Colin Marshall sits down at the University of Southern California with Richard Rayner, author of the novels Los Angeles Without a Map, The Elephant, Murder Room, The Cloud Sketcher, and The Devil’s Wind as well as the non-fiction books The Blue Suits, Drake’s Fortune, The Associates, and A Bright and Guilty Place. They discuss the three or four Los Angeleses in which he’s lived since arriving in the city from England in the early eighties; the “up-for-it-ness” of the Los Angeles he first discovered; the reporting he later did from the 1992 riots, and the “geographical apartheid” he saw; his lack of a driver’s license, and how he addresses the question of where the buses go; his observations of how the city once flung itself outward from downtown, and now flings itself back inward; Los Angeles’ simultaneously unsurpassed optimism and pessimism; USC’s Doheny Library as a metaphor for blunt capitalism in action; why we crave stories about Los Angeles’ foundation on wrongdoing; how Los Angeles gets liked more in deed than word; how the current wave of interest in local history began; Los Angeles’ era of booster books against anti-booster books; his escape from English history only to plunge into Los Angeles history; what his unfinished novel of a man who loses his memory in Wales revealed to him about his own life in America; how his English hometown diversified, and how Los Angeles did the same; his cycle through “dustbins of jaded cynicism,” and the different sensibility his students (one of whom has written “the gay Korean Los Angeles novel”) bring to bear; his favorite bus lines to take notes on overheard conversations; and how his enjoyment of the riots, in a sense, got him writing about his own criminal past.
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