Star-makers, celebrities, beachgoers and bohemians have all answered the city’s casting call. Here’s how to prepare for your role as “the tourist”
Raymond Chandler was a poet disguised as a pulp novelist. He didn’t invent the image of the hard-boiled detective but the quality of his writing about cynical, honourable Los Angeles private eye Philip Marlowe made it timeless. Writers from Michael Connelly to Ian Rankin are in his debt, thanks to passages like this, from Farewell, My Lovely (1940): “I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun.”
◖ Los Angeles: Portrait of a City (2009): Edited by cultural anthropologist Jim Heimann and published by Taschen, this exquisite coffee-table book chronicles life in LA with photographs from the 1880s to the present day.
From 2015 to 2017, veteran journalist Bill Barol unpacked the city in each 15- to 20-minute episode of his podcast, Home: Stories from L.A. (homestoriesla.net). It’s a collection of fascinating insights into everything from the famed Forest Lawn memorial park to a chicken tycoon who owns a ghost town, Amboy.
◖ Have One on Me (2010): Harpist and singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom has an unusual sound you’ll either dislike or crave more of. Her swooping singing style has echoes of Maddy Prior, Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush but is hers alone. On this triple album, the song In California showcases her talents perfectly.
◖ Good Kid, M.A.A.D City (2012): Like his mentor, Dr. Dre, rapper Kendrick Lamar is a game changer from LA’s Compton. His major-label debut was a critical and commercial hit.
Los Angeles Times columnist Jonathan Gold, the first food critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, is driven by endless curiosity about the food, people and neighbourhoods of the city he loves. The documentary City of Gold (2015) tells his story and captures his genuine delight in exploring LA’s hidden suburban eateries and food trucks.
◖ La La Land (2016): This loving reinvention of the musical genre, complete with mass dance numbers, tells a story of delicate romance, bold ambitions and quiet heartbreak. One of its six Academy Awards went to Emma Stone, who plays opposite a spiky yet charming Ryan Gosling.
◖ L.A. Confidential (1997): Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey and Kim Basinger are locked in a fight between corruption and redemption in this critically acclaimed neo-noir film based on James Ellroy’s novel set in the 1950s. ￼