Akashic's city-themed noir series (New Orleans Noir, etc.) finally reaches L.A., a prime locale for this subgenre. Of the 17 contributors, bestseller Michael Connelly is most likely to be familiar to a wide audience. Connelly's "Mulholland Drive," a nice tribute to the classic noir film Double Indemnity, is representative of the quality writing that followers of previous volumes have come to expect. The movie industry, both latter-day and the present, offers a rich background for tight tales of trapped men and women whose passions or desperate circumstances lead them to violent ends, such as the book's stand-out, Janet Fitch's "The Method." Another highpoint is the collection's concluding story, Diana Wagman's "What You See," a depressing but compelling tale of a tragic obsession. 


These 17 very different stories confirm just how many places L.A. has become.... Janet Fitch, as usual, operates at a scary level of intensity. Her story, "The Method," opens with a string of zippy one-liners that out-Chandler Chandler...The Los Feliz setting is evoked without fuss as the story builds to a mind-bobbling climax, like her novel "White Oleander," at full throttle; I wanted to take my eyes off the page and couldn't. 

"The Method," like Hamilton's "Midnight in Silicon Valley," does indeed recall the type of plot that Cain made seem particular to Southern California, where money gets mixed up with sex and murder in a landscape that is constantly changing in an amoral universe. 

Other stories strike a very different tone. "Fish" by Lienna Silver tells how a friend's death causes an elderly Russian emigre to twist and turn his own history "like a Rubik's cube." Silver names her protagonist Ivan Denisovich, a reference to Alexander Solzhenitsyn's legendary character, except the gulag where this exile endures his day of epiphany is in the Fairfax district. "The leaning palms looked like bottle brushes against the dark red glow of the evening sky.... It's lovely writing, the kind of quivering, spot-on observation of surface that can be the city's gift to those who come to live here from far away. 

"Fish" is haunting in the way of Christopher Isherwood, noir without being a crime story. The same might be said of Susan Straight's "The Golden Gopher," whose female narrator returns to L.A. to tell one childhood friend about the death of another. A Southern California native, Straight writes with penetrating insight, spinning worlds and characters into a vista of enormous sadness where past meets present. 

"Once More, Lazarus" by L.A. Times foreign correspondent Hector Tobar is harrowing and completely convincing, a deep-dive into the tragedy of East L.A. gun culture. That story will stay with me; likewise those by Silver, Fitch, Hamilton and Straight, writers who infuse an almost cozy, slippers-by-the-fire trope with a fresh sense of character, place and danger. 

Noir lives, and will go on living, as this fine but uneven anthology proves, because it's about emotion, not style. Noir, to borrow Fitch's wonderful phrase, is about "the oddly housed.


Seven female authors make essential contributions to Los Angeles Noir (Akashic Books; 348 pages; $15.95, trade paper), the latest in New York publisher Johnny Temple's seemingly inexhaustible series of crime fiction anthologies...Editor Denise Hamilton...does a terrific job assembling 17 pieces of short fiction into a darkly entertaining mosaic of the contemporary City of Angels. Echoes of Chandler's prose and Cain's plots are everywhere in these pages, but Hamilton apparently encouraged her contributors to avoid direct allusion or homage, which is smart and refreshing. There are few cops and no private dicks here, just broken dreamers desperately in over their heads—i.e., the vast majority of Angelenos. 

Publisher Temple's strategy of painting a city's portrait through nasty nuggets of crime fiction pays off under Hamilton's stewardship. Veteran crime writers Michael Connelly, Robert Ferrigno, Gary Phillips, and Scott Phillips all deliver the goods. 

But it's the women who kick the book up a notch, many of them relishing their first foray into noir territory. Naomi Hirahara pulls off a Highsmith-style tale set in Koreatown, veteran L.A. columnist and radio commentator Patt Morrison gives a true insider's tour of Beverly Hills, Susan Straight turns her historical novelist's eye on downtown Los Angeles, Hamilton herself nails a Woolrich-like story of new Asian millionaires in the valley, and Janet Fitch (of White Oleander fame), tosses off the volume's highlight: "The Method," in which a young Los Feliz waitress walks willfully into a Sunset Boulevard setup and learns the precise location of the heart of darkness. 

