Detecting LA through Mystery Writing

The excellent blog LAObserved pointed me to this interesting book review by my friend Paula L. Woods, author of the Charlotte Justice mysteries.

For her first novel, “Summer of the Big Bachi,” Naomi Hirahara has chosen as her hero another iconographic albeit little-known figure in the Los Angeles landscape — the Japanese American gardener. [The hero] traverses the breadth of Japanese American Los Angeles, treating readers to snippets of the Japanese language in addition to well-drawn scenes in Crenshaw District homes still occupied by elderly Japanese, San Fernando Valley ramen shops, hostess bars on Sawtelle Boulevard that cater to Japanese businessmen, Gardena bowling alleys and illegal card games in Little Tokyo.

It’s not so much the book itself that struck me, but Paula’s observations about how some writers are using the mystery as a tool to examine LA from fresh perspectives.

The best Los Angeles crime fiction is distinguished by its ability to transport readers to unfamiliar corners in our multicultural metropolis. The house-proud black neighborhoods sleuthed by Walter Mosley’s midcentury detective Easy Rawlins, the gay and lesbian enclaves of Katherine V. Forrest’s Kate Delafield police procedurals, the Persian American elite and other diverse groups investigated by John Shannon’s P.I. Jack Liffey all leave readers more knowledgeable than they started about people seen only from a distance and lives imagined only in the broadest of outlines.

I’ve read Mosley, of course, but I’ll have to check those other authors out… as soon as I break out of my mystery reading funk.

3 thoughts on “Detecting LA through Mystery Writing”

  1. I found Naomi’s book to be refreshing. I met Naomi at the Mystery Bookstore earlier this year and after a wonderful conversation, bought her book and I’m waiting for the next one. The next book I believe is due out in April. Not to be missed.

  2. The best new author writing about L.A. is Denise Hamilton. She’s definitely bringing fresh insight and an interesting perspective to her stories of the city. If you haven’t read her, I highly recommend her books.

  3. I haven’t read her yet… but I’ve got all her books and I sure enjoy spending time with her. We’ve done a few signings/speaking engagements together and we always have a great time.


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