I never read "true crime" books these days - too negative. But I love L.A. history and took a chance on John Gilmore's "L.A. Despair." He's got a tough, meat-and-potatoes style that is choice.
  1. "She was all in white, skirt and top, the pumps white though scuffed from the long ride. She had on a cute white hat and cotton gloves, some ketchup or a coffee stain on the back of the right glove. She said, 'I'm never going to ride another damn BUS!'"
    The arrival of doomed starlet Barbara Payton to Hollywood. I knew next to nothing about her, and now I've got to see every movie she made. This chapter details her scandalous relationship with actor Tom Neal (star of the film noir classic, "Detour").
  2. "Rippling in the sun, his skin glossed with Johnson's baby oil, Neal bounced along the edge of the pool, graceful as a dancer. Barbara would later say, 'He could make his muscles stand up and wink.'"
  3. "The once 'King of Porn,' John Holmes - now a disheveled, limping mess - led three desperate men up a flight of concrete stairs to kill everyone they encountered."
  4. "His eyes turned to the detectives. The hanged man was swinging hard, banging like a baseball against the bottom of a bucket. He blinked at them and began to talk - to jabber."
  5. "The only light leaking into the alley was the sheen from a JESUS SAVES sign blinking orange and red across the dirty asphalt. 76-year-old Gerald Stewart remembers that night. 'So black,' he says. 'Bums... slept against the back of a building behind Main. You had to watch where you pissed.'"
  6. "He had a look the same as a dead man you got propped on its feet, and he was sayin', 'I want you to know I ain't eat nothin' since day before yesterday... I hate this stinkin' city.'" "'What do you hate about it?' I asked. "You got free turkey and gravy two nights ago, didn't you?"
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    From the chapter on "spree-killer" Billy Cook. Something about the painful, primal need in this passage was extremely moving to me.