Sunday, April 6, 2014

Free Fall by Robert Crais

I was given this book by a sailing neighbor that enjoys reading LA detective stories. I have been criticized for being to hard on the fact checking and directions given driving around the streets of Los Angeles by noir authors. It seems common in Los Angeles fiction to describe the various routes around Southern California using the various freeway names or numbers. Some locals use the numbers and some use the names and it is hard to keep track of all of them. Elvis Cole uses his watch and often states the exact time he is leaving or arriving. He also given the distance traveled in miles and the scenery along the route and the on and off ramp names. Many authors describe the traffic and all the problems getting around. I was born in Los Angeles and have spent many hours stuck in traffic. Elvis is magical in the fact he never seems to be stuck in traffic and get from one location to another in only minutes.

Page 17, at exactly "six minutes after one" he makes a phone call, put on his Dan Wesson, goes down 4 flights of stairs and eats lunch at the deli. He then drives to Thurman's apartment via Westwood to Northridge, talks to the three women in the front yard, gets the keys and cases the place. When he leaves they ask what took him so long in the apartment if he was only dropping off something. He then drives back south on the 405 takes the Wilshire off ramp and goes west to Santa Monica via Brentwood winding up on San Vicente where he drives two miles to Ocean Ave turns south and goes to Venice and gets to Rusty bar at 26 minutes past two. He does all that in 80 minutes. WOW, pretty cool being to get off the freeway cruise Santa Monica to Venice and do the Valley search too. He mentions the bike riders on San Vicente and the bike path through the park along Ocean all that description is correct.

When Elvis is going through Thurman's apartment he notices his high school football pictures and that he was a "sixty minute" man. California High School football do not play 15 minute quarters they play 12 minute.

Elvis stops to buy bottled water and puts one bottle in his trunk. Elvis drive a Corvette (yellow 66) and trunks were not offered after 1962.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Night in Shanghai Music

Most of my past Blogging contains many of my own pictures but this post doesn't and it full of underlined links you must click on to see or hear the music.

After finishing reading Night in Shanghai I went to Nicole Mones web site where I found a very interesting series of pictures about Shanghai and the characters in the book. Then I thought why not document the music that appears within.

My two favorite radio stations are classical and jazz.

Page 9, "You think you know better than Mendelssohn?"

Listen to Symphony No. 4 "Italian"

Page 10, "About a Quarter to Nine,"

Film 42nd street

Page 11, " a few of the popular ballroom numbers, like

"Body and Soul"  Listen to it by Ella Fitzgerald

Ella played Melodyland in Anaheim, California across from Disneyland on Harbor Blvd. The show dates were June 29 to July 4 1965 with Nelson Riddle and his orchestra. Not sure how much the tickets cost back then but I had a pair of really good seats up close then.

"I Can't Get Started" Billie Holiday sings


I've been around the world in a plane
Settled revolutions in Spain
The North Pole I have charted
But can't get started with you
And at the golf course I'm under par
Metro-Goldwyn wants me to star
I've got a house and a show place
But can't get no place with you
You're so supreme, the lyrics I write of you
Dream, dream, day and night of you
Scheme just for the sight of you
But what good will it do?
I've been consulted by Franklin D
Even Gable had me to tea
But now I'm broken hearted
Can't get started with you
You're so supreme, the lyrics I write of you
Dream, dream, day and night of you
Scheme just for the sight of you
But what good does it do?
I've been consulted by Franklin D
Even Basic had me to tea
But now I'm broken hearted
Can't get started with you

by Ira Gershwinand music by Vernon Duke, that was first heard in the theatrical production Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 where it was sung by Bob HopeHal Kemp and his orchestra recorded it at that time and it had a bit of popularity, rising briefly to 14th place on the recording charts.

Read more: Billie Holiday - I Can't Get Started Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

Page 12, "The Rhapsody"

Rhapsody in Blue was the one piece he had memorized

I remember one weekend back when I was in high school band where we played that song over and over and over. It was at USC for a band day with maybe a dozen other high school bands. After all the rehearsals we played Rhapsody in Blue at half time in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Not sure who played the Trojans maybe UCLA.

