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.
Praise for "A Bright and Guilty Place" "In the early 1980s, just before Los Angeles put on its second Olympic Games, British journalist Richard Rayner came here and fell reluctantly, madly in love with this city. Los Angeles -- from which I write -- offered him a blithe nuttiness: earthquakes, civil unrest, mindless heat (Rayner once spied a hapless citizen trying to take shelter from the sun in the shade of a telephone pole) and especially, a panoply of truly grotesque and off-the-wall crime. In "A Bright and Guilty Place," Rayner uses crime as a key to the secrets of this seductive metropolis, and the time frame he has chosen seems unnervingly appropriate for today: He begins with the last few euphoric years before the crash of 1929 and continues a few more years, into the depths of the Depression, by which time somber reality had knocked optimistic if corrupt L.A. off its shaky emotional pins. To love this book you have to love the wonderful novels of Raymond Chandler or James Ellroy, where only the flimsiest veneer of freshness and glamour covers a decaying, even disgusting reality. 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. I am probably this book's perfect reader. Among the cast of characters in this complex and bristling narrative is Gene Coughlin, a top newspaper reporter of the time, mainly for the "Illustrated Daily News"; Matt Weinstock, that paper's city editor, shows up on Page 2; crime reporter Casey Shawhan on Page 98. They were all poker-playing buddies of my old Texan dad. My father knew he lived in a magic time, and I remember it -- in glimpses -- from when I was a little girl: our dining room turned into a poker parlor; handsome, raffish men and beautiful women; oh-so-cool banter; rivers of whiskey; clouds of cigarette smoke. These are the men who first reported on these magnificently awful shenanigans. They made history out of glit