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The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles (California Century Mysteries) Paperback – May 1, 2010


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Product Details

  • Series: California Century Mysteries
  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press; 1 edition (May 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590587367
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590587362
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,851,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

James Ellroy fans will welcome Kuhlken's intriguing sixth California Century mystery (after 2008's The Vagabond Virgins). Set in 1926 and the first in the series chronologically, this entry focuses on the early career of PI Tom Hickey. Outraged to learn that a black friend has been lynched in L.A.'s Echo Park, news that the mainstream media has suppressed, Hickey risks his day job as a meat salesman to look into the killing. Hickey explores possible links to crooked cops, the Ku Klux Klan, city hall, newspaper moguls William Randolph Hearst and Harry Chandler, and evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, who recently resurfaced after a mysterious five-month disappearance. Kuhlken mixes historical and fictional characters with an ease that will remind many of Max Allan Collins's Nate Heller series (True Crime, etc.). He's equally adept at melding the murder inquiry with Hickey's struggles with his dysfunctional family. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Kuhlken’s series about private investigator Tom Hickey and his offspring is set in California at various times throughout the twentieth century. The first of the series, The Loud Adios, took place in 1943; the most recent, The Vagabond Virgins, was set in 1979 and featured Tom’s sons, Alvaro and Clifford. Chronologically, Kuhlken’s latest is the first in the series. Set in 1926, when Tom was in his early 20s, it’s the “origin story,” relating the events that turned Hickey from a musician into a private eye. Dismayed to discover that a friend has been murdered—lynched, in fact—Tom decides to find out why the press is ignoring the story: Is it simply because the murdered man was black, or is there a deeper cover-up involved? As usual, Kuhlken works real people and events into the story (evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson and Randolph Hearst, for example) and vividly anchors the reader in the story’s time and place. The social consciousness and the L.A. setting across decades make this series a fine choice for fans of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins novels. --David Pitt --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

After borrowing time from his youthful passions, such as baseball, golf, romance, and trying to make music, to earn degrees in literature and writing from San Diego State University and the University of Iowa, Ken got serious (more or less).

Since then, his stories have appeared in Esquire and dozens of other magazines, and anthologies, been honorably mentioned in Best American Short Stories, and earned a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. He has been a frequent contributor and a columnist for the San Diego Reader.

With Alan Russell, in Road Kill and No Cats, No Chocolate, he has chronicled the madness of book promotion tours.

Ken's novels are Midheaven, chosen as finalist for the Ernest Hemingway Award for best first novel and the Tom Hickey California Century series:

The Loud Adios, San Diego and Tijuana, 1943 (Private Eye Writers of America/St. Martin's Press Best First PI Novel); The Venus Deal, San Diego, Mount Shasta, and Denver, 1942; The Angel Gang, Lake Tahoe and San Diego, 1950; The Do-Re-Mi, rural Northern California, 1972 (a January Magazine best book of 2006 and finalist for the 2006 Shamus Award); The Vagabond Virgins, rural Baja California, 1979; The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles, Los Angeles, 1926.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By L. Dean Murphy on July 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
After VAGABOND VIRGINS two years ago, Kuhlken's sixth installment of the California Century series is a tricked-out time machine that takes amateur PI Tom Hickey back to the Roaring Twenties of his youth, making this chronologically the first of Hickey's solved investigations. Born at the time of the Wrights' first flight, Hickey still rejoices in the glory of being a USC football hero.

Taking younger sister Florence away from the clutches of abusive mother Milly at age 16 six years previously, Hickey is forced into being an overachiever. His day job of delivering meat to markets is jeopardized, when he investigates the apparent lynching of a black friend who had been part of a ragtime band in which Hickey played a licorice stick. Idyllic 1926 Los Angeles portrayed in silent films does not appear to be a place of racial inequality but the Ku Klux Klan and crooked cops are suspected by Hickey, who investigates powers-that-be in city hall. Hickey methodically analyzes information and tracks down leads, rules out suspects and encounters sinister characters that make his dysfunctional family seem normal.

Media moguls William Randolph Hearst and Harry Chandler don't mention in their papers talented jazz musician Frank Gaines dangling from the "hanging tree" in Echo Park near Hollywood. Hickey confronts Hearst who is romantically involved with film legend Marion Davies, a lookalike for mom Milly, who works as a seamstress at Universal Studios. There is a cover-up, no mention of his friend's death at the Hall of Records. Hickey questions L.A.'s liars, those who endeavor to keep him from uncovering the truth. As gentle discouragement, Hickey is told, "This colored fella, he's gone for a holiday. [Y]ou're a talented youngster, with a football ... But you're no policeman.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on May 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In 1926 in Echo Park in Los Angeles, Negro Frank Gaines is lynched near the temple of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, but the two major newspapers remain silent re the murder. Dance orchestra lead Tom Hickey learns about the death of a friend from an underground paper. He asks his neighbor LAPD Defective Leo Weiss if in deed the lynching occurred and if yes what Police Chief Davis is doing about it. Leo says yes and no to the first question as Gaines was murdered, but the cops are insisting nothing happened.

Tom investigates the murder starting with a visit to Aimee Semple McPherson's Angelus Temple. However, he soon is followed and beaten up with warnings from speakeasy owner and Klansman Leo that if he fails to drop his inquiry, his new enemies will insure he does so permanently even as he concludes local political corruption led to the lynching.

Although there is too much going on between 1926 cop-business-politician-newspaper-evangelist connections, the orchestra, the hero's family life (especially his sister) and the investigation; readers will enjoy this fast-paced historical amateur sleuth mystery. The story line focuses on Los Angeles during the Roaring Twenties that comes to light through Tom's eyes. Fast-paced, fans will enjoy The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles about to be exposed by a sermon of Aimee Semple McPherson.

Harriet Klausner
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jerry on July 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
Ken Kuhlken has staked out a place for himself between mystery and Southern California history with his Hickey family series. This sixth book in the series is set as the first story chronologically, with a setting of L.A. in 1926 as P.I.-to-be Tom Hickey solves his first case. Kuhlken is first and foremost a story teller. The book is well plotted and features a bunch of fascinating characters. Some are fictitious, some are real people like newspaper publishers William Randolph Hearst and Harry Chandler and evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson doing cameo appearances. The complex plot can be summarized as follows: A black man has been lynched in L.A.'s Echo Park, the mainstream media pretends that it never happened. Racism is rampant, religious zeal abounds, cops are crooked, politicians are tools of the wealthy and powerful. Tom Hickey transitions in this book from a career as a boy who is a musician to becoming well on his way to becoming a man who will be at different times a cop, a band leader, a private detective, and a soldier.

Hickey is a moral and ethical man surrounded by a corrupt and immoral world. He somehow copes while he maintains his integrity. We are entertained through this process by Kuhlken's creative and interesting story. If you haven't read any of his books, this is an excellent place to begin one of the better LA noir series out there.
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