L.A. Noir by John Buntin

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LA Noir

shortened goodreads blurb

“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 Se–ora la Reina de los Angeles, “The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels.”

I grew up in Orange County and my parents got their sea legs in the outskirts of LA, so the book jumped out at me at the library. Parker Center was the headquarters of the LAPD until 2009. I knew that, but had no idea who this Parker guy was. L.A. Noir solved that problem, but it was a bit painful.

Chief Bill Parker rose to power at the same time the city did and the Mob tried to. Gangster Mickey Cohen’s antics made for some interesting reading, but the majority of the book was totally “put-downable” for me.

I wish that I could really put my finger on why this book was more of a chore or something that I just had to soldier through; as opposed to the history of my city. There were one thing though that stood out…..and it wasn’t the author’s fault….
Chief Parker was, in my humble opinion, an ass. I continue to be baffled why the guy could be so revered that he had a building named after him with this portrayal.

Closet racist, alcoholic, stubborn, opinionated, un-compassionate, verbally and a few times, physically abusive, couldn’t take criticism, totally obsessed with the Red Menace, Communism; I could go on and on about Parker.

Example…

“It is estimated that by 1970,” he told viewers of ABC’s Newsmaker program on August 14th, “forty-five percent of the metropolitan area will be Negro; that excludes San Fernando Valley….If you want any protection for your home and family, you’re going to have to get in and support a strong police department. If you don’t, come 1970, God help you!”

Mickey Cohen was the bright spot and only source of laughter in all of L.A. Noir. Even evangelist Billy Graham  loved the guy. In Mickey’s own words, “I wasn’t the worse. Neither was I the tops.”

My usual goal, in reading nonfiction, is to get a better understanding of the person/event and how they fit into the context of their era. I don’t have the love the subject when I am done, but I can’t think of any other time that I have been completely repulsed by one as I was with Parker. The guy reminded me of J. Edgar Hoover in many ways and Buntin pointed this out a few times as well. This distaste made it a really tough read for me and I just couldn’t understand why peopled backed him and continue to laud him. That is where I think L.A. Noir fell short for me. I found myself struggling to pick the book up and fighting not to put it down.

I wouldn’t call it “fascinating” like the blurb describes, more like shocking and able to leave a bad taste in your mouth about the luminary figure of the LAPD. I will also be asking my parents about their experiences with the riots, LAPD, and general feelings about growing up in LA. Any book that gives me something to talk about with them besides religion, current politics, and that my job isn’t a real job because I don’t wear pants with zippers is a bonus in my view.

Looking at other reviews, this seems like one of those books you either love or hate. Check them out at Goodreads.com.

L.A. Noir by John Buntin

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway; 1 edition (April 6, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 0307352080
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307352088
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This entry was posted in American History, Biography/Memoir, History, Nonfiction, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to L.A. Noir by John Buntin

  1. GRgenius says:

    Ooh…hate it when that happens. At least you learned something new from the read….a positive side at least. Better luck next time.

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