Five things I learned from reading “L.A. Rex”

larex.jpgLast summer, author/police officer Will Beall wrote an LA Times editorial arguing that as far fetched as some of his debut novel, “L.A. Rex” may be, its no less plausible than what happens normally in Los Angeles. Looking at events over the past week in the Southland, he’s more right than ever.

Last Friday night, an LAPD chopper made an emergency landing on the football field of Hollywood High. A man was shot in a likely gang hit at Forest Lawn Cemetery in broad daylight on New Years Day. And on Monday, down in San Diego, a suspect took hold of a police dog sicced on him and jumped over the side of the Coronado Bridge (the dog was killed, the man survived with injuries).

If anything, after reading the 350 plus pages of modern pulp noir majesty known as “L.A. Rex,” I thought the book might actually be required reading for anyone wanting to learn Los Angeles 101. Here’s five short lessons I learned from the novel:

1. It’s possible to beat the LAPD’s entry polygraph exam “with two Valiums and a little concentration.”

2. LAPD officers are required to ride in the ambulance with unconcious victims of violent crime, “standard procuedure in case the victim makes any dying declarations about who did it.”

3. All LAPD officers sleep with female probationers (rookies) assigned to them.

4. Veteran LAPD officers know to make a restroom visit before their shift so in case they get shot all the bacteria in their stool won’t infect their insides.

5. In the 80s, after LAPD officers killed a dozen black guys using the choke hold, Chief Daryl Gates said “they died because blacks have different arteries than normal people.”

Oh, and if you’re looking for more practical advice, alligator snapping turtles make for great theft deterrents, especially for anyone wiley enough to get past your pet jaguar.

…reviews from local bloggers: Anti at LAistPatterico

11 Replies to “Five things I learned from reading “L.A. Rex””

  1. Los Angeles is still recovering from the horror of Chief Daryl Gates. It may take decades more, if it is possible at all.

  2. My copy of “Rex” has been sitting on my desk while I finish the paperback of Nelson DeMille’s anticipated but so far disappointing “Wild Fire.” Can’t wait to dive in.

  3. Almost all of Joseph Wambaugh’s catalog touches on most of this (The Onion Field, the Blue Knight, the Glitter Dome, and the Choirboys being excellent…sadly, I have not gotten to Hollywood Station yet). One of the better moments is in response to Gates’ remarks, the cops start calling cop cars “normal and whites”.

  4. While I look forward to reading LA Rex, almost all of Joseph Wambaugh’s catalog touches on most of this (The Onion Field, the Blue Knight, the Glitter Dome, and the Choirboys being excellent…sadly, I have not gotten to Hollywood Station yet). One of the better moments is in response to Gates’ remarks, the cops start calling cop cars “normal and whites”.

  5. If you haven’t picked this up yet, it’s well worth it. There are some over the top moments until you start to think about what really goes on in this town and then they seem downright prosaic.

    One of the things Beall captures remarkably well is the sense of barely held together insanity. That anything can go bugfuck at a moment’s notice and does so with disturbing regularity.

    If you like this one, you might want to also pick up Bangers by Gary Phillips, who’s currently serializing a novel over at Fourstory.org called The Underbelly (http://www.fourstory.org/pages/stories/002-underbelly001.htm)

  6. I have four copies–three hardcover (first edition and still new) and one soft (released late last year round the time he was doing some readings)–and while I am keeping the softcover he signed for me personally, the other three are for sale.

  7. The Choirboys was certainly great, as was the film adaptation. Not as harsh as, say, Fort Apache, The Bronx, but then again, L.A. has always been laid back as well as filled with bathos and pathos in its own fashion.

    The elimination of “black” in the vernacular of the book was somewhat real, just as when crips and bloods eliminated “B” and “C” respectively in words back in the 1980s and early ’90s. (This was disclosed by Kody Scott in his book, Monster, when he talked about saying “bookies” rather than “cookies.”) Language is powerful in all sorts of strange fashions, just as people resort to all manner of ludicrous levels of disenfranchising others.

    Oh, and I read that L.A. Times article (mentioned above) by Mr. Beall. He was down the street from me at the same time–I usta live on the northern side of Los Feliz Blvd near Griffith park Blvd, a few blocks from the fountain where he watched all those coyotes drinking from it.)

    I was driven home late Monday night. Our newsvan–replete with LAPD and L.A. Sheriff press passes–granted us access up LF Blvd from the 5, and under a shower of cinders I was dropped off. Midnight approached, accompanied by LAPD knocking on all doors. I ignored them and watched the fire over the hill, then went outside after all the loudspeakers died down. Watching the fire try to creep over the hill toward the Blvd, I was concerned at the packs of coyotes wandering round. I did not want to be their dinner, so I went back inside.

    I imagine that it was round this time that Mr. Beall was down the hill taking in that odd site of hungry coyotes chased form the hills and exploiting the absence of humans and motor vehicles.

  8. David –

    Glad you dug the book, brother. When they resolve this strike maybe I’ll get the movie back on track. Keep for fingers crossed.

    You boys are right about St. Joe. For LA coppers, Joseph Wambaugh is our Joseph Campbell, the keeper of our unifying myth.

    Keep up the good work.

    -WIll

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