Recommended California Crime Fiction

Eight titles that pair well with Nina Revoyr’s Southland.

los angeles crime fiction
Alta

Nina Revoyr’s Southland—a literary crime novel that charts the entangled histories of a Black family and a Japanese American family—is certainly not the only piece of California crime fiction that you should read. Below are some titles that go nicely with Southland, which Alta’s California Book Club will discuss at its March 18 gathering.

To join the CBC, click here.

1 California Girl, by T. Jefferson Parker
california girl, t jefferson parker
Harper Perennial

Parker’s novel, which was awarded the 2005 Edgar Award for Best Novel, takes place in 1950s and ’60s Southern California and involves the murder of a local beauty queen. Two brothers conduct parallel investigations, eventually uncovering the culprit behind this gory story.

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2 The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler
the big sleep, raymond chandler
Vintage Crime

Noir’s favorite private eye, Philip Marlowe, is hired by wealthy General Sternwood to get to the bottom of the gambling debts run up by one of his daughters. In doing so, though, Marlowe finds himself embroiled in scandal, intrigue, and murder. The Big Sleep is considered one of Chandler’s best novels and was included on BBC Arts’ list of the 100 most influential novels.

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3 The Black Dahlia, by James Ellroy
the black dahlia, james ellroy
Grand Central Publishing

Here’s a classic based on an infamous unsolved murder: The Black Dahlia follows two L.A. cops—Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard—as they take it upon themselves to solve the gruesome murder of a young woman whose mutilated body has been found in a vacant lot.

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4 Damage Control, by Denise Hamilton
damage control, denise hamilton
Scribner

Alta contributor Hamilton’s Damage Control is set in the early 21st century, with frequent flashbacks to 1993. The riveting novel charts the legacy of an intense relationship between two teenage girls after one of them gets swept up in a murder mystery involving a high-profile family.

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5 DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS, by WALTER MOSLEY
devil in a blue dress, walter mosley
Washington Square Press

We mustn’t forget about our CBC December selection! Devil in a Blue Dress features the most iconic Black detective in American literature, Easy Rawlins, as he attempts to solve the disappearance of a white woman.

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6 FADEOUT, by JOSEPH HANSEN
fadeout, joseph hansen
University of Wisconsin Press

Published in 1970, Fadeout is one of the first crime novels to feature an openly gay detective, Dave Brandstetter. He believes that an entertainer who ostensibly died in a tragic car accident is still alive and sets out to uncover the truth.

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7 FOLLOW HER HOME, by STEPH CHA
follow her home, steph cha
Minotaur

At the center of this novel is Juniper Song, a young Korean American woman who investigates a possible love affair between her friend’s father and his employee. Through a shocking twist, we learn that Juniper has signed up for far more than she anticipated.

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8 In a Lonely Place, by Dorothy B. Hughes
in a lonely place, dorothy b hughes
New York Review of Books

Published in 1947, In a Lonely Place is another classic California noir novel, one that exposes the misogyny that occurred in the years after World War II. The novel’s protagonist, Dix Steele, roams the city at night and offers to help a police detective solve a serial killer case.

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