Here Gershwin plays Gershwin (several of the YouTube viewing here have lead in commercials)

Page 14 back on Creel Street  "Memphis Blues," by Fletcher Henderson

Page 20, "Let's start with your signature tune "Exactly Like You"

I know why I've waited, know why I've been blue 
Prayed each night for someone exactly like you 
Why should we spend money on a show or two? 
No one does those love scenes exactly like you 

You make me feel so grand, I'd like to hand the world to you 
You seem to understand each foolish little scheme I'm scheming 
And the dream I'm dreaming 
Now I know why my mother taught me to be true 
She meant me for someone exactly like you 

You make me feel so grand, I wanna hand the world to you 
You seem to understand each foolish little scheme that I'm scheming 
And the dream that I'm dreaming 
Now I know why my mother, she taught me to be true 
She meant me for someone exactly like you

Page 26, "Buck Clayton's Harlem Gentlemen" Page 87, "Beethoven's Fifth"
Page 105, "They were in the middle of a Duke Ellington piece called "Blue Ramble"

Page 107, "He turned the disc over: "One O' Clock Jump." Count Basie Orchestra

Page 140, "played the arpeggiated left-hand waterfall of Litz's concert etude Un Sospiro
Page 142, "The song was "Saddest Tale" by Duke Ellington's big band blues"
Page 161, "So he took some music from his briefcase and played Brahms, because it calmed him."
Page 193, "they were in the middle of a song called "Lovely Peach Blossom," a Shanghai standard made famous by Fan Zhang"

Page 199, "One night in February they happened on an all "Bach chamber performance by German orchestral musicians"

Page 212, "To play my favorite of Mozart's two sonatas for piano in B-Flat."

same page, "Thomas saw it was Liebesleid by the violin master and composer Fritz Kreisler"

Page 214, "He was right, for the Liebesleid and Liebesfreund brought double the tips of Mozart and Brahms."

Page 221, David brought with him Chopin's Grande Valse Brillante and one of Strauss's New Vienna Waltzes.

Page 259, "Mozart, Sonata for Piano and Violin in B-Flat, No. 454"

Thursday, January 30, 2014

White Jazz in Los Angeles

The White Jazz Copyright is 1992 by James Ellroy and the story starts "L.A. fall 1958" and again we have characters from L.A. Confidential and real life figures inserted within the telling. Mickey Cohen, Johnny Stompanato, Lana Turner, Howard Hughes and the new to the south land Dodgers and of course Chavez Ravine. After having trouble distinguishing characters at the start of previous Ellroy novels I started a list with Dave Klein the first item.

To create a sense of the period popular names, songs and products of 1958 are added to the story. But this relish only works in my opinion if the reader knows something about it. Page 51, "Those haaarbor lights" ---pure schmaltz"....."and did anyone ever tell you you sound like a homo? Like Johnnie Ray out of work?" I remember Johnny Ray songs.
After going to the Santa Monica Pier to do some drop line fishing we would walk around Muscle Beach smelling the fried foods and the sound from the jukeboxes wailing away in the various beer joint along the boardwalk. Someone must have stuck a quarter in the slot (songs were a nickel) and Ray's Cry kept repeating.

On Page 59, I not quite certain about this, "Who's is Elston Majeska?"..."some kind of silent-movie star from Europe" My first thoughts about the name was Modjeska Canyon having lived many years in Orange County, California and Helena Modjeska a famous Polish actress living there long before films.

