Customer Review

47 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy Beginning, Muddled Middle, Uneven Ending, June 30, 2009
This review is from: L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City (Hardcover)
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Buntin is a writer for "Governing" magazine. According to Wikipedia, "it's a monthly magazine...whose subject area is state and local government in the United States. The magazine's circulation is approximately 85,000, most of whom are elected, appointed or career officials in state and local government." It's also a source as an authority for citations by the national media.

The book starts off with a bang, literally, describing the 'wild west' mentality in LA at the beginning of the century; and some of Mickey Cohen's more memorable 'rub outs'. Buntin is best when he's describes Mickey and 'The Mob', and the further back he starts the more sensational and interesting the background stories are. When he finally get's to the meat of the story, which is to be Mickey Cohen (i.e. Semi- organized Crime) and Police Chief William Parker, he begins to jumps around with dates and periods.

One of the failures of the book is that Butin is trying to write alternate chapters about one or the other main protagonists in the book, but at the time of the the major event of Parker's career (the Watts Riots) Cohen is in jail and no way involved. In fact it has nothing to do with 'organized crime' at all; most of the criminals at this point are gang based and totally disorganized.

The latter part of the book is all Parker and the 'civil rights' movement and race problems in LA, not to mention the inadequate size of the LAPD and living in the 'forties' mentality of the upper levels of the LAPD. Though Butin does put some of the blame on Parker for his inability to change with the times, he's constantly making excuses for him and tries to dump some of the blame on his successors. The problem with 'passing the buck' is that these men trained under Parker and were so set in the ways of the LAPD that they couldn't see the problems.

Butin especially comes down hard on Chief Daryl Gates and his involvement in the "Rodney King Riots". But Gates has been a whipping boy for everything that went wrong at that time in LA (Mayors Yorty and Bradley seem to skate through the problem). Though Butin makes a side comment about some of Bradley's problems as mayor (relating to misspent funds and corruption) he puts little blame on him. This could be in part because of Butin's ties to "Governing", and Bradley's legacy in the Black community of LA.

Butin also seems to have a grudging respect for Cohen and all of the Mafia Dons. Yes, they were larger than life and colorful, but Mickey is thought to have been involved in up to thirty murders (though he 'never killed anyone who didn't deserve it', in his own words). Butin spends an inordinate amount of time describing Mickey's wardrobe and toileting habits (his one hour showers), not to mention his eating habits. This part feels like he didn't have enough to write so he just kept throwing in the same points over and over.

Zeb Kantrowitz
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