Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gary Phillips Goes Back

People say you can never go home again. But, if you do and you’re a reporter, taking along a local author will make the ride more interesting.

That’s what the Los Angeles Times’ Hector Tobar found in a recent piece that focuses on Rap Sheet friend and contributing editor Gary Phillips, returning to the South Los Angeles neighborhood where the author grew up. It’s a gorgeous piece and Phillips’ recollections and reflections are moving and even poignant:
For Angelenos of a certain age, loss is part of the urban experience. Our families have left the place we once called home, and seemingly everything to which we attach nostalgia is gone. For some, change feeds resentment. Phillips isn't one of those people.

“I’m too old to be bitter,” he told me. Instead, he’s used his memories to feed his writing, the images and people of his youth showing up in the pages of his books alongside the Asian and Latino residents and merchants of South-Central's present.
The writing he speaks of has been filled with passion and a sharp sense of place. Violent Spring, Bad Night Is Falling, and other of Phillips’ novels feature private detective Ivan Monk, a character through whom the author skillfully manages to show community, political connections, and the mean streets about which he writes so well.

A more recent Phillips creation is Nate Hollis, the detective featured in the comic-book series Angeltown, inked by Shawn Martinbrough. The Angeltown series reflects Los Angeles “as a lot of different cities,” as Phillips said in an interview with Comic Book Resources. Angeltown, he explained then, is about “the dark and the light and how Nate Hollis navigates the in between.”

The L.A. Times piece can be found here.

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