LA. NOIR uncovers the secret criminal history of Los Angeles that inspired writers and filmmakers for generations and profoundly shaped the city we live in today. Get on the bus as the whole filthy truth is spread out before you, as John Buntin’s acclaimed book comes to life.
Novelist Michael Connelly calls L.A. NOIR “fascinating, flat out entertaining,” Kirkus Reviews raves, “A roller coaster ride…. gripping social history and a feast for aficionados of cops-and-robbers stories, both real and imagined,” and USC historian Kevin Starr says the book is “a tour de force of non-fiction narrative.”
Now John Buntin, the author of “L.A. NOIR: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City” (Random House), brings his groundbreaking book to life with a guided tour of the haunts, “hits,” and harems where some of the most shocking and influential moments of 20th century crime history played out and an introduction to the two men whose rivalry profoundly shaped Los Angeles — one L.A.’s most notorious gangster, the other its most controversial police chief.
Former street thug turned featherweight boxer, Mickey Cohen left the ring for the rackets, first as mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s enforcer, then as his protégé and successor. A fastidious dresser and an unrepentant killer, the diminutive Cohen was Hollywood’s favorite gangster — and L.A.’s preeminent underworld boss. Frank Sinatra, Robert Mitchum, and Sammy Davis Jr. palled around with him; TV journalist Mike Wallace wanted his stories; evangelist Billy Graham sought his soul, declaring memorably that the fast-quipping gangster “has the making of one of the greatest gospel preachers of all time.”
William H. Parker was the proud son of a pioneering law enforcement family from the fabled frontier town of Deadwood. As a rookie patrolman in the Roaring Twenties, he discovered that LA was ruled by a shadowy “Combination” of tycoons, politicians, and underworld bosses. His life mission became to topple it — and to create a police force that would never answer to elected officials again.
For more than three decades, from Prohibition through the Watts Riots, their struggle convulsed the city, intersecting in the process with the agendas and ambitions of J. Edgar Hoover and Bobby Kennedy, Mike Wallace and Billy Graham, Lana Turner and Malcolm X, and inspiring writers from Raymond Chandler to James Ellroy. Its outcome shaped American policing and the history of Los Angeles, fueling racial distrust that sparked the Watts riots and continues to this day.
From the streets of Boyle Heights to the downtown movie palaces where the young Bill Parker worked as an usher — and Mickey Cohen commenced his life of crime, Esotouric’s luxurious coach passenger bus will revisit the haunts where Parker mentor James “Two Gun” Davis played William Tell — and the gutter where “the Combination” disposed of the garroted bodies of those who dared to cross it. We’ll stop by “the glass house,” visit the apartment tapped by LAPD sergeant Charles Stoker and “sound technician” Jimmy Vaus as well as the site of Billy Graham’s “canvass cathedral,” which launched Rev. Graham as a celebrity preacher and began his curious effort to “save” Mickey Cohen. We’ll check into Cohen’s old commission office, hear a first-hand account of how Mickey operated, and visit the Lincoln Heights jail, where on Christmas 1951 events transpired that inspired the opening of the book L.A. Confidential. With Kim Cooper, the creator of Esotouric’s true crime tours and founding editrix of the new website www.inSROland.org riding shotgun, there will also be plenty of surprises. So get on the bus and get ready to meet the Dragnet-era LAPD — and the “the Mickey Mouse Mafia” — on a very special Esotouric bus adventure.