Neighborhood Tour

3 Literary Tours of Los Angeles from Print to Pavement

by Natalie Compagno
Union Airy, comfy Union Station. Photo by Kallahar / Flickr.

Never mind the mansions of the movie stars. Traveler's Bookcase owner Natalie Compagno took us on three very different literary tours of Los Angeles. Want to see where else the writers go? Natalie also gave us a Cliff's Notes to Literary LA.


Before Chandler, mysteries were considered pulp fiction. The Big Sleep changed that instantly, and his poetic words took readers on a crime spree across the Los Angeles streets.

Grab The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles by Herb Lester. It takes fans book by book through the famous Los Angeles backdrops to Chandler's indelible characters. Some favorites are Greystone Mansion (905 Loma Vista Dr., Beverley Hills; +1-310-285-6830), which was thinly veiled as the Sternwood Mansion in The Big Sleep and the Hollywood Public Library (1623 Ivar Ave.; +1-323-856-8260) in the same book. Union Station (800 N. Alameda St.; +1-213-683-6729) was featured in Chandler's Playback and still looks and feels much like it did back then. And, of course, The Los Angeles Athletic Club (431 W. 7th St.; +1-213-625-2211), which Chandler himself frequented and used for a scene in Lady in the Lake.


West Plaza in Chinatown. Photo by The City Project / Flickr.


If history piques more interest than mystery, wander the streets of Chinatown to be enveloped in the backdrop of the novels of Lisa See. See grew up in Los Angeles and spent most of her time with her grandfather's family. Her first book, On Gold Mountain: The One Hundred Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family, was about her family's history and won many awards. Her second, Flower Net started her historical fiction series set between downtown Los Angeles and China. The F. See On (509 Chung King Court.; +1-213-628-3532) shop in the West Plaza, built in the 1940s, is still run by members of the See family. Lisa See created a walking tour of Chinatown based on her family's experiences. Email for details or take up the self-guided walking tour recommended by the Chinatown Business Improvement District.


A cozy setting for a proofread. Photo courtesy of Gjelina.


As a somewhat difficult-to-decipher-scene, the best way to get into literary Los Angeles is to be introduced to it by a local. Like Scott Z. Burns, acclaimed screenwriter (The Informant! and Side Effects) and playwright (The Library), who loves his adopted city and has thrown many holiday parties in bookstores inspired by his love of books.

"Besides writing in my home on the canals of Venice, California, I enjoy writing at Zinque (600 Venice Blvd.; +1-310-437-0970) nearby. Gjelina (1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd.; +1-310-450-1429) is where I go to proofread because if I wrote something that didn't work or sucks, at least I can eat delicious food to console me. The upstairs apartment at Gjelina was the perfect place for the staged reading of my play The Library, and the owners might start a literary series soon. My favorite bookshop is Small World Books (1407 Ocean Front Walk; +1-310-399-2360) on the Venice Boardwalk, and if you want to read about Los Angeles, the iconic John Fante books are a must. Right now I am reading Miranda July's The First Bad Man, and I recommend both her and Ron Koertge as great local author to reads."


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