Fallen Angels by Marvin J. Wolf and Katherine Mader is described in its subtitle as a chronicle of L.A. (Los Angeles) crime and mystery. Yep, I know that “everybody” knows L.A. stands for Los Angeles but there are those unfamiliar with the United States that might think L.A. is a genre of crime and mystery that involves the use of leather articles (LA) so I wanted to clear that up. This novel fulfills the requirements of a chronicle as it presents true crime accounts from 1847 to 1983. There is a fascinating addendum at the end dated 1987 which provides updates to the earlier reported Thelma Todd mystery. This is crime reporting with many irrefutable facts referenced in an approximately 11-page bibliography. Some may argue this is not a novel due to the reporting of so much factual information. But there are also a lot of unsolved mysteries and possibilities presented. The idea that studios staged crime scenes to protect contract actors may have a basis in truth. The reader will probably question why there was so much time between a death and the report of the death to the police. Because of conjectures, no one knew what really went on in the “missing time” sequences, I call this work a novel.
I love crime fiction. Better than that are accounts of actual crimes and the clever stratagems that criminals employ to avoid detection. This work provides a review of some of the most famous cases and filled in blanks where my knowledge was incomplete. As a young person in the 50s, my parents and grandparents talked about the scandal that was Fatty Arbuckle. They didn’t talk of specifics to the five-year-old I then was but later, as with this work, details were filled in. The recent demise and publicity surrounding Charles Manson prompted my son to ask me what the big deal was. This work provides publicly available accounts and attempts to find threads that bundle disparate accounts into a “story” that we can read as if it were entertaining fiction.
The work serves a more valuable function for me as it suggests areas for further study. I would never have thought of putting Clarence Darrow and bribes in the same sentence. I’m not quite sure whether I believe in the origins of “the real McCoy,” but the story presented here is entertaining. Readers get a look at the Black Dahlia and information that brings back “The Godfather” in accounts of Bugsy Siegel. Sal Mineo, Patty Hearst, and John Belushi return to mind though the chapter prompts in this work.
My only negative comment goes to proofreading. Not editing, proofreading. It seems to me that from about three-fourths of the book to the end the number of sentence fragments and typos increased. They irritated me enough to highlight them. I have found instances when it was not entirely a fault of the author but had something to do with the format in which I was reading. In one case I withdrew a review when an author pointed out to me what had happened (I had downloaded a work that was later corrected). These obstacles to the flow of reading stopped me from giving the work five stars but the overall reading experience remains enjoyable.