Venice in Books L-P
In alphabetical order by author's last name
Gavin Lambert - The Slide Area
This novel includes a lot of unflattering description of Venice. Granted,
we hear that was an awful period, but still Lambert either didn't have
his facts straight or used a lot of artistic license in regard to local
history. He calls it a "mouldering unfinished little town" without
apparently realizing it was once extremely finished, and lots of it was
torn down between 1905 and 1959. He says that hardly anyone went to see
Bernhardt. But a magazine article by someone else says she played to capacity
crowds for three days.
Gavin Lambert - Inside Daisy Clover
Daisy Clover hangs out in Venice, a "cockeyed dump," though
she does love its gimcrack charm and the trolley. She records songs in
a booth on the old Venice Pier (the first step toward an eventual fabulous
career in the movies). Daisy and her mom move to the Paradise Hotel, then
next door to the Twilight Convalarium where they pay $35 a month for a
big room with three curtained alcoves.
Marie-Gisele Landes-Fuss - A Red Brick
Building, Ugly as Hell, in Venice, California (1984)
When a visiting French pillhead lands in the US her first stop is Venice
Beach, home of three thousand junkies. Drums, kites, sand
scoring. She wanders through Oakwood, hangs out on Ocean Front and strikes
up an acquaintance with the Doll Lady, who tells her that a certain building
is a drug rehab center. Wacked out of her skull on American pills, she
has an accidental, prophetic meeting with a girl who says, "Im
not allowed to talk to you."
Eventually, she joins the 62-member family of junkless
junkies, which includes people of all ages, sexes and races, including
the son of a movie mogul. The institution, named only in the books
dedication, is Tuum Est (no relation to est or Erhard Seminars Training).
In Latin, Tuum Est means "Its up to you," the byword of
a program that actually seems to have worked, even for addicts with decades-old
The renowned rehabilitation facility was founded
in 1970 by Isaac, a massive black former Synanon member, and supported
by, among others, a mysterious benefactor known as Prince who periodically
stopped by to leave a large check on Isaacs desk.
The red brick building of the title, referred to
by its inhabitants as "this dump", was located at 503 Ocean
Front Walk, between the Figtree Café and Bay Cities Synagogue.
I always wondered what went on inside that place, and waited more than
twenty years to find out: even more weirdness that I had imagined.
Frenchie, as she was known at the dump, gifted the
world with a valuable legacy in this book, which is unflinchingly self-revelatory
and spiced with plenty of attitude. Its very lively reading indeed.
Mark Lane - The Strongest Poison
In his book about Jim Jones and Guyana, Lane sets the scene for his own
involvement in the story: "At the end of the summer of 1978, while
living in a small, crowded apartment in Venice, California....I was completing
the draft of a screenplay with Donald Freed...."
Fritz Leiber - The Black Gondolier and Other
The protagonist Daloway has a weird theory about
the crude oil that defines his environment. He lives alone in a busted-down
trailer beside an oil well, near a café very specifically located
on the Grand Canal within half a mile of St. Mark's Plaza. La Gondola
Negra, where entertainment is provided by a guitarist who sings an eerie
Ballad of the Black Gondola, is described as the successor to the Gas
House. The storyteller draws a dismal picture of the Canal District at
a certain stage of its history. The arcades of Windward: "....you
may have seen them in a horror movie called Delirium where a beautiful
crazy slim Mexican girl is chased round and round the deserted porticos
by a car flashing its headlights between the pillars."
Lena Lencek editor - Stories by the
Sand and Sea (2000)
Anthology, supposedly has a story that involves Venice but I can't vouch
Elmore Leonard - Be Cool
Vita, one of the girls in a band called Chicks International, lives in
Venice 2 blocks from the beach in an upstairs apartment full of pillows.
Naomi Levy - To Begin Again
Rabbi Levy was for many years with a congregation in Venice, and
this book is about how they and she found meaning in life.
