Travel Loot

The Dark Side of Hollywood in a Dozen Books

by Natalie Compagno
Dusk

Dusk on the Pacific Coast Highway. Photo by / Flickr.

As part of the literary tour of Los Angeles that she wrote for us, native girl and  owner Natalie Compagno gives us a list of twelve engrossing books set in the spectacularly seedy, sometimes grim, always doggedly enthused side of Tinsel Town. (Note: The list is hers, the synopses are ours.)

LOS ANGELES – A suggested reading list to inspire you before you come, to enjoy while you're here, and to travel back, no matter where you are.


1.
by Raymond Chandler

Hardboiled detective Philip Marlowe takes us on a crime spree through the streets of 1930s Los Angeles.

 


2.
by Nathanael West

Follow a motley crew of individuals struggling to make it in Great Depression-era Hollywood.

 


3.
by John Fante

A young, struggling writer falls in love with an elusive and mentally unstable waitress in downtown LA during the Great Depression.

 


4.
by Joan Didion

Set in the late 1960s, an unfulfilled actress deals with broken relationships, mental illnesses, and death as she goes from Hollywood to Las Vegas to the barren Mojave Desert.


5.
by John Haskell

When exploring the world of celebrity impersonators, a recent LA transplant and writer loses himself as he, too, slowly transforms into his version of Steve Martin.


6.
by Mike Davis

What does power in this city even mean? Through a series of essays, Davis uncovers and explains the forces and structures that move (and control) LA. You'll never look at this town the same way again.

 


7.
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Compiled and published posthumously, the story follows a young Hollywood mogul's rise to power in the heyday of the studio system, inspired by "Boy Wonder" Irving Thalberg.


8.
by Hector Tobar

A grumpy Mexican maid is left in charge of her bosses' children after a couple's spat turns physical. She takes them from a safe, gated community to downtown Los Angeles. Misadenvtures ensue. 


9.
by Brett Easton Ellis

Set in the early '80s, an eastern college boy comes home to LA for Christmas vacation and gets lost in a downward spiral of sex, drugs, and desperation.

 


10.
by T.C. Boyle

An illegal immigrant couple camping in the ravine of Topanga Canyon meet a libreral couple living in a gated community on top of Topanga. Two opposing worlds collide, leading to misunderstanding in this tragicomedy.


11.
by Charles Bukowski

In Bukowski's debut novel, Henry Chinaski plays his fictional alter ego as a middle-aged mail carrier surviving off booze, women, and racetrack betting.

 


12.
by Matthew Specktor

Two generations of Hollywood royalty — a talent agent and his troubled sons — navigate the successes and failures of the movie business in the late 1970s.

 


BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE

Cliff's Notes to Literary Los Angeles
3 Literary Tours of LA from Print to Pavement
Popupla's Guide to Los Angeles

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