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Los Angeles Stories

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  217 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
A Los Angeles Times's and Southern California Indie Bookseller Association's Bestseller!

Los Angeles Stories is a collection of loosely linked, noir-ish tales that evoke a bygone era in one of America's most iconic cities. In post-World War II Los Angeles, as power was concentrating and fortunes were being made, a do-it-yourself culture of cool cats, outsiders, and oddballs
ebook, 232 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by City Lights Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

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Oct 14, 2011 Tosh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The stars are lined up perfectly for musicians who write books. Some of my favorite books are by rock n' roll people i.e. Patti Smith's "Just kids," and Nick Cave's novels. And now we have a superb collection of short stories by guitarist/songwriter Ry Cooder that deals with Los Angeles from 1940 to the mid-50's and its brilliant. What you get is a series of snapshots of life in different neighborhoods of Los Angeles, and some of these places don't exist anymore - but yet they live via Cooder's ...more
City Lights Booksellers & Publishers
"On his records, Ry Cooder specializes in the talking blues, modernizing the struggle and humanity in his source materials – folk and public-domain covers, the rhythms of Tex-Mex and Chicano culture – with narrative grit and immediacy. His prose, in turn, is rich in sound – echoes of blues, jazz, boleros – in this superb debut of tales set in L.A.'s Hispanic neighborhoods and on its R&B-nightclub boulevards in the Forties and Fifties. Cooder writes with Chandler-esque pepper and an eye for c ...more
Nov 19, 2012 Ginny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me a while to understand the way in which these stories are connected, but once I figured it out I thought this was a fascinating, imaginative book. Lots of great local color of 1940s & 1950s Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
Quickly grew bored with these attempts at noir stories which all seemed the same, a murder, crime, "dame" in trouble etc. Was very little to distinguish the narrator of each story set in Los Angeles of more than half a century ago. The writing was muddled at times and confusing, especially with all that Spanish thrown in. I didn't have a clue until after I'd read them that they were written by a jazz musician. Lots of jazz stuff in there plus corny old-fashioned noir style dialogue and hard-nose ...more
Rick Reno
Mar 28, 2013 Rick Reno rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cool stories, well-told... Some readers have been disappointed not to see the same virtuosity in his writing (words) as his writing (music); I disagree. He's a great storyteller either way and, if the genre -- the street vernacular of the southwest in the fifties -- isn't your cup of tea, that's not his shortcoming. It might not be great literature, but they are good stories well told!
Sam Quinones
Mar 06, 2015 Sam Quinones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lively writing and curious plots make for a solid collection of stories by my guitar hero of years ago. Cameos by folks like John Lee Hooker spice up the enchilada along the way.

Read it, don't leave it behind!
Aug 18, 2012 Tucker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not much of a review here...just tryin' to help a little. If you like Ry's music, you'll almost certainly enjoy the book; these stories are so like his songs. If not, then not.
Dec 22, 2011 patty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2011
A wild romp of interweaving hepcat stories from midcentury Los Angeles. When I finished the book all I wanted was MORE!!!
Sep 08, 2011 Oriana marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-read-soon
Ry Coder + City Lights? Holy shit yes.
Jan 11, 2017 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So you think I’m kidding, do you? You think I don’t know that Ry Cooder is a musician? Aha, but in 2011 that same Ry Cooder wrote a book of short stories published by City Lights, entitled Los Angeles Stories. These stories, set between 1940 and the 1950s, are not only great L. A. Noir, but they sing with their own unique brand of chicken skin music. John Lee Hooker puts in an appearance, as does Charlie Parker. And the stories are rife with musical references:
Four Chinese girls were sitting at
Felix Purat
For those unacquainted with the greater specificities of the musical world, Ry Cooder is a champion of roots music and, along with Nicky Hopkins, one of the most renown session musicians in the timeline of rock & roll. He also has a surprisingly varied solo career invested in many roots genres, notably a lot of blues, played with a tinge of rock that is the only commonality binding them together as well as Cooders' unmistakable voice during a vocal number. Today, he is well known for being t ...more
"I had made up my mind to quit worrying. Los Angeles was the Land of the Brighter Day, something good was bound to turn up."

These last two lines sum up the motivation that lies with the numerous characters that musician Ry Cooder offers up in his new collection of short stories. While the stories are nominally linked, the variety is enormous: mariachi players, park prophets, backalley dentists, tailors, and disc jockeys are all introduced in their native milieu. Set in the first half of the twen
Al Maki
I enjoyed this book. Ry Cooder is a fine musician and music is at the heart of this book. It's a series of short stories set in Los Angeles in the late forties and fifties when his musical style was being born. The characters are a mix of Mexican Americans, African Americans, Okies and Cubans, again, the sources of his musical style. They're stories about itinerant musicians, tailors and high school drop outs trying to get by in a hostile environment. The stories are by turns funny, gothic, "noi ...more
Stephanie Jane
I finished Los Angeles Stories on the St Malo ferry so was transported from a fortunately calm crossing of the English Channel to the down-at-heel city of Los Angeles in the 1940s and 1950s. Ry Cooder is not only a wonderful musician but also a pretty good writer as these stories prove. There is a fantastic sense of the atmosphere and seediness of the city, the desperation and hope of the people. Each of this collection of short stories has a link to the others, whether it be a place or a charac ...more
Apr 08, 2013 Greg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ry Cooder, best known as a session guitarist, songwriter and vocalist has written a book with tales of his home, Los Angeles. Cooder is successful at painting a picture of the city in it's varying stages of growth and decay over the years and he does so using everyday inhabitants as his set pieces but he with the broadest of strokes. Cooder's success at musically living in any choosen era or geographic location spills onto the pages of this book as he looks closely at forgotten eras and colorful ...more
Couldn't get through it. The short stories themselves have no payoff, loose ends that were once focal points trail off into nothing like wisps of smoke over a fire that fails to light for being overstuffed and unable to breathe.

