The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City
Publication Date: June 2012
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Former street thug turned featherweight boxer Mickey Cohen left the ring for the rackets, first as mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel's enforcer, then as his protege. A fastidious dresser and unrepentant killer, the diminutive Cohen was Hollywood's favorite gangster and L.A.'s preeminent underworld boss. Frank Sinatra, Robert Mitchum, and Sammy Davis Jr., palled around with him; TV journalist Mike Wallace wanted his stories; evangelist Billy Graham sought his soul.
William H. Parker was the proud son of a pioneering law-enforcement family from the fabled frontier town of Deadwood. As a rookie patrolman in the Roaring Twenties, he discovered that L.A. was ruled by a shadowy "Combination" a triumvirate of tycoons, politicians, and underworld figures where alliances were shifting, loyalties uncertain, and politics were practiced with shotguns and dynamite. Parker's life mission became to topple it and to create a police force that would never answer to elected officials again.
These two men, one morally unflinching, the other unflinchingly immoral, would soon come head-to-head in a struggle to control the city a struggle that echoes unforgettably through the fiction of Raymond Chandler and movies such as The Big Sleep, Chinatown, and L.A. Confidential.
For more than three decades, from Prohibition through the Watts Riots, the battle between the underworld and the police played out amid the nightclubs of the Sunset Strip and the mansions of Beverly Hills, from the gritty streets of Boyle Heights to the manicured lawns of Brentwood, intersecting in the process with the agendas and ambitions of J. Edgar Hoover, Robert F. Kennedy, and Malcolm X. The outcome of this decades-long entanglement shaped modern American policing for better and for worse and helped create the Los Angeles we know today.
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 Senora la Reina de los Angeles, "The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels."
Kirby Heyborne, an accomplished actor, musician, and comedian, has received a number of "AudioFile" Earphones Awards and has narrated such titles as "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist" by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, "Black Swan Green" by David Mitchell, and "The Genius" by Jesse Kellerman.