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L.A. Noir


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About the Author

JOHN BUNTIN is a staff writer at Governing magazine, where he covers crime and urban affairs. A native of Mississippi, Buntin graduated from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and has worked as a case writer for Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. A former resident of Southern California, he now lives in Washington, D.C., with his family.


"Other cities have histories. Los Angeles has legends." Those first two lines from the prologue of L.A. Noir capture perfectly the sentiment that Buntin portrays throughout his book. Buntin, who writes about crime for Governing magazine, guides the reader through a 20th-century history of Los Angeles using two of its most influential citizens-mobster Mickey Cohen and police chief William Parker. Cohen as leader of the underworld and Parker as leader of the L.A. police were natural enemies. But Buntin shows these seemingly different characters sharing much in common as each strives to become the best in his business while trying to grasp control of the city. Los Angeles is more than just a backdrop for the stories of these two men. The city acts as the third main character in this plot, prompting, inciting, and influencing the actions of Cohen and Parker. VERDICT Recommended especially for all readers who love digging into 20th-century history or particularly the city of Los Angeles.-Jeremy Spencer, Univ. of California Lib., Davis Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Named One of Daily Beast's "Favorite Books of 2009"

"The best non-fiction treatment of this era and this subject matter that I've ever read. I couldn't put it down for like two days." --Academy Award nominated producer of MOB CITY "Important and wonderfully enjoyable....A highly original and altogether splendid history that can be read for sheer pleasure and belongs on the shelf of indispensable books about America's most debated and least understood cities.....Utterly compelling reading."
--Los Angeles Times

"Completely entertaining....a colorful and entirely different take on the vices of Tinseltown."
--Daily Beast "Echoes crime stylists Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy."
--American History

"L.A. NOIR is a fascinating look at the likes of Mickey Cohen and Bill Parker, the two kingpins of Los Angeles crime and police lore. John Buntin's work here is detailed and intuitive. Most of all, it's flat out entertaining."
--Michael Connelly

"A roller coaster ride....Gripping social history and a feast for aficionados of cops-and-robbers stories, both real and imagined."
--Kirkus Reviews "Packed with Hollywood personalities, Beltway types and felons, Buntin's riveting tale of two ambitious souls on hell-bent opposing missions in the land of sun and make-believe is an entertaining and surprising diversion."
--Publishers Weekly

"Reads like a novel....almost impossible to put down. Buntin has written an important and entertaining book about one of America's greatest cities in the 20th century that echoes down to the world we live in today." "In this breathtaking dual biography of mobster Mickey Cohen and police chief William Parker, John Buntin confronts America's most enigmatic city. For a half century and more, the chiaroscuro of Los Angeles, its interplay of sunshine and shadow, has inspired novelists and filmmakers alike to explore what Buntin has now explored in a tour de force of non-fiction narrative."
--Kevin Starr, University Professor and Professor of History, USC

"John Buntin's nonfiction cops and robbers narrative about mid-20th century Los Angeles is not only compelling reading, but a heretofore unexplored look into the LAPD and the city it tried "To Protect and Serve" during one of the most colorful and tumultuous eras in the always provocative history of the City of Angels (and badmen). Dragnet, One Adam Twelve, Police Story, LA Confidential all rolled into one captivating book. Buntin nails it in this great read.'"
--William Bratton, Chief of Police, LAPD

Buntin documents the history of 1950s Los Angeles through the epic rivalry between the city's police chief, William Parker, and its organized crime leader, Mickey Cohen. Buntin traces the rivals' humbler beginnings, their confrontations, and how the city was shaped by them both. Narrator Kirby Heyborne's narration is clear and well paced, but not compelling. And while he infuses his reading with a hint of raspiness-something that could invoke the crime and corruption of 1950s L.A.-his voice is not deep or commanding enough. His narration is too congenial for a book this menacing, and he fails to convey the drama of his subject matter. Heyborne's timing is excellent, however, and he brings appropriate emphasis and nuance to important passages. A Broadway paperback. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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