The Spanglish is forced, the dialect is too heavily leaned on as is the period slang--often at the cost of clarity within stories already struggling to have purpose. There are huge chunks, pages even, of italics.

The effort is lazy and amateurish. It reads like a man stand
Susan Eubank
Here are the questions we discussed at the Reading the Western Landscape Book Club at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden.

• How did the fact that some of the stories didn’t seem “finished” effect your interpretation of what was happening?
• Could you envision the landscape? What stayed in your mind?
• How did you handle all the ambiguities? Give an example?
• Are there plot points you don’t understand? What are some different interpretations?
• How did his work as a musician affect
Three and a half stars. The essential vibe is spot on. The ambiance. Perfect. My two favorite stories are "Gun shop boogie" and "Smile". "Gun shop boogie" I related to as I know the Sierra Highway environs well and Ry Cooder captures it's essence perfectly. "Smile" intrigued me with the development of the principal character, Sonny Kloer. He is a war veteran/musician who makes false teeth for Walgreen's to support himself. I liked the story as it is odd. All of the stories are LA odd in fact. Ab ...more
Oct 25, 2015 Kathie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book and after a show in Dallas recently Mr. Cooder kindly signed it for me. I thought it was going to be an autobiography so imagine my surprise when I found it to be a book of short curious stories!
Have been a fan of Cooder's music since the first time I saw him in the early 70's and now a fan of this book. Such a creative spirit this man contains.
I really liked the timelines and in the end the connections. Great characters, great atmosphere and well written.
I highly recommend
I wanted to love this book... but I didn't find the characters in the stories very interesting. Ry Cooder writes like he talks/narrates and sometimes that is in circles. If you want a good Ry Cooder "LA Story" pick up his "Chavez Ravine" album... lots of great stories on there, interesting characters, great narrative... all set to MUSIC.
Jun 28, 2012 George rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ipad

Ry Cooder’s first foray into short-story fiction, ‘Los Angeles Stories’, is less than compelling. By and large, the stories in this collection were difficult to follow, confusing, rambling and unrewarding.

Recommendation: For more rewarding short stories, read Maugham, Twain, Boyle, Runyon or O’Henry.

Kindle edition, 232 pages
Chuck Armbruster
So excited to read the fictions of such an instrumental building block of the rock scene in L.A. I'm certain that his roots, his musical heritage and his basic horse-sense when it comes to plying his craft have each informed his tales which are likely personal observations of his lifetime's memory.
Jul 16, 2012 Mimi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mostly I enjoyed these very noir stories set mostly in the 50's in LA, much in Santa Monica, Venice, where I used to live, many involving unknown musicians trying to make a living, getting strangely involved with criminals. Sometimes the stories didn't quite make sense, but they are always fun to read.
Nathan Koci
Read this while in L.A. so it was timely, and I enjoyed it just for the sense of place it provided. Very noir-ish stories - honestly the stories read like songs, for better and for worse at times. Still - super fun, stylized stuff.
Apr 16, 2014 Ryo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am very disappointed. In the beginning, I felt music and the surroundings of the story's location, and my expectation went high, but I got bored after reading the first few episodes because they all had the same plots. It just wasn't for me is all.
Graeme Mcgrath
I wanted to read this as Ry Cooder is one of my favourite musicians. Noir-ish stories of the Los Angeles disenfranchised, in a style reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett and Damon Runyon without the weight of either. Ultimately inconsequential, but entertaining.
Mar 25, 2013 Donata rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Molto interessante questo libro di racconti di Ry Cooder. Con un occhio di riguardo per la musica del tempo e una scrittura che si avvicina al meglio delle sceneggiature della Hollywood dei tempi d'oro, le storie degli sconfitti di Cooder si illuminano di grazia e di senso.
Kevin Dawe
Some good stories in this. The first story was my favourite ("All In A Day's Work"). Some stories are very reminiscent of Raymond Chandler, though nobody will ever match the master. Very solid, overall.
Joel Davis
Mar 30, 2014 Joel Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ry Cooder is an excellent musician, songwriter, producer..and it turns out he's a darn good writer, too. Here's a fine collection of vivid tales about post-World War 2 Los Angeles. The people and their stories are unforgettable.
Nov 07, 2013 Robert rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: x2013-14-season
While there is some interest in the phrasing of the work and in the settings and characters, the constant lapses into Spanish, the obscure musical references and the general sameness made all of the stories blend into a bland, unremarkable mess.
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Ry Cooder is a world-famous guitarist, singer and composer, known for his slide guitar work, interest in roots music, and more recently for his collaborations with traditional musicians from many countries, including The Buena Vista Social Club. He has composed soundtracks for more than twenty films, including Paris, Texas. Two recent albums were accompanied by stories Cooder wrote to accompany th ...more
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