Celebrating the season by snuggling between L.A. book covers
When the holidays come, my East Coast friends try to tell me that without chilly winter I’m missing out. It’s not really the season without wool scarves and cocoa by the fire and new-fallen snow.
Who are they kidding?
Snow may be romantic, but they can have their wind-chill factor and ice scrapers. I’m fine with trading eggnog for a margarita and celebrating Christmas under a palm tree. I love this city, and this year there are piles of books that will help me share that enthusiasm over the holidays.
The novel “Mount Terminus” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26) by David Grand imagines a young man who comes to Los Angeles from New York in the earliest part of the 20th century. He comes of age in a home marked by silence and art, falls in love and get involves in silent film. It’s a densely written book that is also a meditation on the ideas that underlie Los Angeles as a city.
Following chronologically, although pitched at a much higher key, is the juicy nonfiction book “Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood” (Harper, $27.99) by William J. Mann. Mann takes a brassy look at the notorious murder of silent film director William Desmond Taylor and early, permissive Hollywood. Drugs, underage starlets, homosexual affairs and headline-grabbing scandals set morals crusaders against the film business, and pioneer Adolph Zukor emerges as an odd, powerful figure who kept his nascent industry alive.
Is it our 292 sunny days per year that make murder stories such a perfect, inverted fit? On the fiction side, two masters have returned to their quintessential L.A. mystery series: James Ellroy and Michael Connelly. Ellroy’s “Perfidia” (Alfred A. Knopf, $28.95) is a prequel to his famous Los Angeles Quartet, a bombastic, intensely stylized narrative of Los Angeles babes, cops and corruption unfolding as the U.S. enters WWII. Set in the present day, Connelly’s Detective Harry Bosch returns in “The Burning Room” (Little, Brown, $28), exploring cold cases in Boyle Heights and Pico-Union.
Across town, one neighborhood has a book all to itself. “Beverly Hills: The First 100 Years” by Robert S. Anderson (Rizzoli, $100) tells the story of the city with lavish photos, historical documents and shots of the stars, from the black-and-white glamour of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford to the Beverly Hills High yearbook photos of Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Cage, David Schwimmer and Lenny Kravitz. If you didn’t know Beverly Hills was quite that old, that’s understandable. She’s had work done (very good work).
Union Station turned 75 this year, an occasion that generated two photo books. “Los Angeles Union Station: Tracks to the Future” by William Bradley (Angel City Press, $37) is a glossy coffee-table book; “Los Angeles: Union Station,” edited by Marlyn Musicant (Getty Research Institute, $24.95) combines color photographs with designs both realized and not, accompanied by contributions from Matthew W. Roth and William Deverell.
“Frank Lloyd Wright on the West Coast” by Mark Anthony Wilson (Gibbs Smith, $50) also combines gorgeous photography with a little something more — research about the people who commissioned these 36 structures and their relationships with the famed architect. This comprehensive book covers the coast; Southern California homes include everything from the famed Hollyhock House to the little-known Oboler compound, built by Arch Oboler, a B-movie producer.
Another B-moviemaker has his own, incredibly unique book out this year: Ed Wood. The late cross-dressing director of “Plan 9 From Outer Space” published horror stories in the pulps, sometimes under a pseudonym. They’ve been collected in the anthology “Blood Splatters Quickly” (OR Books, $45), being issued for the holidays in a special angora edition. While the stories won’t be the most literary fiction of the year, the book is certainly the only one adorned with a tiny fluffy faux-angora pink sweater.
Which is all the sweater Angelenos will need for our Southern California Christmas.
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