Page 60 The mention of Scrivner's Drive-In gets Ellroy a three pointer where Mickey finds and discovers Glenda working there.
Art Laboe had an afternoon radio show at the drive-in on KRLA radio. We went there several time to Hollywood to get on his show there. Only once did we ever get on his mike as most of the locals were already there by the time we drove over from SAMOHI. That spot was located at Sunset and Cahuenga. We also drove to the Scrivner's in Inglewood on Manchester there.
Page 61, Yiddish words of the day, tsuris and faygeleh from Cohen.
And on the bottom of the page DMV records about Glenda. Her wheels are a very cool 56 red/white Corvette and later it has clutch problems so she was not driving a Powerglide. Her plate is CAL." DX 413". This often happened when an author takes the time to add lengthy details to a description then fail with the facts. California started using six places on licenses in 1947.
The 56 Vet had a 265 V8 and a power pack option that added a second 4 barrel carb and a hotter cam but those details are not included in the story.
Page 62 another local drive-in "Stan's Drive-In" is mentioned.
Through-out Southern California almost every city had a drive-in some had more than one. Jack's in Santa Monica was the regular hangout with good service a cute car hops. Goody Goodies farther east had male car hops, you figure. Certain nights were cruise nights and we would all hop into someone cars and go cruising. Gas was real cheap by todays standards at around thirty cents a gallon and most hot rods had to use ethyl for the higher octane, add another nickel to the cost.
Page 74, "forty-one hot-sheets flops Adams to Florence." The expression "hot sheets" is in reference to a one hour rental motel room used by professionals/street walkers. Last Sunday I got on the 110 at Orange Grove headed south on 1941 designed scary curved freeway towards Chinatown
exiting Hill Street, swung over to Broadway at Ord then drove the length of Broadway to Rosecrans. From what I saw there are not too many hourly motels left. (see I can talk L.A. street noir too)
Page 75, "High Yellow" and "colored man" You don't hear that much these days.
Page 75,"mousy little white girl ho' roun' here" Using hoe in place of whore doesn't fit in with my memory but I can't be sure if  this is a prochronism.
Page 117, "Vampira" gets mentioned as a TV hostess. I was unaware that there was this earlier Vampira and only watched the later host. Here is Marla Nurmi.
 It is nice to learn things.
Page 154, "Lester stirred and gargled T-Bird". Not the car but Thunderbird wine. Search Thunderbird on this blog for previous reference.
Same page, Glenda Bledsoe is under contract with ,"Variety International Pictures" a clear legal breach of her contract with Hughes Aircraft, Tool Company, Productions et al." Howard Hughes started in the movies business at a young man in his twenties. His father Howard Sr. was a partner in starting the tool company making oil drilling bits. His partner died and he renamed it Hughes Tool. Howard Jr. was born on December 24, 1905 and at the age of eighteen he became heir to the tool company. If you lived in Los Angeles during the forties and fifties there were no shortages of Hughes's urban legends. Howard owned RKO studios between 1948 and 1955 and he did make independent productions but why would Glenda be under contract with the Tool Company or the Aircraft Company? Funny how a little searching in the information age can dig up very interesting facts.  Howard Hughes once lived in Pasadena at the Vista del Arroyo at a bungalows before the hotel was built.
He stay there with his Aunt Annette and actually audited classes at Caltech but never was an enrolled student as he never finished high school in Texas. I can not say that Hughes wasn't a strange fellow but IMO Ellroy really paints him as evil.
Page 185, Pacific Bell is mentioned and that is correct.
Page 288, Hollywood Ranch Market is mentioned. We used to cash out Hughes paychecks when I worked there after work at a 24 Hour Market off Jefferson in Culver City but not sure if it was the same company as Hollywood.
Page 313, Yeakel Olds gets a mentioned. It was a dealership in Los Angeles that did a lot of on air ads including television. "Radio hum: Starfire 88's at Yeakel Olds". Again another faux or prochronism. It is what I like to call an "faux auto tech:"
The Starfire model was not available as an 88 only a 98 and it was a couple years later the 88 Starfire actually became available.
One of the many bad guys is found at his Airstream in a trailer park where he lives.
I usually thought that the Airstream was a travel trailer and would most likely be used for recreation not as a home but it is possible. Page 314 in the "Monster den:.... Dodger T-shirts"
I watched the Dodgers play with the shorted fence before they moved above Chinatown.
And again at the Ravine where they forgot to put in drinking fountains. In 1958 silk screening on cotton t-shirt have not been invented.
Warhol in 1962 started with his Campbell Soup Cans and the dissemination of commercial messages followed and I remember running in a local 10K event and the finishers were all given white t-shirts with the sponsors name on the front and I wore the t-shirt one day to play tennis. Several people asked why I was wearing a shirt with printing on the front. They had never seen anything like that and that was in the early seventies.


Monday, January 20, 2014

LITTLE SCARLET by William Mosley

This is my fifth read of an Easy Rawlins novel. This story takes place in Los Angeles in August 1965. The Watts riots started on the 11th of August at Avalon and 116th Street (which really isn't in Watts) when Marquette Frye was pulled over by the California Highway Officer Lee W. Minkus for a DUI. Apparently the arrest was going down without any conflict until Rena Price, Fyre mother got involved and things got very out of hand. After five days of "Burn, baby ,burn" where Easy stayed at his home in "West L.A." he returned to his office where on the ground floor Steinman's Shoe Repair has been destroyed.

