The Naked City May 26 2024
ROADSIDE KILL
The L.A. dead get a voiceover.


This photo which was made by an LAPD crime scene photographer today in 1953 seems to show a murder victim, but the subject actually committed suicide. We guess that's self-murder, but whatever, it's an amazingly chaotic result. While it's from the LAPD archvies, it was included in James Ellroy's 2015 photo retrospective LAPD '53. We have a copy and it's worth a look for fans of the macabre. There isn't much information on the photos—mostly they say merely “dead body” or “crime scene.” Ellroy instead discusses his own literary output, opines about film noir, shares anecdotes and musings about various Hollywood figures, recounts episodes from his youth, and occasionally lets himself be pulled down dark time warps he describes as “magical memory.” A typical example is his imaginary story of being at L.A.'s Club Alabam.

Charlie “Yardbird” Parker is bleating, blatting, honking and hiccuping “A Night in Tunisia.” Reefer smoke hangs humid. The music is decadently discordant. It’s the sock-it-to-me sonics of interminable chord changes off a recognizable main theme. It’s music for cultured cognoscenti that Bill Parker [LAPD Chief at the time] cannot acknowledge.

It takes brains and patience to groove the gist of this shit. It’s the musical equivalent of the chaos Bill Parker deplores. Five-year-old Ellroy is there, watching the Bird take flight. Everybody’s chain-smoking unfiltered Camels. The place is one big corroded iron lung. I’ve got a spike in my arm, I’m orbiting on Big “H,” I knew I’d write the text for this book one day, so I’ve got my voyeur’s cap on
.

Interesting, no? Ellroy's writing these days resides permanently on a razor's edge, as he ties together crime, politics, and alpha male ultraviolence. He seem to us the perfect transgressive guide for LAPD '53's tour through disaster and death for two reasons. First, he isn't just an observer—he was a one-man terror show in his own right, engaging in petty crime through his youth, joining the American Nazi Party in high school, and generally leaving chaos in his wake. He waves this period away as a cry for attention. His fame and teflon persona have facilitated this dismissal, and that's the second reason he's a good choice for the book: other people pay dearly for indiscretions far less severe, like the universe has played a terrible joke on them. Ellroy's fiction has always explored such cosmic inexplicability. He makes LAPD '53 an experience.
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 23
1973—Peter Dinsdale Commits First Arson
A fire at a house in Hull, England, kills a six year old boy and is believed to be an accident until it later is discovered to be a case of arson. It is the first of twenty-six deaths by fire caused over the next seven years by serial-arsonist Peter Dinsdale. Dinsdale is finally captured in 1981, pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter, and is detained indefinitely under Britain's Mental Health Act as a dangerous psychotic.
June 22
1944—G.I. Bill Goes into Effect
U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Servicemen's Readjustment Act into law. Commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, or simply G.I. Bill, the grants toward college and vocational education, generous unemployment benefits, and low interest home and business loans the Bill provided to nearly ten million military veterans was one of the largest factors involved in building the vast American middle class of the 1950s and 1960s.
June 21
1940—Smedley Butler Dies
American general Smedley Butler dies. Butler had served in the Philippines, China, Central America, the Caribbean and France, and earned sixteen medals, five of which were for heroism. In 1934 he was approached by a group of wealthy industrialists wanting his help with a coup against President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and in 1935 he wrote the book War Is a Racket, explaining that, based upon his many firsthand observations, warfare is always wholly about greed and profit, and all other ascribed motives are simply fiction designed to deceive the public.
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