Even when the stories aren't truly noir, the writers' evocative glimpses into distinct sections of the sprawling megalopolis are entertaining and insightful, unexpectedly playing off each other and weaving themselves into a satisfying tapestry. No collection of stories can encapsulate the breadth and depth of Los Angeles, but this is a gallant effort, especially for a collection of genre fiction. 

"Los Angeles Noir" revitalizes Akashic's Noir franchise: Future editors in the series would do well to study Hamilton's approach. 


What she got was a gritty, glamorous city that's bursting with different cultures, accents and economic backgrounds...In Denise Hamilton's Los Angeles, Russian mobsters mingle with Korean day-spa workers, cleaning ladies share the secrets of the rich and glamorous, and menace lurks around every palm tree-studded corner. 


...sheds even more light on the dark side of Los Angeles...the book not only offers an array of enticing stories but also serves as an intriguing travelogue of LA's neighborhoods and side cities. 


A collection of short stories set in post-Chandler Los Angeles, by some of the city's finest writers. Millennial L.A. is just as noir as the 40s L.A. that birthed the genre, but far more diverse. As editor (and writer of the Eve Diamond mystery series) Hamilton notes in the intro: "Los Angeles has changed beyond recognition since Philip Marlowe stalked the mean streets. Today's suburbs were orange groves in Chandler's day, and many of the ethnic enclaves that make the city such a vibrant Pacific Rim metropolis hadn't yet taken root. But the noir essence of Los Angeles never really went away, it just morphed into something more colorful and polyglot. 21st Century L.A. is more noir than ever." And we're better for it. 


Collects 17 new short stories from some of the area's best writers, including Susan Straight, Michael Connelly, Gary Phillips, and Denise Hamilton, the book's editor. Evil was never so delicious. The book criss-crosses the city, with stops in Koreatown, Leimert Park, and Los Feliz.


... new stories, each set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the city of the book—so it will hold both regional appeal and appeal to any mystery fan who likes detailed settings to enhance the plot. A multicultural approach further enhances the stories which range from the spas of Koreatown to the rich of Beverly Hills and beyond, offering crime stories by Janet Fitch, Neal Pollack, Christopher Rice and others. A top pick for any fan of crime fiction and for libraries both located in California and beyond.

OLINE COGDILL, South Florida Sun Sentinel

Los Angeles Noir is chock-full of terrific reads.

BOOKSLUT.COM, Clayton Moore for Bookstrumpet

I'm delving into the gin-soaked mirage that is Los Angeles Noir...It features terrific stories of liars, lovers, police and thieves by a wildly diverse rogue's gallery of creators including Michael Connelly, Neal Pollack, Christopher Rice and Robert Ferrigno, as well as a refreshing dose of ingenuity from some fantastic women writers including literary novelist Janet Fitch (White Oleander), National Book Award finalist Susan Straight, and Edgar Award finalist Naomi Hirahara. 

Hamilton's path to Los Angeles Noir is a disconcerting one. Her feel for the city, a sense of its sins that pervades both her own books and this new anthology, comes from more than a decade spent reporting on the city's crime for The Los Angeles Times and other publications. Add to that experience an abiding respect for the dime store classicists who came before us and it makes one hell of a resume. 