Where I grew up in Santa Monica West L.A. was centered around Sawtelle Blvd and I used to hang out at a automotive shop there that was ran by a Japanese fellow and he used to race midgets.The district's general boundaries are the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) on the south, and the borders with the neighborhoods of Century City (Century Park West) and Rancho Park on the west. The northern border of the portion of West L.A. that is east of the I-405 is Santa Monica Boulevard (north of which is Westwood). The Los Angeles Times in it decription of the counties neighborhoods has another description. So where West L.A. is may differ between Angelenos.
Mosely uses West L.A. as the location around the May Company on Wilshire.
He goes to the Miller Neurological at La Cienega and Wilshire in West L.A. Here is one description:

Page 12, Detective Suggs drives a Ramber Marlin.
That car was manufactured in 1965 and was a AMC high end sporty model with a fastback roof. "It is my ex." is Suggs reply to Easy in regards to the seat belts installed. Wonder why Suggs isn't driving an LAPD unit. 

Page 40, Bonnie Shay's car is a new pink Rambler.
(somebody must have been a big Romney fan). There is also a sailboat in the driveway that belongs to Jesus. 

Page 55, "Cops chased Marlon Jones up into the White Front Department Store on Central," The exact address before the store was destroyed was 7651 South Central. Its always interesting to run across the old businesses in these detective novels. The first furtinure I ever purchased was at a White Front in the Valley. Later when I lived by Disneyland we shopped at White Front on Harbor Blvd. in Anaheim.

Page 164, Jackson is speaking to Easy, "I know the IBM languages called BAL and COBOL and FORTRAN. I know all the loops and peripheries and the JCL too." FORTRAN was developed by IBM but COBOL was not. It was created by Grace Hopper using an UNIVAC.
BAL is basic assembly and JCL is Job Control. In 1965 the most popular IBM was the 1401 and later in the year the first Model 360 was introduced. The 1401 used SPS (Symbolic Programming System) and RPG (Report Program Generator). Most people have no idea how small the storage was and how large it was physical. The 1401 basic unit had 1,600 memory locations.

The first core memory that I worked on had 256 locations and the electronics took up one side of the chassis. It has read amp circuit cards, write amps, and sense amps and lots of colorful wiring.

Easy is searching for "Harold" and Harold has several different last names so he recruits Bonnie to place telephone calls asking for Harold or his mother. "But maybe they're in the valley or down around Santa Monica. Maybe you could call those numbers." Page 236. Later Bonnie has left a message on the tape message that Jackson installed in Easy's office, "I think I have something. I called a J. Ostenberg in Pasadena. A man named Simon Poundstone answered". Both Suggs (page 239) and Mouse drive to the valley to find Harold's mother and her maid. Page 238, "I got J. OSTENBERG's address out of the phone book.

Page 240, "Jocelyn Ostenberg lived in a nice house on Hesby Street off of Muerretta Avenue" Those streets are indeed in the SF Valley not Pasadena and are actually located in Sherman Oaks and the correct spelling of the Avenue only has one "r" not two. So how did Bonnie find the house in the valley when she said it was in Pasadena?

Page 249, Raymond meets Easy and Mouse has a golden Continental. "A brand-new car."

Third new car in the book, must have been a good year for car dealers. In regards to cars of that period the LAPD police patrol unit was a Plymouth Belvedere 4 door. In 1972-1973 the LAPD used a AMC Matador for patrol. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Chinatown Beat

Another book from the South Pasadena Library new book mystery shelf. The book Chinatown Beat by Henry Chang. Los Angeles has a Chinatown but this story starts in New York City's Chinatown and is about the crime and the police there. Detective Jack Yu works the Fifth Precinct there. Many years ago I worked in New York City but stayed in Jersey crossing over by car to the RAND Corporation office. RAND was trying to help the city with the traffic flow and fire department response. Never really learned the streets there so I can't really comment on the streets of Chinatown but I am aware of Mott Street
.And tell me what street
Compares with Mott Street
In July?
Sweet pushcarts gently gliding by.
The great big city's a wondrous toy
Just made for a girl and boy.
We'll turn Manhattan
Into an isle of joy. 

