Noir to Historical Fiction

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Los Angeles Fiction

Matthew Schmitz at First Things ties together Hollywood noir films to Christian theology. It’s a neat overview of a film genre I’ve never tried (unless The Maltese Falcon counts as “noir”). The great neo-noir film, LA Confidential, however, is one of my favorite movies of all time, so maybe I need to jump into the 1940s and give noir a viewing.

I’d love to read a good nonfiction book about Los Angeles from, say, 1920 to 1975. I think I’ve greatly enjoyed every movie set in that space and time (from LA Confidential to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), and I actually enjoyed the few days I spent in LA last year. If anyone has any recommendations, please let me know. A ten-minute Google/Amazon searchfest yielded nothing promising.

I’m tempted to start reading (maybe listening to) James Ellroy’s historical fiction series about LA in this time period. The thing is, I just can’t “get into” the historical fiction genre, even though, intellectually, I know it has merit.

History, after all, is never history, in the sense that it offers a wholly-factual narrative. Histories pick what facts they want to present, so the history reader who thinks he’s “just getting the facts” is deceived in a way the historical fiction reader isn’t.

Moreover, every history lover is, by necessity, imaginative. History fires the neurons that trigger the imagination. When I was a kid, I loved reading about professional baseball from 1920 to 1968 (the “Year of the Tigers”). I often found myself daydreaming about what it must’ve been like to see the 1927 Yankees, or the Gashouse Gang from St. Louis, or Willie Mays. I find myself doing the same thing to this day, often about living in classical Rome, seeing Jesus speak, or observing the kings’ war games in the middle ages. Historical fiction merely boils those two processes ((1) history reading (2) boiling the imagination) into one.

One Response

  1. Kevin