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Sins of the City: The Real Los Angeles Noir Paperback – May 1, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books; First Edition edition (May 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811823199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811823197
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,844,442 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In the first half of the 20th century, Los Angeles was as well known for its lurid nightlife and criminal underground as it was for the Hollywood film empire. Often, of course, the two sides of L.A. met, as when Robert Mitchum was busted for marijuana possession in 1949; among the photos collected in Sins of the City you'll find a snapshot of Mitchum in prison gear during his 50-day incarceration. You'll also find several pictures of local crime boss Mickey Cohen and his gang, usually after somebody's made an attempt to rub them out. Several of the crime scene photos are not for the squeamish, including the shooting death of mobster Bugsy Siegel and the discovery of both halves of the body of Elizabeth Short, better remembered as the "Black Dahlia." (Actually, the two pictures of Short's bisected corpse are taken from a distance, compared to more gruesome photos of that scene found in other sources.)

Jim Heimann's introduction provides some historical context, but it's the photos themselves that are the real attraction here. From them you'll get a sense of what the gambling parlors, speakeasies, and drag balls of the period looked like--as well as Beverly Hills movie premieres, the back alleys of Chinatown, and the exteriors of such swank nightclubs as La Conga and the Mocambo. Sins of the City is fascinating reference material for readers of classic L.A. noir (it includes quotes from several authors, among them Raymond Chandler and John Fante), as well as anyone interested in studying or writing about this period.

Review


Reviews from: Ray Gun

Los Angeles Times

So you've seen L.A. Confidential more than a few times and you're itching to know more about the City of Angels' seedy side? In Sins of the City, Jim Heimann collects tabloid shots taken at morgues, mafia murder scenes and marijuana heists plus some sweet ol' amateur porn thrown in for good measure. Perfect browsing material to keep next to the can at your swing club.

By Jonathan Kirsch

Jim Heimann is the man to see in Hollywood if you are making a movie that is set in Southern California in bygone times he combines the skills of an archivist, a cultural anthropologist, a designer and a historian, and he knows where to look for a dusty photographic relic that shows what any corner of byway of Los Angeles looked like on a particular day in the past.

Heimann's remarkable skill set is put to good use in Sins of the City: The Real Los Angeles Noir, a beguiling collection of black-and-white photographs that depict the demimonde of Los Angeles from the '20s to the '50s. What the photographer Weegee did for New York in his classic Naked City, Heimann now does for Los Angeles.

Sins of the City proves that the depiction of Los Angeles in countless-noir movies and hard-boiled detective stories was not merely the work of an overheated imagination. Her are real-life cops and robbers, gangsters and gambler, strippers and hookers, clairvoyants and charlatans, starlets and the occasional authentic star, all of them captured by a corps of photographers who roamed the meaner streets of Los Angeles with Speed Graphic cameras in hand.


More About the Author

Jim Heimann is a resident of Los Angeles, a graphic designer, writer, historian, and instructor at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He is the author of numerous books on architecture, popular culture, and Hollywood history, and serves as a consultant to the entertainment industry.

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bob Colleary on December 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
First of all, this is largely a fun read. And a quick one, because this book is 75% photos, 15% captions, and 10% introduction. Personally, I was disappointed there was not more text; what IS here is deliciously noir (it was tough to read without hearing Bogie's voice). But this is more a concept than a book, and it seems the author spent more time researching photos than writing and that was an unfortunate decision. But if you're looking for the seedy underbelly of L.A., you won't be disappointed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Martin P. Turnbull on September 14, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I too bought this book after hearing Larry Mantle's interview with the author. As a newly arrived local, I have become very interested in LA's history and this book is a worthy addition to anyone's library of books on LA. However I was a little disappointed that Mr Heinmann didn't give us specific addresses of places shown in the wonderful photographs he miraculously uncovered. I especially like to drive around LA and see what these sites look like thesedays. However Heinmann thought to give us very little in the way of specifics of address. This is fair enough when we're looking at anonymous bartenders caught in the crossfire of mafia killing sprees. But when were looking at nightclubs on Sunset in the 1940s or 50s, it would have been great to know where exactly there were.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert Gonzalez on December 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
Sins of the City is a great picture book, with awesome images of pre and postwar Los Angeles noir. But it does lack the stories behind these images except for a few captions. I was expecting to find more text on L.A. noir and was a bit dissapointed. This is a great book to look at after reading "The Big Sleep" and "Farewell My Lovely" by Raymond Chandler. 3 stars for the great photos.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
The author was obviously inspired by the best movie of 1997, L.A. Confidential, to dig into archival photos to show the "real Los Angeles." However, his ugly condemnation of the city--a city that needs to be "redeemed"--is as hysterically false as the boosterism of the "noir era" that proclaimed the metropolis as an eden of sunshine and wealth. His iconoclastic glee is a little too much. Are we really to be shocked that in a city of millions you'll find crime, gangsters, potheads, gambling joints, religious frauds and crooked cops? And author Heimann, breathless as he seems to be, is hardly the first to dredge the underbelly of the glamour capital of the world. Writers like Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and Nathanael West did so many, many years ago. As other reviewers have noted, the photos are interesting but the text is witless and non-instructive. And his generalizations are annoying. As a lifelong Angeleno, most of the city's residents--then and now--are ordinary folks working hard to make a living and raise their families. This comes off as a smear job. I don't love L.A., but I don't think it's a non-redeemed hellhole either, now or in its history. Chronicle Books is one of my favorite publishers, but this is very poor journalism verging on propaganda.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
If you like the novels of James Ellroy, especially his L. A. trilogy, this book shows the reader many of the non-fiction characters and places. It's a great companion book.
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