Mark Lindquist - Sad Movies
Zeke is 25 and lives with Becky in an apartment above the boardwalk. The
very self-consciously hip protagonist writes bad advertising copy about
bad movies. There are scenes of boardwalk belligerence and weirdness.
"Venice is the only place in LA where a confused person on drugs
might think he's in Greenwich Village, if he doesn't notice the beach."
Lawrence Lipton - Bruno in Venice West (1976)
Lawrence Lipton - The Holy Barbarians
the first and most widely known book about the Beats of Venice. John
Arthur Maynard, in Venice West, says that Lipton gave everybody
at least two names, making the beat community seem larger than it was.
Lawrence Lipton - Gimpie
a novel about a Venice gambler, never finished or published
Elmore Leonard - Road Dogs
Some character named Cundo has more than one Venice oceanfront home, where
Jack Foley agrees to stay and watch over a psychic woman.
Marc Lo Porto - Venice Beach California Fantasy
Los Angeles and Disneyland for Dummies
Bret Lott - Jewel
An Oprah's Book Club selection about a Mississippi woman with a developmentally
disabled daughter. The family moves to California in 1952 and buys a house
in Mar Vista, "an area of the town of Venice." The narrator
says the ocean "wasn't much more than a dumping ground for the oil
wells." One of her sons plays football for Venice High; he and his
brother work out at Muscle Beach and play at the Ocean Park amusement
Alison Lurie - The Nowhere City
A couple moves to LA from New England and the husband has an affair with
a Venice beat chick.
Rich Mann - North Beach 90291
Photos, including one for which Mann won a major award. Includes pages
that fold out into an eight-foot mural representing a contiguous mile
of oceanfront buildings from Marine Court (where Pacific Ocean Park used
to be) to Windward Avenue. There's also a great picture of Swami X: "Looking
to the heavens, he says, 'You promised me Paradise, and I was sent back
to Venice?' " Also Ron Kovic, musicians at a pagoda, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Constantine Manos - American Color (1995)
Candid color photographs taken in some of America`s public places: Venice
Beach, Atlantic City, and Mardi Gras.
Jody Maroni - Jody Maroni's Sausage Kingdom
high-quality, reduced-fat gourmet sausage recipes from a Venice boardwalk
John Arthur Maynard - Venice West: The
Beat Generation in Southern California (1991)
Published by Rutgers University Press, chronicles the decline of the community
into the '70s. Kirkus Reviews says, "Despite some early ink in Life
magazine and time on TV, which suddenly threw a hot spotlight on Venice,
the town soon closed up as a beat enclave and its greatest literary lights
(dim bulbs all) could not survive drugs, cancer, madness or old age."
William Alexander McClung - Landscapes of Desire:
Anglo Mythologies of Los Angeles
includes some discussion of Terry Schoonhoven's mural "Venice in
Gardner McKay - Toyer
If you think a dreamboat ex-actor from a mediocre TV series can't write
a hell of a good book, this one will make you think again. (McKay himself
narrates the audiotape edition, and damn, he's good.) Toyer is a felonious
psychopath who has mutilated a dozen women. He agrees to meet a woman
doctor for counseling, but she takes along a scalpel and plans to kill
him instead. On a dark night she parks at Windward and Ocean and walks
out in the sand and....
Ron McLarty - The Memory of Running
Protagonist has to go to Venice to claim the body
of his sister, who was mentally ill and missing for a long time.
