Los Angeles Stories
Uncut Magazine, February 2012
"It's a world at least partly familiar from fatalist noir classics from the time in which these stories are set (1940-1958), the kind of movies in which the way a character lights a cigarette tells you everything you need to know about them and how and where they may fetch up, which as a rule is nowhere they'd want to be. . . . Taken as a whole, this collection offers a panoramic view of a rapidly changing Los Angeles and its immigrant communities, rich in period detail and idiomatic dialogue, sometimes based on Cooder's own memories of growing up in the same neighborhoods in which the stories are often set."
"On his records, Ry Cooder specializes in the talking blues, modernizing the struggle and humanity in his source materials – folk and public-domain covers, the rhythms of Tex-Mex and Chicano culture – with narrative grit and immediacy. His prose, in turn, is rich in sound – echoes of blues, jazz, boleros – in this superb debut of tales set in L.A.'s Hispanic neighborhoods and on its R&B-nightclub boulevards in the Forties and Fifties. Cooder writes with Chandler-esque pepper and an eye for character. A dental technician plays killer steel guitar; a guy who collects info for the city directory is an accidental shamus. John Lee Hooker gets a cameo, and at the end of one story, a ghost hangs around his garage, listening to 78s. Cooder shouldn't stop making records. He should keep writing, too."
The Iowa Review
"The stories of Ry Cooder are a lot like his music: stately, precise, well constructed; they grab you by the throat, quietly, and never let go. . . . Cooder is a passionate historian of Los Angeles, curating its small joys and predilections, its cultural pratfalls and senseless tragedies. . . . Los Angeles Stories is an unusual book, old-fashioned but not out of fashion. Its most beautiful quality is the genuine pathos, conveyed with tact and skill, for a city that has vanished, that has always been vanishing." --Andrew J. Khaled Madigan, The Iowa Review
Sydney Morning Herald
"His stories are a little bit Pynchon-esque, in that they follow red herrings and odd U-turns much of the time. There's urban symbology everywhere: the dark jazz club, the laundromat, the fire escape, the record store, a clacking typewriter . . . The strict Los Angeles setting - the city's highs and lows romanticised ceaselessly - make them like Raymond Chandler or Mickey Spillane."
Our Man In Boston
". . . Ryland Peter Cooder ventures into new territory with his first collection of linked shortly stories, entitled (not surprisingly) Los Angeles Stories (City Lights) . . . Eight stories are set in post World War II Los Angeles intermingling the kinds of characters and narratives that Cooder has put to good use in his songs— blue collar workers, small time criminals and all kinds of fauna to be found in the barely visible underclass."
—Robert Birnbaum, "Our Man in Boston"
"While some of the stories focus on those who end up in LA, Cooder's focus in this book is mainly about those who have called LA home for most of their lives. The way Cooder describes the neighborhoods in LA — the homes and the working class — really paints a picture that doesn’t just give you an idea of what it was like; rather, he brings these images to life, especially if you live in or visit LA today."
"Both Cooder's plots and narrative structures are riddled with interesting surprises. Each story is presented as a mystery, but Cooder doesn’t offer obvious clues and an explanation at the denouement. The stories all have an unpredictably reflexive quality, dovetailing seemingly inconsequential details, making a story ripple with unexpected meaning."
The Pioneer Online
"From ordinary door-to-door men working for the City Directory and fired trolley drivers, to dental technicians and lots of musicians, Ry Cooder's Los Angeles Stories takes the reader on a tour of Los Angeles during the '40s and ‘50s when jazz, rock and Spanish music set the background of the time."
Sacramento News and Review
"Repo men, waitresses, tailors, drifters, grifters and women of all sorts populate these stories that will appeal not only to Cooder fans. Although dark, the stories are never hopeless. They are filled with tough characters making their way in post-World War II Los Angeles, and there's usually a gun involved."
San Francisco Chronicle
"In Los Angeles Stories, his first published collection of stories, Cooder pays homage to the jazz, the blues and the Latin beat of a bygone era. He also honors a cast of boisterous musicians, some murdered, others spared to tell their gritty tales of life and death. A few famous musicians - John Lee Hooker and Charlie Parker among them - make cameo appearances in these pages, but most of the guitar players, drummers and lounge singers are as unknown as the repossession men, waitresses and mechanics they entertain in forgotten bars and derelict nightclubs."
"Nostalgia aside, the book is a deeply humane history of the time before instant pop hits and sprawling superhighways. As with his records, Cooder shows himself to be a sensitive student of cultural roots, and a delicate storyteller."