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Los Angeles Stories

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  334 ratings  ·  66 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
Paperback, 232 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by City Lights Publishers (first published January 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  334 ratings  ·  66 reviews

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Oct 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
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 chara ...more
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
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
Sam Quinones
Mar 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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!
M.R. Dowsing
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I've been a big fan of Ry Cooder's music for many years, and I'm happy to be able to say that his literary debut is excellent! For short stories, these are on the long side, and if there's a flaw, it's is a tendency towards too much plot and too many characters. However, that's a minor quibble, and there's an enormous amount to enjoy. Cooder clearly knows a lot about the history of LA, and he draws on this effectively to set his stories in the 1940s and '50s. His characters are all people who ar ...more
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
“Los Angeles Stories”, musician/composer Ry Cooder’s first published collection, looks at struggling but always carrying on people (unsurprisingly, many having something to do with music) in 1950’s LA. The stories are variable (collections of stories almost always are) but all are full of well-described life and characters. The best of the lot (and they are really outstanding) are “End of the Line” and “My Telephone Keeps Ringin’”. These two read like miniature noir novels, with passive protagon ...more
Trixie Fontaine
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Perfectly weird & familiar-feeling petite noirs. I have more to say about this perfect book, but will leave it at FAVORITED for now.
An excellent collection of short stories... Influenced by Nathanael West, steel guitars, Raymond Chandler, and old cars... Los Angeles in the 1940s & 50s.. sans glitz.

I hope he publishes more of these...
Oct 25, 2011 rated it liked it
"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
Rick Reno
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
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! ...more
Sep 08, 2011 marked it as to-read
Shelves: to-read-soon
Ry Coder + City Lights? Holy shit yes.
Nov 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2011, fiction
A wild romp of interweaving hepcat stories from midcentury Los Angeles. When I finished the book all I wanted was MORE!!!
Aug 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Clayton Porter
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Los Angeles Stories is a collection of working class slices of life set in LA during the 1940s-50s. The book runs 232 pages short and in that time Ry Cooder carefully weaves us through eight stories. All sprinkled with elements of noir and a fondness for the musician lifestyle and music of yesteryear.

All in a Day's Work is a strong start to the collection and introduces us to Cooder's style. Mundane existence who's characters aren't complex but the circumstances they find themselves in. Here a
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
From Old Bunker Hill to shabby Santa Monica, characters down on their luck or just plain foolish fall into noir's twisted web in the changing Los Angeles of the 1940s and 50s. This collection of short stories is written in the lingo of the era, and musician-author Ry Cooder populates the stories with musicians and night clubs. If you're hungry for interesting stories that break out from the same-ol'-same-ol', that harken back to the noir of times past, "Los Angeles Stories" is your ticket. ...more
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
These stories ... the characters, the settings, the mood, and of course, the stories themselves, are so elegantly crafted and memorable, I didn’t want to leave them.

I’m tempted to start reading it again, right now, because I want to visit with Herb, Ray, Lydia, Al, Billy, Dolly, Mike Brown, and all their friends, neighbors, and enemies again. I want to settle back in to my beloved Los Angeles at the time just before I was born.

It’s simply a remarkable book.

Brian Yatman
Jul 31, 2018 rated it liked it
These tales are dryly funny, meandering, full of old-time hipster slang, and crammed with period detail. I really enjoyed them. If some of these stories come to less than definite conclusions, it might be more useful for the reader to look on them less as plot-driven than as loose, spicy jams that fade out before they wear out their welcome.

Don't sweat it, the band'll kick in again soon.
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I read this book as part of my book club, definitely not my thing. Nour is hard I felt like we were flying with an inexperienced pilot, stories sometimes just didn’t end, and the characters were sketchy at best. But it was a fascinating glimpse into what my neighborhood looked like 70 years ago, and for that I thank it.
John Wiley
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
Some of these stories are more successful than others, maybe one should have been left out. But some of these hum along like a Cadillac on an open road, and where music comes into it, in particular, you can feel the magic stirring and twitching. Nobody knows how to work a groove better than Ry Cooder. Good job!
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book sounded good based on the blurb on the back, but for some reason the author (the outstanding musician, Ry Cooder) chose to have all of the stories in the 40's and 50's, and I didn't find any of them that good. ...more
Jennifer Paley
Apr 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this one in one sitting practically - it flys by, particularly if you like reading about Los Angeles, which I do. Ry Cooder is an amazing storyteller, and the characters are thoroughly engaging! Thanks RC!

Jennifer Paley
Los Angeles, California
Jeff Smith
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
loved the stories, a few twists to keep you guessing, colorful characters, short and sweet
Al Maki
Mar 14, 2015 rated it liked it
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
May 17, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Went to see Ry Cooder at a local theater here in town and about 2 weeks later I did a search on my search engine and I found out he wrote a book! And it's a work of fiction, no less! I was so surprised I had to check the name twice to see if it was indeed the musician (and a fine musician, at that) Mr Ry Cooder.
I dove into the book as I am great fan of Mr Cooder's music.
I read the first story and the voice was so convincing: written in the first person by a City Of Los Angeles employee collecti
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 his
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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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