Mark McMahon - Venice Beach
a thriller he wrote and self-published while in medica school. The author
is now an orthopedic surgeon practicing in New York and challenged Hillary
Rodham Clinton in a primary election for the U.S. Senate
McNally, William - see Sweet William
Harry Medved, Bruce Akiyama - Hollywood Escapes
Takes you to movie locations1914-2006, including some in Venice. On the
Waterfront Café, Rose Hotel, Ocean View Apartments, Cadillac Hotel,
Venice Suites, Thornton Tower, Waldorf Apartments, Sidewalk Café
Barbara Meyerhoff - Number Our Days
There used to be several small synagogues in Venice which were kept alive
by the "marching minyan," a group of men who searched the boardwalk
area to find the required number to hold a service. In 1979 Anna Belsky
was struck by a bicyclist and consequently died, leading to "Life
Not Death In Venice" demonstrations and counterdemonstrations by
skaters and cyclists. These and many other tales from the people of the
Ocean Beach Kosher Guest Home and Aliyah Senior Citizens Center.
Perry Miyake - 21st Century Manzanar
The novel's hero grew up here and graduated from Venice High in 1971,
just like the author.
Tom Moran & Tom Sewell - Fantasy
by the Sea: A Visual History of the American Venice (1980)
Pretty much sums up Venice right up until the advent of rollerskating.
Massively illustrated, includes a large fold-out picture of a motorcycle
gathering in the old days.
Julian More, Carey More - Views from the Hollywood
is said to have some Venice material in it
Walter Mosley - Walkin' the Dog
One of the stories in this collection takes place at Venice Beach
Walter Mosley - A Little Yellow Dog
Easy Rawlinss friend Jackson calls him from a pool hall in Venice
asking for help because theres a price on his head
Thomas D. Murphy - On Sunset Highways: a
Book of Motor Rambles in California (1921)
Venice is the first section
Gloria Nagy - Virgin Kisses
A very kinky novel about a psychiatrist who makes a patient into
a sex slave. The writer lived for some time in Venice with her two kids.
Pola Negri - Memoirs of a Star
She used to spend Sundays at Marion Davies's beach house, then they
would set out for the Venice Amusement Park to eat hot dogs and hamburgers.
Negri claims to have learned to handle a gun at the park's shooting gallery,
which came in handy when she later owned a revolver.
B. Z. Niditch - "Family"
a story in which the characters are wading at Venice Beach
Ann Nietzke - Windowlight: A Woman's
Journal From the Edge of America (1982)
Nietzke lived above the boardwalk for a year or two then scarpered as
soon as the book was written. Some critics complained that her view of
Venice was narrow and superficial, and that she observed rather than interacted.
Still, she wrote beautifully about it. She called Venice a "marriage
of metaphor and geography" which every artist living there wants
to express somehow.
Alyson Noel - Faking 19
(teen fiction) parts take place in Venice
William F. Nolan - The Marble Orchard
one of a series about the Black Mask boys: Raymond Chandler,
Dashiell Hammett, Earle Stanley Gardner. The gimmick here is that the
story, like others in its series, is supposedly narrated by Chandler.
The detectives are looking for a bad guy. When they go to his last known
address, the manager says he moved a year ago to a trailer park in Venice,
and parts of the action take place there. Set in the late 1930s when Venice
was in its ugly, oil rig stage.
G. E. Nordell - Gashouse Beat
Actually this book isnt finished yet.
Joyce Carol Oates - Blonde (2000)
Little Norma Jeane is raised by her grandparents at Venice Beach, and
it's a recurring theme in the novel.
William OConnell - Homeless in
Paradise: Communicating with the Bohemian Venice Beach Subculture
Tillie Olsen - "Tell Me a Riddle"
short story, received the O. Henry first prize in 1961. Was made into
a movie in 1980, partly filmed in Venice. Story describes Venice as "the
back of the great city" where are found the "dwelling places
of the cast-off old." In the storys era, there is a brief vacation
season. "The rest of the year it is abandoned to the old
empty," with "the boarded concessions, the hooded and tented
Sherman Pearl - Profanities
Poetry by longtime Venice Beachhead sustainer
Stuart Z. Perkoff - Voices of the Lady: Collected
The majority of these poems are either about Venice or were written there.
Perkoff is thought by many to be the quintessential Venice beat poet.
