The Dark Underbelly of the City of Angels

Raymond Chandler didn't invent L.A. noir. He just embellished on it. And graphic artist Jim Heimann presents the proof in "Sins of the City: The Real Los Angeles Noir" (Chronicle Books), a compilation of black-and-white photos snapped around the Southland from the 1920s to the '50s.

Among the 200 images--some of which were taken by early-day paparazzi photographers from East Coast tabloids--are corpses on coroner's slabs (notably Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel), raids on brothels and grisly crime scenes, including that of the bisected body of "Black Dahlia" Elizabeth Short.

In his text, Heimann, who earlier took a fond look back at drive-ins in "Car Hops and Curb Service," writes about crackpots, cultists and crazies, not palm trees and orange groves and sunshine.

"The flip side of paradise was a different Southland, a web of dope rings, petty criminals, sensational murders, ladies of the evening, bullet-riddled bodies and a notoriously corrupt police force," he says.

Just another day in paradise.

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