This post first appeared on Omnimysterynews.com.
My first introduction to the detective genre was watching Humphrey Bogart in 1940s noir detective pictures. I loved his wise-cracking, cigarette-smoking, I’ll-do-as-I-please attitude. He inspired me to read Raymond Chandler, and then my love of Los Angeles, post-WWII detective noir began.
Most people think that L.A. is Hollywood, but that’s just a neighborhood. This city has a rich literary history, and enough bizarre crimes and shady politics to keep writers inspired ad infinitum. I’m proud to live in the city that Raymond Chandler, John Fante, Dashiell Hammett, Dorothy Parker, William Faulkner and many more great writers have chosen to call home, even if it was just long enough for them to get fed up with Hollywood and head slouching home with a suitcase full of cash and cocktail party stories to last a lifetime.
The post WWII-era may have been Los Angeles’ heyday, but the city of angels still has a grimy underbelly worth writing about, believe me. Whether you live in the area or you’re just inspired by the city’s mystique, I’ve compiled a list of resources for crime writers that will help you tap into the pulse of Los Angeles.
1. Los Angeles Visionaries Association — This organization is like an ongoing Masters program in Los Angeles cultural history. They offer weekly events of all kinds, from bus tours focused on famous writers, to high-class dinners at historic locations to educational seminars at the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center at Cal State L.A., which are my personal favorite. The Crime Lab seminars are led by top criminologists and discuss real cases that have been tried in Los Angeles County. If you’re a crime writer there is no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
2. The Los Angeles Police Protection League Blog — I get the daily newsletter for the Los Angeles Police Protection League, and there are always one or two interesting stories. Covers all the local crime that the evening news ignores (Confession, I haven’t watched the evening news since the 90s anyway), local politics and matters of city government that would not otherwise cross my radar. For example, there was a truancy law on the books in LA until recently that kids who skipped school could be fined up to $200 if a cop caught them. That’s a lot of bubble gum.
3. Los Angeles Public Library Podcasts — The Library Foundation of Los Angeles hosts a speaker series at the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles called ALOUD, which includes local mystery writers, as well as local crime and political experts. If you can’t attend, don’t worry. The podcasts are free online. Great research and inspiration.
4. The California Crime Writer’s Conference — Although it only happens once a year, this event packs a lot of information into a very short amount of time. Presented by Sisters in Crime Los Angeles and the So Cal Mystery Writers of America, this event is perfect for out-of-towners who want to immerse themselves in mystery writing while staying in the City of Angeles.
5. The Interactive Crime Map of Los Angeles — This is just cool. You can pick any neighborhood in Los Angeles, zoom in and see every crime from burglary to auto theft to assault to murder. It’s great for choosing where to set a story or scene in your novel, and also helpful when booking a hotel room. (Hint: They may have given Hollywood Boulevard a face lift, but I would not stumble around there after the sun goes down. And if someone asks you if you want to take a bus tour, the answer is “no.”)
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Marguerite Darlington is an accomplished writer and editor based in Los Angeles, California. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, she is the managing editor of Fashionablymarketing.me by day, and she is a mystery writer and connoisseur by night. To learn more about Marguerite, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter@MJDarlington.