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(Holly)wood Pulp: 15 Books That Helped Me Understand the City of Angels

[Editor’s Note: Visit Duane Swierczynski’s website for a fantastic opportunity. Check it out before you read this article.]

Until Fun & Games, I set most of my novels in Philadelphia. No, I don’t have some kickback deal with the local chamber of commerce. Philly’s where I was born and raised, and for better or worse, it’s where my imagination goes to play. If I had been born in, say, Grand Island, Nebraska, I’m sure I would have set my stories there, albeit with minor differences. (For example, The Wheelman may have been published as The Combine Harvester Man.)

Over the years, however, I’ve spent an increasing amount of time in Los Angeles—book signings, meetings, festivals, vacations. And then a funny thing happened: my imagination started to cheat on Philadelphia.

Fun & Games is the love child of one of those L.A. brain flings, as is “Hell Of An Affair,” my short story for the L.A. Noire anthology. (Sometimes my brain can be a total slut.) And while Fun & Games is mostly told from the perspective of an outsider, I felt like I had to learn all I could about the City of Angels. Otherwise, what kind of baby daddy would I be?

So I spent a lot of time gorging on L.A. music, L.A.-set movies, L.A. novels, and of course, L.A. history. Here’s an informal list* of the 15 books that put me in the mindset of this crazy town.

And please add your favorites in the comments section below. You never know when my brain will want to stray again…

*I’ve left out the obvious L.A. classics, both modern and vintage—James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels, Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole and Joe Pike thrillers, as well as Nathanael West, Horace McCoy, Raymond Chandler, and James M. Cain. I mean, you came here for the oddball stuff, right?

* * *

L.A. Bizarro: The All-New Insider’s Guide to the Obscure, The Absurd and the Perverse, by Anthony Lovett and Matt Maranian. This book was my Bible during my last couple of visits to L.A., and I’m not going to stop until I hit every last freaky cafeteria, kitschy dive and grisly murder site. There’s an older edition from 1997, and I recommend tracking that one down, too—there are enough differences to make it worth your time.

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An Excerpt from The Lincoln Lawyer: Chapter 3

The Lincoln Lawyer, the film based on Michael Connelly’s bestselling novel arrives in movie theaters today. As Connelly wrote on The Huffington Post,” it has been a ten-year journey from inspiration to book to film and the miles along the way have been replete with serendipity and good luck.” Here, we present Chapter 3 of the book that inspired the movie. (Missed Chapter 1 or Chapter 2? Read them first.)

THREE

In the hallway outside the courtroom I turned my cell phone back on and called my driver to tell him I was coming out. I then checked voicemail and found messages from Lorna Taylor and Fernando Valenzuela. I decided to wait until I was in the car to make the callbacks.

Earl Briggs, my driver, had the Lincoln right out front. Earl didn’t get out and open the door or anything. His deal was just to drive me while he worked off the fee he owed me for getting him probation on a cocaine sales conviction. I paid him twenty bucks an hour to drive me but then held half of it back to go against the fee. It wasn’t quite what he was making dealing crack in the projects but it was safer, legal and something that could go on a résumé. Earl said he wanted to go straight in life and I believed him.

I could hear the sound of hip-hop pulsing behind the closed windows of the Town Car as I approached. But Earl killed the music as soon as I reached for the door handle. I slid into the back and told him to head toward Van Nuys.

“Who was that you were listening to?” I asked him.

“Um, that was Three Six Mafia.”

“Dirty south?”

“That’s right.”

Over the years, I had become knowledgeable in the subtle distinctions, regional and otherwise, in rap and hip-hop. Across the board, most of my clients listened to it, many of them developing their life strategies from it.

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An Excerpt from The Lincoln Lawyer: Chapter 2

On March 18, Michael Connelly’s bestselling legal thriller The Lincoln Lawyer is set to hit movie theaters, starring Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei and more.  Mulholland Books is excerpting the first three chapters from the book,accompanied by stills from the film, as well as some surprises along the way. Visit Michael Connelly’s Facebook page to learn more about The Lincoln Lawyerand the next book in the Mickey Haller series, The Fifth Witness (in bookstores April 5, 2011). New: take Michael Connelly with you everywhere with the brand new iPhone/iPad application.

Missed Chapter 1? Read it first.

