Monday, August 14, 2006

The Times It Isn't Changing

While we wait for Denise Hamilton's most recent Eve Diamond book (Prisoner of Memory) to come out in paperback, here's what I wrote about its predecessor:

Hamiliton's version of the Los Angeles Times where her star reporter Eve Diamond works (lots of pages for investigative journalism and writers given a free hand to fill them; a heavy interest in arcane local cultural events like theater) make it sound like a cross between the paper in Hecht/MacArthur's The Front Page and the old lefty P.M. in New York (before it became the Post.) If recent reports are true, this isn't quite like life at today's Times. But it does give Hamilton's books about Diamond a decidedly historic feel - probably to be studied by future scholars and passed off as the same kind of truth that has encircled stories about London in the 1960s.

Eve is in fact wearing a “1940s cocktail dress of raw silk with a scoop neck” as she waits at the fountain outside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion where the world premiere of a play called Our Lady of the Barrio by a former gang member named Alfonso Reventon is about to happen. The fact that the star, Catarina Velosi, Alfonso's ex-lover, has disappeared spoils Eve's date with a glamorous music executive named Silvio (imagine a young Caesar Romero), Alfonso's friend, who brings Diamond along on his search for the missing actress.

What makes Savage Garden worth our time is Hamilton's obvious desire to turn Los Angeles into a piece of the past - a place where ethnicity matters, where culture other than movies is treated with respect, above all where newspapers make occasional stabs at greatness.