What would a mystery be without firearms? And why just leave it with plain guns and normal bullets? Something technical that sounds like a NRA member at a swap meet needs to be said. There is the Cyborg Bullpup shot gun, Titan .25 caliber with a silencer, .38 Blackhawk, Python Revolver,Tokarev M213, a Ruger, 9mm silvertip hollow points, Parabellum, 6 shot, 13 shot magazine and of course a Glock.

All that makes me want to go out and buy A Guns and Ammo magazine or go shopping at Turner's.

What would have been nice in this book and very helpful would have been a glossary of the Chinese expression or foods mentioned.

say gow ----forty-nine
fung sup----arthritis
hak yun-----blacks
gow say-----twice a dead dog
dav fov------bean curd
lop cheung--pork sausage
hom yee-----salted fish

There are many more throughout the book.

Foo Dogs

Never had heard about this Chinese fire water before.

East to West
Page 184, Jack arrives at LAX then "He punched up San Francisco Bell on his cell phone and identified himself ,requested a phone location. Then he caught a return limo back to LAX." The two largest phone companies are AT&T or Verzion. There used to be a Pacific Telephone and there still is a San Francisco Belle.

Page 163, "The Holiday Inn was a mile from the Greyhound Terminal in Los Angeles, the last stop, just outside of Chinatown." Johnny has ended his cross country bus trip. The closest Holiday Inn is in Westlake and it really not outside of Chinatown. Again on page 173 "The Holiday Inn near Chinatown".
 Page 180, "The Holiday Inn in Chinatown".

Maybe someday I will find Mona and all of her Panda gold coins while she is driving around San Marino. In the story the author points out in great detail the difference within the Chinese community. Being a common paddy I can't understand all the subtle difference that exist here in Los Angeles County between the Chinese in Chinatown on Broadway or the muy rico in San Marino and the Arcadia Tea Houses.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Non-Fiction in 56

Picked up this title at the Los Angeles Branch library on Gaffey in San Pedro. L.A. '56 A DEVIL IN THE CITY OF ANGELES by JOEL ENGEL. The story is about Detective Danny Galindo one suave Latino in the department. The inside cover mentions Ellroy's L.A. Confidential and Walter Mosely's Easy Rawlings which I hav  recently read. 1956 was the year I got my learners permit and started driving around in my yellow Ford coupe. My 39 didn't have any back seat or opera seats. Ellroy has the LAPD using forty Ford coupes as patrol cars and they  put the passengers in the back seat but that is in another crime noir.

At page 37 Hunter Hancock arrives via the radio station KPOP. That radio station is no longer on the air. Not quite certain how old the author Engel is and I can't find his year of birth using Google so I am not sure if he was around when Hunter was on the radio. "We're gonna be goin' strong till two o'clock this morning." I started listening to"Hunting with Hunter" when I was in junior high in Santa Monica at John Adams. Hunter was on the air in the afternoon and on Sundays he would play his top ten list. In 1954 Sh-Boom by the Chords was on the list for a long time as number one. The Chords were Negroes or colored then not black and the music was Rhythm and Blues (Race Music) not Rock and Roll. Seeing the mention of Hunter in the book activated unused neurons in me poor brain.

KPOP was in the middle of the AM dial and couldn't be on the air late at night or after sunset for that matter. AM radio signals start to skip and travel greater distances at night so many small local station were required to stop transmitting when the sun went down.

On Page 38 Hunter reads off a list of sponsors and Dolphin's of Hollywood. Then Willie Fields who is in Hollywood heads over there. "He heads south on Highland....east on Wilshire to Crenshaw, south to Olympic,  and east again the five mile or so to Central." Legendary Los Angeles R&B producer John Dolphin was one of the first and most well respected and successful black businessman and independent record label owner. His contributions to the formative years of rock & roll are often overlooked. A mini-mogul who had nearly every facet of the record business covered. A former car salesman, Dolphin first entered the music business as a retailer — sometime during the Korean War. In 1948 he opened Dolphin’s on Hollywood, a record store on Vernon Avenue that remained open 24 hours a day to cater to the late-shift workforces necessitated by the conflict overseas. Dolphin’s of Hollywood record store even featured a DJ broadcasting over local station KRKD from inside the store’s walls, beginning with Ray Robinson and most famously including Hunter Hancock and Dick “Huggy Boy” Hugg. His marketing genius would serve Dolphin well in the years to follow, through his radio show he could instruct the DJs to play the records his labels produced. (His motto: “We’ll record you today and have you a hit tonight.”)

