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on January 10, 2015
Back in the 20s and in Los Angeles, acting, booze, drugs, and sex were rampant, but undercover. Mr. Rayner's page-turning read about the beginning of Hollywood and the power of money and politics is a great book. As a fan of California history, the story of the rise of silent movies and the theater and movie making powerhouses has interested me. While I lived in Los Angeles, I learned more about the history of movies and found that Hollywood and Vine was not a gracious site.

It was fun to see Flip Wilson at a sushi restaurant, and my sister bowled next to Jack Klugman. But those celebrities were not the ones I admired. I was fond of reading about Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin, Theda Bara, Clara Bow, William Desmond Taylor, Mae West, Mark Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Marion Davies,and other stars of early Jollywood.

Hark now back to the days of the murder, corruption, and scandal that was hidden, sometimes, and the corruption law enforcement system back in the day.

I encourage anyone with a vague interest in the growth of cinema in the USA to read this book. This could be something we, as college students, used to call ''an all nighter".
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on November 21, 2010
If this book had been a straightforward narrative account of L.A.'s history from the end of the First World War through the Great Depression, it could have been brilliant. The two central characters, in all their indulgences and idiosyncrasies, beautifully embody the tale of crime and corruption, fame and its misfortunes, all under the brilliant lights of Hollywood.

But A Bright and Guilty Place is two books, really. One is that account from an experienced Los Angeles journalist, a tensely written history that deftly conveys a distant reality through the intersecting paths of two men, one an investigator-turned-pulp fiction writer, the other a promising attorney seduced by the glitter of Los Angeles. The other is a work of literary analysis, with the author dissecting the works of Raymond Chandler, Erle Stanley Gardner, and other lesser-known L.A. writers who established the conventions of the "hard-boiled detective novel" -- and attempting to add depth and insight to the history by citing their observations.

The story at the center of A Bright and Guilty Place is that of Leslie White (the investigator) and Dave Clark (the lawyer), and it focuses on the two-year period in which they collaborated in the office of the Los Angeles District Attorney on a series of celebrated trials. The characters for whom they worked -- as well as the ones they brought to justice -- were straight out of Chinatown, which the author seems to regard as a faithful portrait of official L.A. in the 1920s and 1930s. "The System" ruled. At its helm was a crime boss, Charlie Crawford, who never looked the part, and rarely acted it, either. Charlie called the shots, with the mayor, the police chief, the D.A., and practically everyone else who mattered in official L.A. doing his bidding -- right up until someone shot and killed him with a .38 revolver. But who killed Charlie Crawford was never much of a mystery. The man who did it was none other than celebrated trial attorney Dave Clark. Therein lies the tale.

(From Mal Warwick's Blog on Books)
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on April 13, 2014
I was looking more for the criminal aspect in this book but it was just not there. To wordy and drawn out. They never really grabbed me with the content. They did not connect the dots.
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on March 13, 2015
One of the best books in this genre I've read in a very long time. The author ranks up there with Sebastian Junger and Erik Larson for his story telling ability.
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on October 8, 2013
I loved many of the details about LA in this book. It is always fun to find new anecdotes about the city I live in. But I should have loved it a lot more, being that my grandfather arrived here in the 1880's, was a cop, was part of the LA Purity Squad, and lived a life much like those of the characters in the book. The writing was stilted and mostly bad... as the NYTimes said, it feels like it was not woven together but rather "stapled." There were tons of interesting "filler" where there should have been exposition. The author criticized Officer White's writing style in almost every chapter, but his own dreadful writing style was much the same as White's.

He claimed that he came from England to LA curious, hopeful and innocent but that LA ate his soul. Too bad that it didn't have at his manuscript as an appetizer. It sure wouldn't go down well as dessert.
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on December 7, 2012
I write novels set in California, some of them during the early years of the 20th century. So I read lots of books about that period. One of the best is Richard Rayner's A Bright and Guilty Place.

Rayner tells the life stories of an investigator and a lawyer, both employed by the District Attorney's office. One of them is heroic, one deeply flawed. Through their exploits and antics, Mr. Rayner exposes L.A.'s rampant and systemic corruption, the endemic collusion between government, law enforcement, and capitalists of all sorts including crime bosses.

What's more, if we stop to think, we may realize how universal is this social structure, which is rigged so that a select and avaricious few wallow in privilege and abundance while the rest serve as pawns and star-struck voyeurs.

At that point, some of us might pause and go for a drink, or mumble, "Damn, I don't think anything's changed."

A Bright and Guilty Place should be required reading for all who vote. It's that enlightening, as well as being a compelling story.
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on October 5, 2015
Good local history
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on March 20, 2015
Excellent read!
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on January 1, 2015
Interesting history of LA
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VINE VOICEon July 27, 2009
I always find it interesting to discover facts about people and places that I had never known before. Having seen the movie "Chinatown" many years ago, I had a small feel for the ambiance and corruption of L.A. in the early 20th century. This well-written book has given me much more insight into the area and what was happening there.

The book is almost like a "Who's Who" of the famous and infamous of L.A. in the first thirty or so years of the 20th century. Movie stars, politicians (both honest and corrupt), cops (also both honest and corrupt), famous writers, extremely wealthy folks, scientists, lawyers, etc., move quite easily through the pages. The work is written in a light, sprightly manner, and that makes it very easy to read and enjoy.

I've never been to L.A. (although my daughter has lived there for several years), but this book only heightened my interest in travelling there and seeing some of the sights that still exist even today from that time of almost a century ago.

If you like your social and political history light but interesting and entertaining, this book is definitely for you!
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