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Death and despair in La-La Land

By August 13, 2020September 9th, 2020No Comments

Robert Campbell (1920-2000) was a prolific novelist and screenwriter, even earning an Academy Award nomination.

With 21 novels under his belt, including the 11 Jimmy Flannery mysteries, Campbell often had a central theme of corrupt politics, tough guys and deals where the fix is in.

The Flannery books are never less than entertaining. But for me, his masterwork are the four novels that make up the La-La Land Quartet. Whistler,  a down on his luck Private Investigator, exists in a Hollywood that is totally corrupt and amoral. The books are clearly set in the late 80s, but are also somehow timeless, a world without end or redemption where the best one can hope for is to survive.

The books are as brutal and bleak as the crimes they describe in a setting that fascinates and disgusts at the same time. Whistler does his best to retain his decency and sense of right, but we know there’s no escape from La-La Land for him.

It’s as if Samuel Beckett had decided to write noir.

‘The rain had stopped. The night air was so clear, you could bottle it and sell it to Vermont. The four corners were crawling with chickens, chicken hawks, whores, twangy boys, grifters, drifters and undercover cops with ear-to-ear grins wiped across their faces like jelly smears. Whistler was adding up his assets.’