Picking over the bones of Phillip Marlowe would have been easy, but Hamilton has managed to infuse the L.A. Noir collection with a bracing mix of tales that match the dizzying diversity that has always been one of the city's hallmarks. "Classic noir was pretty much dominated by white dudes," Hamilton said, noting a few obvious exceptions. "Having read a lot of it, I found myself wondering, where is the Latino Raymond Chandler, or the Chinese-American James Cain of classic noir? Where do I go to get that perspective? I can't imagine anything more dreary than contemporary L.A. stories with rehashed noir cliches about solitary embittered gumshoes in drab offices with rain pattering the windows. L.A. is a very different place today, tripled in size and drawing people from all over the world. It's a creative crucible of ideas for the entire world, for good as well as ill—think of Hollywood but also street gangs, both exporting their trade. There is also more incredible wealth and breathtaking poverty here now than ever before. So I thought that this idea of L.A. as the Wild West meets East, this mix of peoples, was something that this anthology could showcase." To accomplish her vision, Hamilton chose stories that cover the width and breadth of Los Angeles from its mansions on the hill to the most squalid suburbs. Michael Connelly delivers a characteristically outstanding police procedural, "Mulholland Drive," while Robert Ferrigno weighs in with a brittle soliloquy about a heist gone awry in Belmont Shore. There are cops and robbers here but many of the stories take a stranger turn, such as Janet Fitch's modern-day play on Sunset Boulevard titled "The Method," or Hamilton's own contribution, an abrupt corporate heist that ends with "Murder in Silicon Valley." 

"I was looking for stories that engaged my imagination, which took me somewhere new," Hamilton said. "I wanted stories that dripped with classic noir themes but were shot through a contemporary lens. And, to paraphrase Michael Connelly, I wanted to see stories where it's not the cop working the crime but the crime working the cop or the crime working the victims, the criminals, and everyone around the crime. I saw my role in putting this together as a kind of literary cultural archeologist, excavating and sifting through layers to assemble a portrait, in 17 snapshots, of what it was like to be alive and moving through this noir L.A. place near the beginning of the 21st century." 

It's a new world out there on the West Coast and Hamilton is an eyewitness to the fact that the streets have only gotten meaner since Marlowe's heyday. "In Marlowe's day, we didn't have street gangs, 13-year-olds with guns, crack, meth, the widespread desperate poverty, the undocumented underclasses and immigrants that we have today," Hamilton said. "Los Angeles was a much smaller place, one of civility, where watching out for your neighbor and other old-fashioned values were still strong. The murder rate was very low, compared to today. People still committed crimes over passion, jealousy, and power that date back to the caveman days, but it wasn't on the scale that it is today." 


A worthy tribute to the genre. Seventeen stories by some of the best of L.A.'s current literary generation explore the dark side of sunny Southern California. The streets of Beverly Hills, Koreatown, San Marino, West Hollywood, and Los Feliz are all settings for stories of desperation, deeply hidden secrets, and depression and fear of finding your life on the cutting-room floor, shaken by the occasional earthquake, and stirred by the roar of the nearest freeway. The Los Angeles of Raymond Chandler and Dorothy Hughes lives on through the 21st-century stories of Michael Connelly, Robert Ferrigno, Janet Fitch, Susan Straight, and Denise Hamilton, among others. Although some of the stories are more deftly crafted than others, the marvelous descriptions of the diverse settings from Rodeo Drive to Skid Row to Commerce and Belmont Shore speak volumes of the cultural and economic diversity that is the City of Angels. This third-generation Angelino loved it; highly recommended for all crime fiction collections.

—Susan Clifford Braun, Aerospace Corp., El Segundo, CA

Book of the Week: "Los Angeles Noir" (ed. Denise Hamilton) The latest entry in Akashic Books' globe-spanning "city noir" series finally reaches L.A., the home of the genre. The marquee story is by Michael Connelly (and it's a good one), but readers will also find excellent stories from Robert Ferrigno, Naomi Hirahara, Gary Phillips, Christopher Rice and editor Denise Hamilton. Next to the top-notch Baltimore Noir, this is probably the best book in the series."


... a collection of devilishly dark tales...edited by former journalist and Los Angeles Times reporter Denise Hamilton who has, with present day settings and unlikely locations, moved classic noir into the 21st century. Hamilton cleverly clusters the stories under four headings, and includes a map marking the spot of each crime. Readers will revel in this eclectic collection of murder, desperation and obsession. 


Los Angeles Noir: Recommended Reading, SoCal Style, a top pick for SoCal book lovers this holiday season