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L.A. Stories: Fiction

Updated: January 11, 2020

There are as many L.A. stories as there are Angelenos - here are just a few of them.

Always outnumbered, always outgunned
Mosley, Walter.
Call Number: Ed.a
Through a series of interconnected short stories, Mosley tells the story of Socrates Fortlow, an ex-convict with plenty of demons to wrestle, struggling to bring justice to his Los Angeles neighborhood.

Ask the dust
Fante, John, 1909-1983.
Call Number: Ed.c
Arturo Bandini, an aspiring young writer, moves to a rundown hotel on Bunker Hill and falls for an unstable waitress in this classic portrait of Depression era Los Angeles. Charles Bukowski cited Fante's novel as an inspiration.

The barbarian nurseries
Tobar, Hector, 1963-

In an affluent Los Angeles community, a Mexican live-in maid, Araceli, discovers that her employers are gone, and she is left in a sprawling house, with the owners' two little boys. So begins an adventure in today's Los Angeles, as Araceli takes the two children on a search for their grandfather Señor Torres. 

California : a novel
Lepucki, Edan.

Frida and  Cal left the crumbling city of Los Angeles and set out on their own, building a home out of the refuse of others’ dross in Northern California.When Frida becomes pregnant, she and Cal set out for the nearest settlement – a place guarded  by its own community’s secrets. Intricately-plotted and suspenseful, this Dystopian fiction asks us to question just how far we will go to protect those we love.

City of Night
Rechy, John
Call Number: Ed.a

Viciously panned by the Los Angeles Times upon its publication in 1963, Rechy's groundbreaking novel about the gay underground scene during the 1960s is now widely considered a classic.

The Day of the Locust
West, Nathanel
Call Number: Ed.d

West's novel about the bottom feeders, has-beens and hangers-on of the Hollywood studio system was a flop when it was first published in 1939 but has since gone on to become, along with The Last Tycoon, the epitome of the Hollywood novel. Coincidently, Nathanael West died in an automobile accident on December 22, 1940, one day after the death of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Die a little : a novel
Abbott, Megan E., 1971-
Los Angeles noir from a woman's point of view - this tale of betrayal and corruption smolders.

Golden Days
See, Carolyn.

A strange and singular book that captures the excess, entitlement, Cold War anxiety, and New Age rhetoric of Los Angeles in the 70s and 80s.

Ham on rye : a novel
Bukowski, Charles.
Call Number: Ed.c
Henry Chinaski grows up on the mean streets of Los Angeles, and embraces a life of horse-racing, liquor, and poetry in Bukowski's semi-autobiographical novel.

Inherent vice
Pynchon, Thomas.

Pynchon has created a fast-paced tale with Doc Sportello, private investigator, off on one wild investigation leading into another. Set in the drug-hazed world of southern California in the early seventies, this work is one rollicking story and a vehicle for satirizing the foibles of modern life.

Kind of blue : a novel
Corwin, Miles.
Call Number: M
A great first novel by a former Los Angeles Times crime and police beat reporter, Miles Corwin, who gets into the mind and motivation of detective Ash Levine. After the murder of a witness he was protecting, Levine resigned from the police department but returns for a special assignment and hopes that he will also be able to solve the witness's murder. Well-paced with wonderfully detailed descriptions of L.A.'s varied neighborhoods.

L.A. confidential
Ellroy, James, 1948-
Call Number: Ed.b
James Ellroy's wild tale of political corruption, police brutality, and tabloid celebrity scandals set in 1950s Los Angeles is not to be missed.

The last embrace
Hamilton, Denise.
Call Number: M
Former OSS spy Lily Kessler combs the streets of Los Angeles for a missing starlet, and finds more than she bargained for. Loosely based on the real-life disappearance of aspiring actress Jean Spangler, the book includes stellar period detail, an exploration of women's roles in postwar Los Angeles, and a cameo by a young Ray Bradbury!

Less than zero
Ellis, Bret Easton.
Call Number: Ed.b
Bret Easton Ellis's notorious chronicle of 1980s sleaze and decadence begins with the famous line: "People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles."

Little Scarlet
Mosley, Walter.
Call Number: M
The eighth installment in Walter Mosley's much-loved Easy Rawlins series is set in the aftermath of the 1965 Watts Riots, and combines a good detective story with an insightful portrait of African-American life in a Los Angeles divided by de facto segregation.

The long goodbye
Chandler, Raymond, 1888-1959.
Call Number: M Ed.b
Hard-boiled sleuth Philip Marlowe is in trouble with the police after he helps a suspected murderer flee the country, but his troubles don't end there.

The sentry
Crais, Robert.
Call Number: M
Crais continues his Joe Pike series and delves into the mindset and past of this man of mystery, former LAPD officer and currently a private investigator. Joe encounters two Hurricane Katrina refugees in Venice, California who are being menaced by a local street gang. Joe moves to protect the duo but they are not exactly what they seem to be. Snappy dialogue and a quick narrative pace move the story along. This is a good beach read.

Revoyr, Nina, 1969-
Before the Watts Riots, Jackie Ishida's grandfather owned a grocery store in the Crenshaw district. After his death, Jackie is plunged into a decades-old mystery and uncovers the neighborhood's complex history.

A student of history : a novel
Revoyr, Nina, 1969-

Nina Revoyr admirably captures the idiosyncrasies of Los Angeles and its history through the character of Rick Nagano, a USC graduate student, whose desirable job has unforeseen drawbacks. While working for Mrs. W., matriarchal heir to an oil fortune, he has access to her personal journals and files that reveal an unknown history of the city. While assisting Fiona Morgan, a young socialite, Nagano learns more about the history of Los Angeles, which is interesting, but also proves to be more damaging to everyone.

This is where we live : a novel
Brown, Janelle.
A giddy satire about a young married couple, a musician and a filmmaker, who decide to celebrate the impending success of their careers by buying a Mount Washington bungalow with an adjustable mortgage rate.

White oleander : a novel
Fitch, Janet, 1955-
Janet Fitch's intense first novel is about a teenage girl who ends up in the Los Angeles County foster care system after her mother is imprisoned for murder.