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L.A. '56: A Devil in the City of Angels

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  101 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
Los Angeles, 1956. Glamorous. Prosperous. The place to see and be seen. But beneath the shiny exterior beats a dark heart. For when the sun goes down, L.A. becomes the noir city of James Ellroy's L.A. Confidential or Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins novels. Segregation is the unwritten law of the land. The growing black population is expected to keep to South Central. The whit ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published April 10th 2012 by Thomas Dunne Books
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Ok, an interesting read that somewhat blurs the lines between fiction and non-fiction. Obviously a great deal of the dialogue was fictionalized in order to make this an interesting and dramatic read.

Was a bit disappointed how long it took to build up steam and finally nail the criminal. However, this disappointing pace did provide some interesting and peculiar insights into the criminal's odd, little mind.

Was hoping for a bit more on the gritty, noir life that ws LA at the time, but it did offer
Paul Pessolano
Mar 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“L.A. ‘56” by Joel Engel, published by Thomas Dunne Books.

Category – True Crime

Whether you are a fan of True Crime, Mystery/Thriller, or just an excellent – make that superb – read. This book will even of interest to those who enjoy Fiction/Literature and Biographies.

Detective Danny Galindo, who worked on both the “Black Dahlia” and “Manson Murders”, is faced with tracking down a serial rapist.

Galindo is also faced with a Los Angeles that is very segregated. Segregated in real estate, segregated
G.k. Parker
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A heartbreaking story about how endemic racism in and out of a police department can ruin even a good cop's life. Definitely recommended for true life crime stories.
Lori Schafer
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solid example of the true crime genre.
Brett Thomasson
Several years ago, journalist Joel Engel was conversing with retired Los Angeles police detective Danny Galindo about cases and Galindo told him the story of convicted rapist Willie Fields and his arrest in 1956. It took a little while before Engel came back to the case and finished a book about it, but his L.A. '56 tells a very important story about law enforcement, race and culture in Los Angeles in the 1950s.

Fields spent several months during 1956 terrorizing the parking spots and lover's lan
Alyce Rocco
A good read. L.A. '56 by Joel Engle is subtitled: A Devil in the City of Angels.

In Chapter 1 readers are introduced to Willie Roscoe Fields. It becomes obvious Willie is the devil in Los Angeles California.

In Chapter 2 readers meet Detective Danny Galindo. He is one of the first Mexican/Americans to be employed by the LAPD. After a woman is butchered in 1947 there were nearly 150 confessions to the crime ~ 38 of the people claiming to be responsible for the gruesome crime spoke only Spanish. D
Patrick O'Neil
Joel Engel's L.A. '56: A Devil in the City of Angels is a hybrid work of true crime/nonfiction and fiction. I know that sounds clichéd, slightly chaotic, and whole lot less descriptive than it should. But it's really true. Engel did his research, dug up a bunch of facts surrounding the case, interviewing prominent participants, and investigated related news stories from the same time – all of which he includes in his book. However, and here's where it gets weird, in an effort to create character ...more
Jun 15, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a good read but on the disturbing side for sure. Pretty graphic right out of the gate and does a pretty good job keeping up the discomfort throughout. Well written, kept me engaged, and had a nice flow.

Does a good job injecting relative news and headlines throughout the book to set the period and environment.

Overall I took away the intent of the aiuthor which was to let you into the mind of a trully disturbed individual and the ultimately the irony of fate in some circumstances.

Oct 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this book captures the soul of L.A. better than L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City even though it just glosses over the stories.

The whole unreported history of the African-American community is eye-opening and sad.

I really appreciate this book for introducing me to Galindo. That guy is the real deal if there ever was.

I'm very unsure how Fields's side was complied since it seems no one ever wants to talk about Fields. I wish there was more explanation
Jeff Dalton
Aug 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was in the middle of researching books about Gene Roddenberry came across an unlikely related true crime book about LA. I have had an interest in learning more about Parker's Los Angeles since watching documentaries about rise of LA Gangs. Since this was a short book I thought i would give it a read.

The story captured me and now I find myself wanting to re-watch movies like LA Confidential, Black Dahlia and Mulholland Drive.

