The Black Ice by Michael Connelly

This is the second book in Michael Connelly’s series of novels about semi-disgraced Los Angeles Police Department Detective Harry Bosch. It wasn’t bad. Bosch becomes involved in the apparent suicide of a fellow officer. He isn’t supposed to work on the case but one thing (or one murder) leads to another. Besides, somebody has to figure everything out. The ice referred to in the title is a heavy-duty drug that’s being imported from Mexico. Being the kind of cop he is, Bosch ignores his bosses and takes his investigation south of the border. He even ends up in a tunnel again, as you would expect in another story about an ex-Viet Nam tunnel rat.

The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly has written twenty novels featuring Los Angeles homicide detective Harry Bosch, almost one per year since 1992. This was the first. It’s an entertaining story, but there is a lot that’s familiar about it. He’s a loner. He’s got issues. The brass don’t like his methods, but he gets the job done. The surprises at the end are the usual kind. In fact, the biggest surprise I got was when my Kindle revealed that the book is 500 pages long. It could have been shorter, as his later novels are. But I enjoyed it enough to read the next one in the series, partly because the setting made me nostalgic for Southern California.

Perfidia by James Ellroy

Crime writer James Ellroy goes back in time before L. A. Confidential to December 1941. It’s supposed to be the beginning of another Quartet of novels about crime and corruption in Los Angeles. Some of the characters appear in later novels. Others are new. The writing isn’t as austere as some of Ellroy’s recent work, but he’s still writing short, punchy sentences that skimp on description and just deliver the (mostly fictional) facts.

Nostalgia Once Removed, or Stardust Memories

Chinatown is a wonderful movie. One of the great things about it is how it portrays Los Angeles in 1937. The city looks so shiny and new. Watching Chinatown always makes me nostalgic for Los Angeles, even though I lived there decades after the 1930s. 

What’s odd is that I don’t have especially happy memories of Los Angeles. Living there, it often seemed as if the really good stuff was happening on the other side of town.

My nostalgia, my “bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past”, my “wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to some past period”, is mostly for the past that didn’t happen. It’s for the past that might have been, a longing for missed opportunities in a setting that promised something wonderful.

The Germans could have a word for it: “Sehnsuchtnacheinervergangenensie hattennie”.

Sehnsucht nach einer vergangenen sie hatten nieNostalgia for a past you never had.

We might also call the phenomenon “stardust memories”.

L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City by John Buntin

Southern California became an interesting, fast-growing place after they started making movies in Hollywood and drilling oil wells wherever possible. The population boomed and so did crime. L.A. Noir tells the story of crime, crime-fighting and police corruption in Los Angeles between 1920 (when L.A. had become bigger than San Francisco) and 1992 (when Rodney King was beaten and 54 people died in a riot).

The book tells this story by focusing on the parallel careers of Mickey Cohen, a well-known local gangster, and William Parker, L.A.’s most famous police chief. They each had their good points, but Mickey Cohen was a thug and Chief Parker was a misguided right-winger. Los Angeles improved after they were both gone.  (2/14/13)