Gary Phillips - Bangers (2003)
LAPD detective runs the TRASH (Tactical Resources Against Street Hoodlums)
squad, keeps the crime-infested streets of the Venice clean.
Bhante Walpola Piyananda - Saffron Days in
L.A.: Tales of a Buddhist Monk in America
Picture a monk from Sri Lanka "reasoning with a group of confrontational
punks on Venice Beach"
Les Plesko - The Last Bongo Sunset
As a college boy back East, the protagonist saw a documentary about the
addicts of LA, formed the ambition to become one, and naturally headed
straight for Venice. Anxious to plumb the depths of decadence, he meets
a lowlife who sells heroin and pills but doesnt fool around with
that "lightweight hippie crap." If its grass you want,
Gary is not the go-to guy. However he is a versatile fellow, whose second
job is pimping Cassandra and any other female he can bring under his sway.
Cassandra and Gary move into the heros rented room on the boardwalk,
along with a 12-year old throwaway kid named Maria who accepts corruption
as her due.
This novel is dedicated to Kate Braverman. When Cassandra is given such
lines as "This, too, becomes part of my legend," you gotta wonder
if the character is based on Braverman too.
For most people, Venice Beach is a shiny, sun-spangled place, but this
little family is more comfortable in the menacing night. Indeed, the whole
scene and the lovely Pacific are wasted on them. As Cassandra says, "We
never go down there. Theres nothing to do, the sand gets into your
clothes. Besides, junkies dont tan."
Admittedly there is a purity to the skag-driven life: it all comes down
the next score. Who else among us has such a clear sense of mission? As
Braverman asked in one of her poems, "What would you die for?"
Phil Polizatto - Hunga Dunga
This quintessential hippie era memoir/novel has scenes in Venice and a
whole lot more besides. Its really good.
Marty Poole and Rich Wysockey - Venice
Beach: Heart & Soul (2008)
30 years of street performing, features Mad Chad, Tony the Fireman, Jules
the Mime, The Calypso Tumblers. Its a pricey coffee table book.
Tim Powers - Expiration Date
A speculative fiction novel with ghosts. I was tipped off by first finding
an intriguing quote from the book: "I'm a hundred years from Venice
Beach...." Venice (especially the canals) is the epicenter of horrid
events, and people act even crazier than they do in real life. An element
of the plot is the circumstance which led Pete Sullivan and his twin sister
to quit their job with a small-time movie producer: they refused to work
on a muscle beach feature in Venice on Christmas Eve of '86.
Tim Powers - Dinner at Deviant's Palace
One of my very favorite speculative fiction novels, it won the Philip
K Dick Award in 1986. Gregorio Rivas is a pelican gunner - that's a virtuoso
player of a certain musical instrument - who used to live in Venice and
perform at the Bom Sheltr Bar. Venice is a "savage carnival of a
town," a place of "dangerous glamour," where unimaginable
things go on - especially at Deviant's Palace, the "quintessential
nightclub of the damned." Rivas also used to be a redemptionist (like
a deprogrammer), a very effective one because he himself had been a jaybird,
or cult member. Now the Cult of Jaybush has captured Urania, the great
love of his life whom he lost many years back. Her father hires Rivas
to reclaim Urania so she can marry someone else. One of Rivas's unusual
talents is knowing how to read books from the vanished Electrical Age,
when even the coastline was different. Much of the plot involves a really
bad drug called Venetian Blood. Powers has said that he first sold an
outline of the novel in 1982, then got sidetracked by another major project
and finished Dinner quickly. However, it ended up not being published
at that time. Later he says "I spent about a year re-writing it.
If it had been published in that original version, I'd be embarrassed
today..." In Ecology of Fear, Mike Davis describes and quotes
from Dinner at Deviant's Palace, and reproduces its cover.
Francesco Proto (editor) - Mass Identity
Architecture: Architectural Writings of Jean Baudrillard
see Chapter Two: Cool Towns
go to Books Q - Z