Saturday, March 29, 2008

Citizen Phillips & Co.

The creator of private eye Ivan Monk, that fine Los Angeles crime writer Gary Phillips--who is currently writing a serial novel called Citizen Kang at The Nation magazine’s Web site--is the best person in the world to have put together Politics Noir: Dark Tales from the Corridors of Power, a sharp collection of new stories about the link between crime and politics. He might not have invented Eliot Spitzer or the mayor of Detroit, but he could have.

Phillips’ own contribution to this timely anthology is a thing of beauty. “Rudy Garza broke a shoelace as he tied one of his Botticellis,” Phillips writes at the start of “Swift Boats for Jesus,” a wonderful tale of crooked cops, bent politicians, warring gang leaders, and assorted hustlers like Garza, all doing their worst to protect their own part of the L.A. dream.

John Shannon, Mike Davis, Twist Phelan, and Sujata Massey are among the other topnotch collaborators in Politics Noir. Shannon, whose newest Jack Liffey book, The Devils of Bakersfield, is due out from Pegasus at any minute, offers up a story here about the real price of illegal immigration, called “The Legend of Bayboy and the Mexican Surfer.” Davis, best known for his non-fiction (City of Quartz is arguably the best political history of Los Angeles), offers “Negative Nixons,” a jaunty look at the reviled former president. Phelan, certainly the fittest member of our original Suicide Club, has a wise and funny story about a 40-ish female Secret Service agent. And Massey shows that Iraqi politics are as vicious as the homegrown version in “The Mayor’s Movie.”

I hope that Phillips has remembered to send Senator Barack Obama a copy of Politics Noir.

READ MORE:Tales of Power (Senor?),” by Kevin Burton Smith (The Thrilling Detective Blog).

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