TWO

The courtroom in Department 2A was crowded with lawyers negotiating and socializing on both sides of the bar when I got there. I could tell the session was going to start on time because I saw the bailiff seated at his desk. This meant the judge was close to taking the bench.

In Los Angeles County the bailiffs are actually sworn deputy sheriffs who are assigned to the jail division. I approached the bailiff, whose desk was right next to the bar railing so citizens could come up to ask questions without having to violate the space assigned to the lawyers, defendants and courtroom personnel. I saw the calendar on the clipboard in front of him. I checked the nameplate on his uniform—R. Rodriguez—before speaking.

“Roberto, you got my guy on there? Harold Casey?”

The bailiff used his finger to start down the list on the call sheet but stopped quickly. This meant I was in luck.

“Yeah, Casey. He’s second up.”

“Alphabetical today, good. Do I have time to go back and see him?”

“No, they’re bringing the first group in now. I just called. The judge is coming out. You’ll probably have a couple minutes to see your guy in the pen.”

“Thank you.”

I started to walk toward the gate when he called after me.

“And it’s Reynaldo, not Roberto.”

“Right, right. I’m sorry about that, Reynaldo.”

“Us bailiffs, we all look alike, right?”

I didn’t know if that was an attempt at humor or just a dig at me. I didn’t answer. I just smiled and went through the gate. I nodded at a couple lawyers I didn’t know and a couple that I did. One stopped me to ask how long I was going to be up in front of the judge because he wanted to gauge when to come back for his own client’s appearance. I told him I was going to be quick.

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Michael Connelly Drives Mulholland: EXCLUSIVE Video

Today is the publication date of Michael Connelly’s new novel The Reversal, which we of course devoured the minute we got our hands on it. Michael Connelly is an amazing writer and chronicler of Los Angeles.

Below is a video, exclusive to MulhollandBooks.com of Michael Connelly driving on Mulholland Drive, talking about The Reversal and the role that that the road plays in the book. (Please note that this video does contain a bit of information about the end of The Reversal. If you don’t want to know anything before you’ve read the book, you might want to wait to watch the video until after you’re done. Which, let’s be honest, you should be soon because it’s so good.)

This video is from The Reversal enhanced eBook, which is available for the iBook application and the iPad Kindle application. The enhanced eBook includes many more videos like this one created exclusively for the eBook, as well as interactive maps of Los Angeles featuring locations from The Reversal, commentary by Michael Connelly, author Q&A, timelines of major events in the lives of Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller and much more.

Download from the iBook store.
Download from the Kindle store.

Want to show your love for Michael Connelly?  Check in to The Reversal on entertainment social network GetGlue via the web or GetGlue’s app and share on Twitter and/or Facebook to earn Michael Connelly-related stickers. Collect a variety of 7 or more GetGlue stickers, and GetGlue will mail crack-n-peel versions of the stickers to you to display proudly.

Report from the Bookselling Front at The Mystery Bookstore Los Angeles

mulholland drive somewhereMulholland Drive is notorious in our town and around the world as a street of significant history—some of it quite shady, some of it fictional, some of it quite real. All of it makes for great crime (fiction). When we saw the name of the new Little, Brown imprint, we were intrigued.

It was when we saw the lineup of the authors that we started doing various versions of chair dancing. Okay, I did some chair dancing and some instantaneous Facebooking and Tweeting; Store Manager Bobby McCue—aka Dark Bobby—raised an eyebrow, nodded his head ever so slightly, and said, “Hmmm…this will be cool.”

Mulholland Books has gathered authors ranging from legendary and established icons to up-and-coming talents, with everything in between. And they’re reaching beyond our own American shores to the UK and Australia, and to various subgenres within the field. Most of these authors will already be known to our customers; many of these authors have become good friends to The Mystery Bookstore Los Angeles. All of these authors will be of great interest to our customers and staff.

The authors and the mission of Mulholland Books are so very much at the heart of The Mystery Bookstore Los Angeles: to promote the best of crime fiction, whether it’s from old friends or newcomers to the field. When I saw the press release on an author friend’s blog, I immediately fired off an email to Miriam Parker, head goddess/marketing director of Mulholland Books, and said, “Whatever we can do to help, let us know!” This is a party we want to be in on, from the very beginning—a venture that has The Mystery Bookstore Los Angeles written all over it!

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