In Santa Monica I lived at 988 Olympic Blvd and there wasn't any Santa Monica Freeway then and if I wanted to drive from Hollywood where we did drive to or to Watts where I didn't go often I would not take the crazy route given by the author in this book. Olympic does go to downtown Los Angeles but it stops at San Julian Street then starts again replacing 9th Street as East Olympic Blvd..  Taking Central south will get you to Dolphin but if use Western Ave south to Vernon then east to Central that would be the best way but gas was very cheap then at about 30 cents a gallon.

Page 65, "Fields is sitting alone...scarfing down a combo plate with a cold Colt 45." Colt 45 malt liquor is an iconic beverage. National Brewing Company introduced the drink in 1963 and since the story line in this book takes place in 1956 Fields must have been one hip dude to score this. The popular malt liquor in 1956 was Country Club and the a six pack of the short cans would set you back $1.35.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Fact Checking

A Nasty Piece of Work by Robert Littell.

Found this in the new section of the South Pasadena Library labeled Mystery.The principal character is Lemuel Gunn with a background from the New Jersey homicide detectives, the CIA and now he is a private dick living in New Mexico.

Page 105, "The middle of nowhere---but only seventy-five minutes out of Los Angeles by automobile" This in reference to Clinch Corners "a few miles from Nipton, California" Since the actual drive time is really 3 hours and twenty minutes for the distance of 226.4 miles the automobile is really going very fast! I find it often in reading that the distance given traveling to a destination is in error and this error is after the author has spent the time to add this added detail in the story line which is wrong.

Page 162, "Swift code numbers insteada bank names" It is always interesting to learn something new and SWIFT is the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunicatio

Page 165, "The Sierra Nevadas in the distance reminded me of the mountain ranges in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border" Since the spelling indicates plural (Nevadas) and there are two, Eastern and Western Sierra Nevada ranges and the description is made close by to the Searchlight Airport I find this puzzling. The Eastern Range and its highest point is Mt. Whitney is no where near Searchlight. The closest range would be Eldorado Mountains for Searchlight and Mt. Whitney is 200 miles to the west an the crow flies.

Page 170, "Punctuation , as they say in the gag trade, is everything." ??? !!!!  My best guess is that the "gag trade"  is about writing jokes.

Page 185, "one of those endless freight trains passed between us and Nipon. It was so long it needed two locomotives to inch across the surface" I doubt that the author has seen a lot of  long freight trains. Two locomotives is pretty standard. One simple engine works well in freight yards moving cars around but when you climb any of the grades going west or east multi-engines of four and six are quite common depending on the length of the train and diesels can be placed at various positions. Trains up to 12,500 feet—a little over two miles long—already are operated in the Los Angeles area and if get stuck at one waiting for a crossing guard you will remember it.

Page 186, "What does Googled mean? " I asked my girl Friday. Gunn is not computer savvy yet on page 204 "you would have thought I'd meandered into a crash course on string theory"  It appears strange that Gunn knows nothing about Google but is quite familiar with string theory. 

Page 186, "Poland Spring water (which I doubt came all the way from  Poland...)  If you can read the label on the water bottle you would know where it came from. 

Poland Spring is a brand of bottled water manufactured by a subsidiary of Nestlé and sold in the United States in Maine. It was founded in 1845 by Hiram Ricker. Despite the name, the water does not come from the country of Poland but from derived multiple sources in the state of Maine, including Poland Spring and Garden Spring in Poland, Clear Spring in Hollis, Evergreen Spring in Fryeburg, Spruce Spring in Pierce Pond Township, and White Cedar Spring in Dallas Plantation, Bradbury Spring in Kingfield. Recently, the Poland Spring brand has adopted a bottle using 30% less plastic, as did the other Nestlé Waters North America brands.

Page 192, "two very inebriated young pigwidgeons were washing their hair" Had to look that one up :  an insignificant or simple person

Page 249, "All of the above knew I was walking back the cat on Gava" Well I didn't know what that actuallymeant  so I looked it up.
and now I know.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Noir Fact Checker

Before I moved out of a house and on to my boat I had to do something with all the books I had. The really old ones went into boxes and storage, some were sold at our garage sale, some went on Craiglist. Space is limited on my sailboat and if I continued to sail it no more than a few books could be kept at anyone time. The marina here has a lounge and a book lending library so I started using it and then got a library card for Los Angeles then later a South Pasadena card .

