A Bright and Guilty Place
Murder, Corruption, and L.A.'s Scandalous Coming of Age
By Richard Rayner
(Anchor, Paperback, 9781400033584, 304pp.)
Publication Date: June 1, 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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Best Book of the Year
The Los Angeles Times • The Washington Post
Los Angeles was the fastest growing city in the world, mad with oil fever, get-rich-quick schemes, and celebrity scandals. It was also rife with organized crime, with a mayor in the pocket of the syndicates and a DA taking bribes to throw trials. In A Bright and Guilty Place, Richard Rayner narrates the entwined lives of two men, Dave Clark and Leslie White, who were caught up in the crimes, murders, and swindles of the day. Over a few transformative years, as the boom times shaded into the Depression, the adventures of Clark and White would inspire pulp fiction and replace L.A.’s reckless optimism with a new cynicism. Together, theirs is the tale of how the city of sunshine went noir.
Richard Rayner is the author of Drake’s Fortune, The Cloud Sketcher, The Associates, and several other books. His writing appears in The New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. He lives in Los Angeles.
“Brilliant. . . . The nonfiction equivalent of the Raymond Chandler classics. . . . Utterly truthful, fantastic and new.” —Los Angeles Times
“[A] multifaceted literary high wire act. . . . Rayner can write an engaging sentence and construct an artful, evocative yarn.” —The New York Times Book Review
“To love this book you have to love the wonderful novels of Raymond Chandler or James Ellroy. . . . If you can go along with that point of view, this social history will be a bonanza for you, a boundless source of creepy joy. . . . [A] complex and bristling narrative.” —Washington Post
“[Rayner] abounds in the doings of crooked politicians, conniving business people, brothel keepers, casino operators, blackmailers, embezzlers, unscrupulous lawyers, corruptible journalists, thugs who took care of their dirtier jobs. And, of course, the Hollywood stars.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Set in Los Angeles during the Roaring Twenties, A Bright and Guilty Place weaves the stories of two men, an idealistic crime scene investigator and a charismatic politico, who stood on opposite sides of a scandal that shaped a city’s identity and darkened its soul. Richard Rayner makes masterful use of his material—sex, murder, corruption, greed, and the invention of noir—to concoct a seething, sinful tale worthy of Raymond Chandler himself. This is narrative nonfiction at its best: meticulously researched, deftly drawn, and more compelling than anything the imagination might dare to conjure.” —Karen Abbott, author of the New York Times bestseller Sin in the Second City
“A Bright and Guilty Place is a seductively readable knot of intersecting stories about pre-noir Los Angeles. It has an intriguing shape, a spectrum of emotions, beckoning suspense, satisfying inevitability, and a flavor all its own, at once familiar and strange.” —Luc Sante, author of Low Life
“Thanks to this detailed and cinematic narrative of desperate people in a desperate city, LA the place, LA the novel, and LA the film are fused into a tour de force of LA noir.” —Kevin Starr, author of Coast Of Dreams: California on the Edge, 1990-2002