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Exposing Hancock Park: Can a 19-year-old touch James Ellroy?

July 1, 2009 | 12:07 pm


Isabel Kaplan, who's just finished her freshman year at Harvard, wrote the new young adult novel "Hancock Park" while she was in the 11th and 12th grades at the private Marlborough School. She explains in the Daily Beast today:

For the young and glittery in L.A., party-promotion companies would rent out dance spaces and throw under-21 parties with names like “Seduction,” where tickets were at the very least $20, a bottle of water cost $5, and everyone was drunk upon arrival because alcohol wouldn’t be served inside. Think Gossip Girl with less preppiness, more blondes, and more sunscreen. It was because of these outrageous experiences that I decided to base my first novel in the private-school world of Los Angeles.

The protagonist of Hancock Park, Becky Miller, struggles to find her place in the City of Angels. I wanted to write a book that would explore adolescence through the lens of a girl in the Hollywood bubble.

The book, the Daily Beast writes, "exposes the excesses of L.A.’s wealthy high-school elite" -- particularly those who reside in Hancock Park. But for Hancock Park excesses, can anyone really rival James Ellroy?

"The genesis, in many ways, is this pervert peeper pad of mine," Ellroy says of "The Hilliker Curse," his four-part memoir-of-women serial for Playboy magazine. He points, in a video on the magazine's website, to an upstairs apartment on the outskirts of Hancock Park (he's also taken bus tours there).

In the video, Ellroy explains that after his mother's murder, when he was 10, he would walk his dog late at night, looking in the windows of the mansions of Hancock Park, with "freedom to peep, brood, read, skulk, stalk, and fantasize."

He later broke into those homes, looking to touch the fabric of the lives of people who lived there -- as well as the lingerie of some of his female classmates. Which may be a little more excessive than a well-bred Hancock Park teen would care to imagine.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo (left): James Ellroy. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Photo (right): Isabel Kaplan with her new novel. Credit: Kristian Dowling / Getty Images