When I first started this blog a few years back I added each book read on the sideboard. After leaving a secure DSL connection at the old  house and using  the unreliable WIFI connection from my boat made blogging difficult. To keep recording what I had read I started using Goodreads.

My spelling when writing is pretty poor but I can spot an error when  reading. Many years past I installed a computer typesetting system at Pacific Press in Vancouver. Part of the testing required that I check the spelling of the output tapes to make sure nothing was being lost in the translation. This meant checking the spelling of each classified ads placed in two of the dailies. The interface we designed was attached to the SAC channel on an IBM 1130.

It is not uncommon to find spelling errors in today's books even with all the spellcheckers available and editors don't seem to pay enough attention to fact checking in storytelling.

I started reading a lot of detective fiction as it was in ample supply in the marina lending library. Living on a boat in San Pedro, California and being born in Los Angeles I am aware of the geography here and have some knowledge of boats and tides.  Authors describing the tides and the warm winds here are often in error in many writings. I switched from reading the new book section of the local libraries and started Googling LA detective books. The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy was noted but it never seemed to be on the shelf then one day recently I found it on the shelf and started to read it.  At one time I was a daily reader of the Los Angeles Times and Jack Smith's column. Smith mentioned the Dahlia several times in his column but at that time the mighty search engines of the internet didn't exist butt today this information about Smith is easy to get:
 It was as a rewrite man for the Daily News in 1947 that Smith had what he later called "perhaps my finest hour as a newspaperman": his stories on the infamous Elizabeth Short murder case.
The police beat reporter phoned in the bulletin to Smith, who recounted the moment this way in his book Jack Smith's L.A.: "Within the minute I had written what may have been the first sentence ever written on the Black Dahlia case. I can't remember it word for word, but my lead went pretty much like this: 'The nude body of a young woman, neatly cut in two at the waist, was found early today on a vacant lot near Crenshaw and Exposition Boulevards.'" His editor added one adjective, making Short "a beautiful young woman."
"Our city editor, of course, no more knew what the unfortunate young woman had looked like than I did," Smith later wrote. "But the lesson was clear. On the Daily News, at least, all young women whose nude bodies were found in two pieces on vacant lots were beautiful. I never forgot it."
Smith also believed that he was the first to name Short "the Black Dahlia" in print. After a Daily News reporter learned that Short had frequented a certain Long Beach pharmacy, Smith phoned and spoke to the pharmacist, who said the kids at the soda fountain called her the Black Dahlia "on account of the way she wore her hair." But Smith acknowledged that Herald-Express reporter Bevo Means had also been credited with getting the name into print firs.
When I start to read a book I don't review it first or Google the author but check the cover printing, the publication date and scan the copy. Sometime I get a dud and sometimes strike gold. When I am reading and something strikes me as unusual it isn't a reference book that triggers me but it is my own personal memory. Can't remember the page in The Black Dahlia that mentions  Lick Pier in Venice but it set off my alarm. I had always thought it was in Ocean Park but I was wrong and Ellroy was correct. As kids we used to play on the Ocean Park Pier and never realized that the southern part of the pier was actually in Venice. Later when I started going to college I worked at POP as a cadet on the Flight to Mars ride.

Pages 44 and 52 seems to disagree about the rink on Van Ness. The tossed-up cats are being dropped off at the cemeteries and the roller rink "and the Hollywood roller rinks open to shines on Thursday". Both the Hollywood Forever Funeral home and the Polar Palace are located on North Van Ness. Bucky follows a suspect into the Polar Palace, a ice skating rink. The bad guy is captured in the basement men's bathroom. We used to skate at the Polar Palace on Sunday afternoon and I do not recall any bathroom basement. Climbing up and down stairs while wearing ice skates seem out of the question. 

Page 23, "KMPC disk jockey" KPMC was a popular AM radio station that we listened to early in the morning and late at night. We listened to the "Lucky Lager Dance Time" and it signed off at midnight with the Piped Piper's Dream.

Page 45, "39 La Salle sedan,...of 1349 Alta Loma Vista in South Pasadena" The Spanish words "alta",  "Loma", and "Vista" are quite common in the SG Valley. That name combination does not appear to be valid for the City of South Pasadena. Why would I notice that?: I ride my bicycle all over South Pasadena. Using a La Salle transmission in a hot rod in the fifties and sixties was a popular conversion.

