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Ask a Book Question: The 38th in a Series (The Fiction of LA)

By posted at 2:53 pm on April 12, 2005 0

Edan writes in with this question:

In preparation for this novel I’d like to write, I am restricting (most) of my reading to novels/stories about Los Angeles. So far, I’ve read the very entertaining and very haunting The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy, and am just now starting Southland by Nina Revoyr. Can you recommend some good LA fiction? Many people have already suggested Nathanael West and John Fante, and of course [Raymond] Chandler, but I’m more interested in contemporary stuff, a la Joan Didion (but not her, since I’ve already read her). And, I don’t want Hollywood crap either… So, yes, character and landscape driven. Any ideas?

The two books that I’ve read that immediately come to mind are The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle and Jamesland by Michelle Huneven. I know you’ve read Jamesland [ed. We led a book club about it way back when], and I’m guessing you’d like books that treat Los Angeles in a similar way. In Jamesland, the “Hollywood” aspect is present but peripheral, which I think is true to the experience of many who live in Los Angeles. The book relies more on the main characters and on the setting, in this case the quiet neighborhoods on the east side of LA. The Tortilla Curtain is similarly character driven, and only a few of the characters have ties to Hollywood. (I remember one character is the guy who does the booming voiceovers for movie previews: “In a world, etc. etc.”). The book follows two couples, well-off suburbanites and illegal aliens whose lives intersect in the hills and canyons just up the coast from Santa Monica, which are peppered with mansions and gated communities.

Anybody else got recommendations? Press the comment button.

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