I cannot give 5 stars because the writing was a bit too choppy for my
Aug 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I debated giving this book 3 or 4 stars. Although the author's note mentions that some conversations were made up and based on research, I still feel as though this nonfiction is quite fictional. Yes, it's based on a true story and I'm sure Danny's information is fairly accurate and based on interviews, but I still had that feeling.
That being said, I give it 4 stars because I quite enjoyed it. It was a lighter read, but I enjoyed my time with it while I was riding the bus. I would recommend it
Dec 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fast paced, interesting true- crime. I don't usually go in for the true crime books, like fiction more, but I thought this one looked interesting when I was looking at new books at the library. Very glad I picked it up. It read much like a Michael Connelly novel. I liked the perspective on L.A. during the late 50's, the integration/desegregation angle that you don't really get too much of these days, including real newspaper stories from the papers. Anyone who is interested in crime, L.A. or jus ...more
Oct 30, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
Short, terse, kind of sleazy true crime book set in Los Angeles, 1956, as a serial rapist preys on young people parked on various "Lovers Lanes" around the city. Pretending to be a cop, the guy separates male from female and then rapes the woman. Engel writes about the crimes in vivid detail [hence the sleazy vibe] while also following a Mexican-American detective who is trying to find the rapist while a wrongly arrested L.A. cop sits behind bars. Fast read, lurid and will be of interest to anyo ...more
Robert Mark
Jun 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: new-authors
Great story, for someone like me that lives in L.A., to read about the city in the fifties and relate to the names and places we have heard about, been to, or earlier read about. Enjoyed the story very much and how the author writes but was really blown away at the end and read the "Author's Notes". Hope I"m not being a spoiler here, but the Detective and others in the book are real people from the fifties and the story is true. As per Jack Webb and "Dragnet"- "This is the City".
Marco Subias
Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a slightly novelized version of a real-life noire police story which took place in 1956. The two main characters are a smart Mexican-American war hero and police detective, and a brutal serial rapist. Los Angeles at a time when the racial and ethnic dynamics are slowly changing and segregation is starting to give way could also be seen as a character. This is a really interesting story which I really enjoyed. Like L.A. Confidential? Read a real-life take on cops and crime in L.A.!
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 16, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In 1956, Willie Roscoe Fieldshe was terrorizing couples in lovers lane by pretending to be a cop. He would get them apart and pretend to take the woman to the station but instead rapped her. LAPD tried to pin the crimes on a black former cop who dated a white woman. I could not get into this book. I did not care for the set up of the crime plus had to many unnecessary details.
Sep 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very engaging. As a current resident of LA, I found his references to specifics streets and landmarks interesting. Learned a little about local history regarding the now demolished Los Angeles Wrigley field which was not too far where I currently work. Great re-imagined dialouge and clear storytelling. Highly recommend if you enjoy true stories.
Jun 19, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
This is a non fiction book that reads like it is fiction. The way the author writes it is horrible. I picked this up because it was a true story but instead it was a book based on a true story. The dialogue was made up and so were one of the entire character's point of view.
Jun 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a true crime buff and this was interesting because it is a case that hadn't been covered. It also has links to other cases; the primary detective, one of the first Hispanic detectives on the LA force, also investigated the Blue Dahlia and the Manson murders.
Zachary Goode
The writing is so elementary and suspense-free, it makes Michael Connelly look like James Ellroy.
The author name drops about 10 references per page to make you feel like it's LA in 1956, but it comes across as very heavy handed instead.
This story deserved to be told by a much better writer.
Solid book. Despite recognizing the name Danny Galindo from other true crime books, I didn't realize this was also a true story. Well written.
May 08, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My dad and brother both said OJ Simpson was framed. I never believed that until I read this book. Now I think they were right.
Jul 08, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Language a little rough, interesting true story.
Saul Ochoa
Nov 30, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: One of my friends
Recommended to Saul by: The librarian
This book is interesting but very confusing to read. It didn't catch my attention only in one chapter. I recommend this book to a person that's good at reading.
Martin  Poblete
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Started off a little slow , but very quickly picked up. very disturbing and not really for the faint at heart.. but it really paints a good portrait of life in 1956.
Jul 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How can this not be a best-selling book? The best L.A. true crime/noir story since John Buntin's L.A. Noir.
Diana Weaver
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow -- was this a great read about a little known serial killer in Los Angeles.
Syntactical Disruptorize
I've griped about true crime novels that suck -- poorly organized piles of text. Engel gets it right in this one. Don't expect justice to triumph, exactly, but do expect real people rendered as such.
Al Stoess
Nov 07, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: True crime readers
True Crime. Not the best written. Love story - good. Ending not good - bad guy survives and does well.
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Joel Engel authored or co-authored more than 15 books (including a New York Times bestseller)—narrative nonfiction, essays, sports, satire, pop culture, biography, and autobiography. As a journalist for the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, among other papers and periodicals, Engel reported on everything from politics to hot-air ballooning, pregnancy to cancer research, pop culture to business ...more
More about Joel Engel...

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