The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: Zombie Reading List

From the Stacks – 'Facts You Should Know About California'

  Facts You Should Know About California  

Since March, when I examined Louis Adamic’s “The Truth About Los Angeles,” I have been hunting the other pamphlets he wrote for E. Haldeman-Julius. A box of a dozen musty tracts arrived Friday, courtesy of EBay, and I immediately dug into No. 752, “Facts You Should Know About California,” written about 1927-28. 

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From the Stacks: 'Bookmen and Their Brothels'

  Bookmen and Their Brothers  

“Bookmen and Their Brothels: Recollections of Los Angeles in the 1930s” by Ward Ritchie recently showed up on EBay for too much money, so I borrowed a copy through interlibrary loan and spent a happy hour or so reading what was presumably the transcript of a speech to the Zamorano Club.

“Bookmen” is a splendid little item of 42 pages printed by Grant Dahlstrom in 1970 and evokes what must seem an improbable time when people cared about custom printing and binding – rather than a Kindle with generic fonts.  

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Bullet of Mystery – Part 5

July 11, 1901, Lionel Comport lionel_comport_nd_crop

In case you just tuned in, I’m posting a small case study of research I did with Caroline Comport on her grandfather Lionel Comport for her master’s thesis. Researching Los Angeles is a treasure hunt, and every time I dig into the resources I find something new.

Bullet of Mystery – Part 1
Bullet of Mystery – Part 2
Bullet of Mystery – Part 3
Bullet of Mystery – Part 4
In Part 1, I summarized the case of Lionel Comport, a milkman who was shot in the back while making his rounds in 1901. In Part 2, we looked at some of the resources for online newspapers, and in Part 3, we examined sites that have property records on the corner where the shooting occurred. In Part 4, we delved into the Sanborn maps of the neighborhood. In my final post in the series, I’ll talk about one of the happy discoveries of research. There are, of course, many more places to look. This is a merely a sample.

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From the Stacks: 'The Los Angeles Book'

  The Los Angeles Book, Title  

It has been years since I looked through “The Los Angeles Book” and even longer since I read it. Then several weeks ago, I bought a copy so I could point out a particular photo of Chavez Ravine to a Chapman University student who was interviewing me for a documentary on the Dodgers.

That pretty much sums up the 1950 collaboration of Lee Shippey and Max Yavno (d. 1985):  You remember the pictures and forget the words.  In fact, Yavno once said he never read any of Shippey’s text. 

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From the Stacks -- 'The Long Season'

  The Long Season  

I haven’t read a baseball book since my mother gave away my trading cards of the Philadelphia Athletics and the Boston Braves. No, I’m not quite that old. I got them from a neighbor lady who was surreptitiously cleaning out her son’s room and I imagine they are still circulating on EBay. 

On Jim Murray’s recommendation, I got a copy of Jim Brosnan’s 1960 baseball diary “The Long Season” from the library, and discovered that “Season” is as unlike the heroic sports biographies of my youth (“as told to Bob Considine”)  as a glossy travel book is to a group of airline pilots critiquing the world’s worst airports.   

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From the Stacks – 'Portraits of Crime' (1977)

  Portraits of Crime  

Two years after writing about  LAPD Det. Ector Garcia, I finally located a copy of his book, “Portraits of Crime,” which arrived in the mail from the U.K. while I was on vacation. No one will ever mistake this book for great literature. The editing is weak (as in “Leo” LaBianca) but the rough, raw writing gives “Portraits” a freshness and immediacy that might be missing in a more polished work.

Written by LAPD artist Garcia (d. 1987) and Charles E. Pike, “Portraits” consists of composite sketches and brief summaries of  29 cases from the 1950s to the 1970s. Aside from the Tate-LaBianca and Son of Sam murders, most of the subjects are obscure killings, kidnappings and rapes that could easily be the raw material for several seasons of TV crime shows. 

