Book: Imagining Los Angeles: A City in Fiction (David Fine)

imagining los angeles

 Book: Imagining Los Angeles: A City in Fiction (David Fine)

The basic thing about L.A, he explained, was that it lacked the dimension of time. As katherine had first pointed out to him, there were no seasons there, no days of the week, no night and day; beyond that there was (or was supposed to be) no youth or age. But worst, and most frightening, there was no past or future – only an eternal dizzying present. In effect the city had banned historians as Plato had poets from his Republic.

Allison Lurie’s The Nowhere City

This book does a terrific job at illustrating the fast-paced changes in Los Angeles that established it as the destination city in California ahead of San Francisco. The book deals with the writers, poets, and novelists  that have, over the last century, been enthralled  by the mysticism of this city and who in turn had managed to add to the allure and persuade other fascinated men who have fallen hypnotized by the same siren calls as their cohorts before them. As artists capture and redraw history through brush strokes, novelist and script writers capture and are captured by Los Angeles as a concept and ideal and once absorbed by the city contribute to its folklore through their own experiences as dissected and processed through disillusioned eyes.

A wonderful aspect of this book is its index of subjects . Its reference list is a chronological citation of interesting novels and other books that deal with Los Angeles as it plays itself.


  1. STARTING POINTS- The place and the Writers
  2. BOOSTERS AND BOASTERS – The making and unmasking of a Myth
  3. THE TWENTIES AND BEYOND – Oil, Movies, and Salvation
  4. A VIEW FROM THE BACK ROOM –  The Hard-Boiled Thirties
  5. DOWN THESE MEAN STREETS – The tough-guy detective story
  6. SARGASSO OF THE IMAGINATION – The Hollywood novel
  7. DOWN AND OUT IN LOS ANGELES – from bunker hill to the barrio
  8. BLACK DHALIAS AND ZOOT SUITS – the recovery of history
  9. ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS – surviving apocalypse


A short list of books that use LA as background
  • Don Ryan – Angel’s Flight
  • Nathaniel West – The Day of the Locust
  • Upton Sinclair – Oil!
  • Allison Lurie – The Nowhere City
  • Carl Van Vetchen – Spider Boy, a scenario for a moving picture
  • Myron Brinig – The Flutter of an Eyelid
  • You Play the Black and the Red Turns Up
  • James M Cain- The Postman Always Rings Twice
  • Horace McCoy – They Shoot Horses, Don’t They
  • Raymond Chandler – the big sleep, farewell my lovely, the high window, the lady in the lake, the little sister, the long goodbye, playback
  • Roger Simon – The Big Fix
  • Waugh – After Many a Summer Dies the Swan
  • The Black Sparrow Collection – Wait until Spring, Bandini. The Road to Los Angeles. Ask the Dust. Dreams of Bunker Hill. Full of life.
  • Bukoski – Post Office, Factolum, Women, Ham on Rye, Hollywood, Pulp
  • Mary Austin – The Ford (about the Owens Valley water grab)
  • John Fante’s Ask the Dust (set in Bunker Hill)
Movies that use LA as background
  • Barton Fink
  • There will be blood
  • The Big Lebowski
  • valley girl
  • wassup rockers
  • Criss Cross
  • Chinatown
  • Born in East LA
  • 2 days in the valley
  • killer of sheep
  • What-No Beer?
  • Gone in 60 Seconds (original)
  • Union Station
  • The Exiles
  • Dragnet (1950s)
  • LA Story

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