Saturday, March 29, 2008

Citizen Phillips & Co.

Creator of Ivan Monk, that fine crime writer Gary Phillips -- who is doing a serial called Citizen Kang at The Nation -- is the best person in the world to put together this sharp collection of new stories about the link between crime and politics. He might not have invented Eliot Spitzer or the Mayor of Detroit, but he could have.

Phillips's own contribution to this timely anthology is a thing of beauty. "Rudy Garza broke a shoelace as he tied one of his Botticellis," begins Swift Boats for Jesus, a wonderful tale of crooked cops, bent politicians, warring gang leaders and assorted hustlers like Garza, all doing their worst to protect their own part of the Los Angeles dream.

John Shannon, Mike Davis, Twist Phelan and Sujata Massey are among the other topnotch collaborators. Shannon, whose newest Jack Liffey book, The Devils of Bakersfield, is due out from Pegasus at any minute, has a story about the real price of illegal immigration, called The Legend of Bayboy and the Mexican Surfer. Davis, best known for his non-fiction, (City of Quartz is arguably the best political history of Los Angeles) offers Negative Nixons, a jaunty look at the reviled ex-President. Phelan, certainly the fittest member of our original Suicide Club, has a wise and funny story about a 40ish female Secret Service agent. And Massey shows that Iraqi politics are as vicious as the homegrown version in The Mayor's Movie.

I hope that Phillips has remembered to send Barack Obama a copy of Politics Noir.

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