The Crime Writer

Gregg Hurwitz - Author

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ISBN 9781101202241 | 320 pages | 19 Jul 2007 | Penguin | 18 - AND UP
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Drew Danner , an L.A.-based crime novelist, awakens in a hospital bed with a scar on his head, blood under his nails, and a cop by his side. Accused of murdering his ex-fiancée, Drew has no memory of the crime but reconstructs the story the only way he knows how—as a novel. As he searches the dark corridors of his life and the city he loves, another young woman is similarly murdered and Drew must confront the very real possibility of his own guilt. A thrilling piece of contemporary L.A. noir, The Crime Writer is sure to boost Hurwitz’s profile as one of the coming masters of the genre.

The night was dark and January-sharp. People forget how cool LA can be in the winter—Pacific breeze, Santa Ana winds, angry spates of rain with half-assed lightning, like a constipated monsoon trying to find relief.

A view heals all woes. A view makes you feel as if you own something bigger than yourself, as if you own a place on the planet.

I watched the Valley twinkle in the heat below, like the ocean only prettier because it was a sea of lights, because it was movement and life, because it let me be separate but connected to a thousand people in a thousand houses with a thousand stories, many sadder than my own. The mainline of Sepulveda charging north into worsening demographics. Van Nuys, beautiful only from a distance, where Mexicans play soccer workday mornings, crossing themselves before kickoff as if God cares about the outcome of a hung-over pickup game. The 405, a curved waterfall of white headlights. Ventura moving east past the by-the-hour motels with glam studio names where johns bring broken street kids or vice versa. And around the Cahuenga pass where the city waits, an insatiable and inscrutable mistress, spread on a bed of neon with a Sphinx smile, her just-pounced paws set down on punctured dreams.

I closed my eyes, cruising through Hollywood of the hipsters and wanna-bes, the culture consumers with brand names Roman-lettered across ass velour. Drifted behind the honk-oblivious Cutlass with Arkansas plates doing five miles per hour down the Boulevard as heads inside craned on substantial Southern necks, past black kids rat-a-tat-tatting on overturned white buckets, past peeling German noses, the sticky smell of suntan lotion, intoxicating smog, silver hoops piercing bronze belly buttons, Gap billboards of pop sensations in floppy hats, and up the alleys into real Hollywood, where hookers kneel over pools of vomit and junkies stumble from doorways, scratching their shoulders, mumbling their nighttime song, gotta get well, gotta get well.

Through the run of comedy clubs, where husbands from Wichita laugh at Jesus jokes despite sideways glances from prim-mouthed housewives, where amateurs sweat through sets and maybe, just maybe, after the heard-it-all waitresses clear the second empty glass of the two-drink minimum, that big-name sitcom actor will pop in to work out some new material. Then west to Boys Town where gay couples come in shapes and sizes to defy the limited straight imagination, where soft-porn billboards overlook studded leather window treatments, glowing tarot cards, and tattoo parlors, where lovers sip coffee within scream-shot of porn palaces with purple polystyrene, and parking signs totem-pole atop one another, impervious to comprehension. Past the Urth Café, where washed-up divorcees munch organic lettuce, faces caved from pills and swollen with collagen, a war of fleshy attrition. Down the slick snake of Sunset with its old mansions, its bright and brazen Hustler store, its Carnation lights at the holidays. Through Beverly Hills' runs of palms oft-filmed but never captured, leisure suits riding Segways to Valentino, celebutantes strolling with purse dogs, agents with their invisible cell-phone earpieces mumbling solo outside restaurants and at stoplights, the nattering dispossessed.

Come Westwood, come Brentwood, where three-one-oh moms push symmetrical children in designer strollers through farmer's markets and wax dreamily about Bali hotels. Onward to the Palisades, Santa Monica Canyon, and Malibu, up the sparkling coastline reeking of exhaust and covered with seagull guano, then through the runs of canyons, deep russet pleats like streaks of ore or a woman's folds, the air startlingly crisp and tinged with salt.

My cheeks were wet with the breeze and the swell of my heart for the lights below. Los Angeles. A mirage of a town that sprang up like a cold sweat on the backs of gold diggers and railroad workers, and took form when pirate film distributors, fleeing Edison's patents, took a train and a gamble backed by East Coast muscle.

Los Angeles, land of endless promise. And endless failure. Los Angeles of the petty cruelties. Los Angeles of the instant hierarchy, the spray-on tan, the copped feel. L.A. of the bandaged, post-operative nose, the chai menu, the slander lawsuit. Of the hyphenated job title. The two-SUV garage. L.A. with its wide-open minds and well-formed opinions. L.A. of the high-octane sunset, the warm night air that leaves you drunk. L.A. of the prolonged adolescence, the slow-motion seduction, the ageless, replaceable blonde. L.A. where a porn star runs for governor and an action figure wins. L.A. where anything can happen at any time to some poor schmuck or lucky bastard. Where anything can happen to you.

Where anything had happened to me.

“A quantum leap forward in the realm of American suspense literature”
—Dennis Lehane

“ The must-read crime novel of the year. Brilliantly rendered with hip intelligence and fierce originality, this book is a stunner.”
—Robert Crais

“ Outstanding . . . Hurwitz’s previous books—great as they were—look like practice swings before this titanic blast.”
—Lee Child

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