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From the Stacks – 'Dancing Bear' (1968)

  Dancing Bear  

Out of curiosity, I picked up Gladwin Hill’s “Dancing Bear” at the Southern California Library’s book sale.  I never met Hill (d. 1992), the New York Times bureau chief in Los Angeles, but I had heard about him at luncheon gatherings of Times retirees who call themselves the Old Farts. 
I tend to avoid reading about politics in my spare time. I get a healthy dose of it at work, and the minute dissection of old political intrigues – stiffly written prose about half-remembered names and long-forgotten battles  – isn’t terribly interesting to anyone but the most confirmed political junkie.

With expectations that “Dancing Bear” would be nothing but a stale time capsule, I was quite pleasantly surprised by Hill’s engaging account of California politics, and his insights not only on the state’s curious history, but especially his perspective on the early career of Ronald Reagan.  


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Kennedy Names First Black U.S. Attorney

  April 16, 1961, Comics  


April 16, 1961: President Kennedy nominates Cecil F. Poole (d. 1997) as U.S. attorney for the Northern District California. He was the first African American U.S. attorney in the Continental U.S., the first black federal judge in Northern California and served on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Books on the local bestseller list include “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” “Hawaii,” “Fate Is the Hunter” and “Winnie Ille Pooh,” which is A.A. Milne’s children’s classic translated into Latin. Candidates for the Zombie Reading List: Gene Fowler's "Skyline" and Gavin Maxwell's "Ring of Bright Water."

The Times also publishes more on the Adolf Eichmann trial, a feature on the defense and another on courtroom decorum. 
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From the Stacks -- 'Ride the Pink Horse'


  Ride the Pink Horse, Page 1  

Out of curiosity, I picked up this paperback for 50 cents at the Southern California Library’s book sale because the 1947 movie based on Dorothy B. Hughes’ novel is often mentioned as a classic film noir, and of course  it’s not on DVD except as a bootleg.

Hughes may be best known for the novel  “In a Lonely Place,” which was also made into a dark, brooding film noir. She was a prominent author of the 1940s and early 1950s who quit writing for family reasons, although she continued to review mysteries for The Times. 

I was ready for a major sit, with a fire in the fireplace, a cup of coffee, music, a comfy chair and – oh dear.  “Ride the Pink Horse” was a huge disappointment.

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Matt Weinstock, April 10, 1961

  April 10, 1961, Comics  

April 10, 1961: Lawrence Clark Powell, head of UCLA’s library school, surveys students’ attitudes on reading and touches off an interesting exploration of their reading habits. Many say they don’t have time to read for pleasure or that they opt for magazine condensations or book reviews. Some say that J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” is “teenage stuff” and a passing fad – like existentialism.  Someone else says that college students are mostly buying paperbacks: "Kon-Tiki," "Caine Mutiny," "1984," "The Old Man and the Sea," "Anne Frank's Diary" "Giant," F. Scott Fitzgerald's books and James Hilton's "Lost Horizon." 

More on the upcoming Adolf Eichmann trial on the jump.
CONFIDENTIAL TO SALLY: A young lady should not accept gifts of intimate apparel from a young man. And the article you mention IS intimate.

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Paul Coates, April 10, 1961


  April 10, 1961, Mirror Cover  

April 10, 1961: Notice the Spade Cooley story. It vanished from later editions, and I couldn’t find the jump, just the Page 1 portion.

Paul Coates writes about two Beverly Hills police officers' problems with Police Chief Clinton Anderson. You might put Anderson’s “Beverly Hills Is My Beat” (1960) on your Zombie Reading List.  Anderson has chapters on the Johnny Stompanato and Bugsy Siegel cases.

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From the Stacks -- 'City of Angels'

  City of Angels  

  Rupert Hughes’ “City of Angels,” 1941.  

How much of a book must one read before deciding that it’s going to be a dog? Does an author deserve a running start of the first chapter? Can one truly tell that a book is going to be a stinker after one page -- or maybe the opening line, especially if a columnist like Lee Shippey recommends it?

In this case, yes.

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