.
About the Author
John Buntin is a staff writer at Governing magazine, where he covers crime and urban affairs. A native of Mississippi, Buntin graduated from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and has worked as a case writer for Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. John lives in Washington, D.C., with his family. Kirby Heyborne is an accomplished actor, musician, and comedian. He has received critical acclaim for his starring roles in the award-winning World War II drama Saints and Soldiers, the lighthearted family comedy The R.M., the award-winning boy-band mockumentary The Sons of Provo, and the award-winning quixotic comedy Pirates of the Great Salt Lake. He has had starring roles in thirteen features and many short films. Kirby has also appeared on the WB's Everwood and many national commercials. Recently, Kirby was seen as a recurring character on the hit FOX sitcom Free Ride. Kirby has received a number of AudioFile Earphones Awards for excellence in audiobook narration. He has narrated such titles as Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Black Swan Green by David Mitchell, Breathers by S. G. Browne, and The Genius by Jesse Kellerman. Kirby is a cofounder and director of the celebrated Los Angeles–based improv comedy group The Society. Also a successful musician, Kirby has released four solo albums and has had his music featured in many films. Kirby has delighted audiences across the country with his ability to blend heart-warming stories, beautiful music, and comedic wit.
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History and Social Science » Crime » True Crime