Kay, Lee and Bucky like to go ballroom dancing and on page 55 "the Malibu Rendezvou" is mentioned then on page 57 they drive to Balboa Island to "catch Stan Kenton's band. Actually the Rendezvou Ballroom is in Newport Beach by the Balboa pier. Balboa Island is an island and the Ballroom was located on the ocean front beach. (Been there, done that). Malibu in 1947 had the pier and a claming area above where the surf spot is today. My parents used to go claming there. My father also had a boat in Newport about that time too.

Sorry that my pages are not ordered correctly.

 On Page 213 Bevo Means gets mentioned as the reporter and that is not fiction as he like Jack Smith covered the story.

There are two Army Camps mentioned in the book. Betty works at the PX at Camp Cooke by Santa Barbara.  The other mention is Camp MacArthur. When I am on my boat I can hear the loudspeakers at Fort MacArthur and the retreat at 4:30 each afternoon. On page 178, "I will be on the next transport flight out of Camp MacArthur." His intentions is to fly to Fort Dix in New Jersey to question Corporal Joseph Dulange an MP stationed there where he has admitted to the killing. I don't believe Fort MacArthur in San Pedro was ever an airfield and Camp MacArthur was a WW1 Army training camp in Waco, Texas. 

Page 216, "I took the coast road eighty miles south to Ensenada" (he is starting in TJ). Before the toll road was added the distance along the coast route was about 100 clicks or around sixty miles. The current toll road is more direct and shorter. I find is often that an author is very detailed in a mileage description and street by street route but has the compass direction is wrong or the distance off. 

Page 220, describes "The Club Satan" in Ensenada and on Page 216 Ensenda is described as "a sea breeze version of TJ catering to a higher class of turista". I would agree with that description but the "Club Satan" has a burro. I have had my picture taken on a burro in TJ when I was a kid but "Donkey Shows" seem to be part of the Urban Legend.

Page 220, "a little Mex was scrutinized incoming patrons while fondling the trigger housing of a tripod BAR"

Page 250, "squadroom dicks pack .45 automatics loaded with un-regulation dum-dums."
A BAR is a Browning Automatic Rifle and a 45 Automatic Pistol is the world’s most respected handgun, and has been designated by many authorities as the finest service pistol design of all time. The Browning 1911 was yet another revolutionary gun by one of the greatest gun designers of all time, John Moses Browning, the founder of today’s Browning Arms Company.

 Dum-Dum Arsenal was a British military facility located near the town of Dum Dum (near Calcutta) in modern West Bengal, India. The arsenal was at the center of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, caused in part by the suspicion of Indian soldiers that the cartridges distributed at the arsenal, which they were expected to bite open, were greased with pig lard (a problem for Muslims) or cow fat (a problem for Hindus).
It was at this arsenal that Captain Neville Bertie-Clay developed the so-called "Dum-dum bullet" (Mark IV cartridge), an exposed-nose bullet designed to mushroom in flesh. This was the first expanding bullet for military use, later banned from use in warfare by the Hague Convention.

Page 275, "there would be a record with Pacific Coast Bell". One interesting thing about Southern California is that two separate telephone providers connected the callers, one was Pacific Telephone and the other was General Telephone which was headquartered in Santa Monica. Various Central Offices were scattered across Los Angeles. Our home phone number in Santa Monica was ExBrook 43392 and we were General customers. Malibu was probably General and the Biltmore Hotel was likely  Pacific. Tracing payphone records was possible in 1947  but at a  time before computers technology allowed quick record searches obtaining the information would have likely take a long time.
Page 272, "I went out to the hall, got the Hughes Security number"....."I hung up and lead footed it to Santa Monica" This is in reference to Hughes Aircraft and Howard Hughes's connection with the movie business. "a Quonset hut at the end of long string of aircraft hangars."  In Santa Monica you would find aircraft hangars at Clover Field Airport where the Douglas Aircraft was located. Hughes Aircraft and their private airfield was located in Culver City.
Page 295, "only desolation accompanied by Santa Ana winds blowing down from the Hollywood hills." Lacking the time and space to cover the subject of these infamous winds that occur here in short I say that most television weathermen don't understand them and few locals really do but it is quite common in Los Angeles Noir to metion the winds.