April 2010

Editor’s Letter—April 2010

Noir has it all: love, hate, fate, humor (albeit black), villains and heroes. And having it all is irresistible, especially as an inspiration for storytellers. The genre has given us some of the most vivid imagery ever put into words or on celluloid. And a lot of it is Southern Californian.

The femme fatale is a noir institution. Carla Gugino, who graces our cover, contemplates the role—including the one she plays in Tell-Tale, a steamy noir short based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart”—in “Dangerous Curves,” written by Edgar Award winner and 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize nominee Megan Abbott. (We also have an exclusive preview of the short by Greg Williams—who shot Gugino for our cover.)

Noir is informed by compulsion. And just like the characters in one of its classics, we couldn’t stop ourselves. In addition to her profile on Carla Gugino, we have an essay by Abbott (whose dissertation was written on the hard-boiled-detective archetype and the world he inhabits) speculating on why Southern California is the natural capital of fiction’s dark side. We also conjure up some fashion fantasy in “Trouble Afoot,” in which the girls aren’t bad, they’re just shod that way. (The photos at left are behind the scenes at the photo shoot, where each of Bartholomew Cooke’s four shots is set in a different sinister milieu—from guns and bondage to a final trip to the morgue.)

And for those who want to fortify their noir cred, Denise Hamilton, editor of the Edgar Award–winning Los Angeles Noir and the just released Los Angeles Noir 2: The Classics, has compiled a primer in “Basic Black: 20 Noir Essentials.”

In “Promises Made,” Tom Murray tells the true story of Tim Marcia, the LAPD cold-case detective who has vowed to find the killer of Kari Lenander, murdered more than 30 years ago. And since truth is indeed stranger than fiction, you can’t top “Shadow Caster,” adapted from L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City, in which John Buntin recounts the clash of former LAPD Chief William H. Parker and mobster Mickey Cohen. It’s a cops-and-robbers tale that approaches mythic proportions—you couldn’t make it up if you tried.

Even our travel story “Transverse Transcendence” by Wes Hagen, touches on noir—pinot noir, that is, from Central California’s Santa Rita Hills. But it’s not all dark: For “Heavenly Hawaii,” Barbara Thornburg went over the rainbow to the St. Regis Princeville in Kauai, a resort that will go to remarkable lengths to craft the perfect vacation for its guests.

And what of the disconnect between sunny climes and ominous deeds? Our expert advice is to find common ground: Stock up on noir books (or load the Kindle) and DVDs, buy some sunscreen and a hat and soak it all up, L.A. style.