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Retirement. Publishers, thank you for the many years of reading pleasure you gave me, but all good things must come to an end. Due to failing eyesight I am forced to retire. I can no longer review your books, and any that you send will be donated to the local library, unread. Do not send any more. I can only read for a couple hours every day, and this does not allow me to finish a book in reasonable time. I will be devoting time to my own books from now on, and reading on a personal level. Books that interest me. I prefer paperbacks and hardbacks, not eBooks. My eyesight has been failing the last few years, and I cannot handle hundreds of review books any more. My books are still available for review. Anyone interested in reviewing any of them, they are found in the Link to Tom’s Books On Amazon. Contact me for pdf copies at

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Blog Tour With Kim Cooper

Bio: Kim Cooper is the creator of 1947 project, the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric's popular crime bus tours, including Pasadena Confidential and the Real Black Dahlia. With husband Richard Schave, Kim curates the Salons of LAVA - The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. When the third generation Angeleno isn't combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, she is a passionate advocate for historic preservation of signage, vernacular architecture and writer's homes. Kim was for many years the editrix of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. Her books include "Fall in Love For Life," "Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth," "Lost in the Grooves "and an oral history of the cult band Neutral Milk Hotel. The Kept Girl is her first novel.

Excerpt: Tom James visits L.A.'s Main Street, summer 1929 (from Chapter Ten of "The Kept Girl" by Kim Cooper)

Thank you for the opportunity to drop by The Pulp Den on my February blog tour for "The Kept Girl," a novel of 1929 starring the young Raymond Chandler, his devoted secretary and the real-life cop who is a likely model for Philip Marlowe.

With this guest post, I'd like to share a section of the story that was a particular pleasure to write. In it, Tom James, a former Police Commission investigator who has been bounced down to a busy Broadway beat and is helping oil executive Chandler off-the-clock with a business matter, goes down to Main Street to clear his head.

This famous boulevard, once L.A.'s center of vice and cheap entertainment, is today in the throes of uneasy gentrification, with low-income SRO tenants mixed in with fancy pet shops and faux speakeasies.

Los Angeles is a city that largely abandoned its downtown in the middle part of the last century. Now young people are coming back, falling in love with the old buildings, but with no easy way of knowing what rich stories they hold. For the past nine years, I've been doing my part to bring these lost narratives back, through the 1947project history blogs and Esotouric's true crime bus tours.

I am particularly fascinated by the Main Street that was, and based the following scene on extensive reading of old newspapers and non-fiction accounts, archival visits and the study of vintage photographs and films. Main Street feels very different today, but these lively old ghosts are right up at the surface if you know to look for them. I hope, dear reader, that you find them as beguiling as I do. – Kim Cooper

Main Street was loud and crass in the late afternoon sun and smelled like hamburgers. Tom fell into a stroller’s pace and observed the changing scene, not as a cop but as just a set of eyes, with the same cool detachment with which he’d watch the slim, darting bodies in a fish tank. It was restful to be just one conscious form among thousands on the sidewalk, wanting nothing that anyone was selling.

Main Street was a base and ugly boulevard, the end of the line. Lusts were whipped to a frenzy in its fleshpots, but rarely ever satisfied. Yawning thirsts were quenched in its rum cellars, only to grow back stronger with the dawn. Pawnbrokers promised cash for memories, never telling their customers that if they managed to redeem the shelved treasures they’d seem tawdry and pathetic upon collection.

Main Street was bright lights and hollering barkers, sharp-eyed women whose high color signified not youth but some tubercular condition, fat men who made thin men work hard for small wages, a place where boys were corrupted and girls ruined, where street preachers failed consistently to save souls, and where each one of these small tragedies meant nothing much at all.

Just inside the penny arcade across from the rescue mission, a couple of kids with dirty peach fuzz mustaches lurked around the peep booth. One idly turned the crank and snapped the gum in his mouth. A horn-shaped speaker blared a low-down blues. Inside her glass cage, the mechanical gypsy rolled her eyes and fanned five cards, waiting for a customer.

The crimes of Main Street were minor, tedious. A drunk sailor losing his roll to a B-girl, a newsboy hocking stolen watches, a vicious fight over a woman neither combatant cared one fig about. Occasionally, something unusual would happen— a murder or a lost child found—but on Main Street even a miracle would seem drab. Such was the klieg light power of the commercial engine that fed the place, and the artifice that was its only real product.

On Main Street, even the Salvation Army majors were blase ́.

A skinny white fellow in a Hindu costume shimmied around the sidewalk at 5th & Main. He had a banjo on a strap around his neck, but couldn’t be bothered pluck it. On reaching the corner he threw back his head and bellowed, ‘‘See the geek! Gen-you-wine freak of nature and a marvel to behold, only at The World Mu-see-um!’’

Here, people were just characters playing their two-dimensional roles: the whore, the john, the hustler, the mark, the pimp, the bum, the temperance worker, the loan shark, the addict, the wide-eyed boy from Beaver Dam, Kentucky, who came to Los Angeles and had all his dreams dashed and then remade again into something more practical, less likely to be dashed again.

Signs covered every permanent surface, a cacophony of typography and misused punctuation.


A boy walked against traffic in the gutter. He was pulling a narrow cart with an upright painted sign advertising the coming of the circus, featuring Goliath (the mammoth sea elephant, one ton heavier than last season), and Hugo Zacchini, human cannonball. The kid’s shoes were falling apart at the back, and the skin of his heels stained black.

Tom stepped into a narrow flower shop, turning sideways to pass the sprawling sprays of moist, wilting roses standing on mirrored shelves. There was nobody behind the counter. He lifted the little trap, pushed the sleazy curtain aside, and walked down the steep basement steps. He tasted violet perfume on the smoky air.

Down below, a radio was playing soft classical music, and three little gals in tight satin dresses were slouched on their bar stools. When they heard his steps on the stone, they pulled their stomachs in. The blonde at the end looked over her shoulder, made Tom for a cop and clucked disapprovingly. She yawned at him. The bartender gave him the fish eye. It wasn’t Friday, and he wasn’t the designated collector.

Tom shrugged and took a seat in the corner. The girls slumped down again.

It was peaceful down here, with the music and the cool stone wall against his back. A little time passed. A soft-looking guy in a wilted linen suit came downstairs and admired the scenery. He went up to the blond and whispered something to her. She snuggled up close and called for a champagne cocktail and a bourbon, water back. You’d have to be fresh off the truck not to know that her $2 drink was nothing but ginger ale with a sugar cube and a dash of bitters, and that the bourbon box behind the bar still had Venice Beach sand between the slats. She held the mark’s hand with a practiced tenderness, and drank her cocktail fast enough to keep the boss happy, but not so fast that the man beside her felt like a fool. It was illegal as hell, but almost innocent compared to most of what went on above and below Main Street. The blond whispered in the soft man’s ear and he traced the curve of her jaw with the edge of his thumb. Tom supposed there wasn’t much harm in it, but he felt all of a sudden mad and a little sick and he made for the stairs. It wasn’t worth fighting them. He didn’t care so much as all that.

Main Street was an education in the real life of humans. Books were full of remote ideals that couldn’t be realized in everyday life except by those insulated from reality by money, breeding and character. The people you met in church were wearing their best faces. Down here, nobody pretended to be something they weren’t. It wasn’t a pleasant world, but it was a natural one. Since he’d first arrived in Los Angeles, Tom had been coming here to practice compassion. He tried to love everyone, but it was hard. At his best, he managed not to judge.

But he wasn’t at his best today.

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