Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Review: Crime Buff's Guide to Outlaw Los Angeles

Crime Buff's Guide to Outlaw Los Angeles

Ron Franscell
WildBlue Press, 2017

Review by Robert A. Waters

In the city of dreams, nightmares haunt its sad streets like a plague. For everyone who makes it big, thousands, maybe millions, fail. Most do not revert to crime, but Crime Buff's Guide to Outlaw Los Angeles describes several hundred who did. There's the brutal, the wacky, and the mysterious crimes solved and unsolved. And, as an added bonus for the visitor or researcher, you can turn on your GPS and head directly to where these murders unfolded.

Los Angeles is unlike most cities. It was built on fantasy, and continues to enthrall the masses in the heartland. Film stars live in mansions while ghettoes steam like volcanoes ready to explode. But whether you live the high life or the low life, almost everyone seems dependent on some form of illicit drug.

Even the stars who have fame and ka-trillions of dollars can't seem to hold their lives together. The first story in Outlaw Los Angeles describes the murder of Lana Clarkson. A waitress at a high end bar, the House of Blues, Clarkson's dreams of movie stardom was fading with each passing year. So when music mogul Phil Spector entered the restaurant, Clarkson may have felt a spark of hope. When he insisted that she come home with him, she did so. Sometime during the night, a gunshot rang out and Lana Clarkson ate a .38-caliber slug. After two trials, Spector was convicted of second-degree murder. It turns out that the world-famous music producer hated being alone, and may have killed Clarkson because she saw how weird he was and wanted to leave.

When a celebrity dies, cover-ups are the norm. George Reeves, AKA Superman, committed suicide. Or did he? Gangster and serial wife-beater Johnny Stompanato was killed by Lana Turner's fourteen-year-old daughter, Cheryl Crane. Or was he? Marilyn Monroe overdosed. Or did she?

Some of the world's best defense attorneys seem to reside in LA for one purpose: to keep the stars out of prison. Robert “In Cold Blood” Blake was tried for killing his grifter wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley, but he was acquitted, leaving many questions unanswered. Michael Jackson beat the rap on child molestation charges.  O. J. Simpson's acquittal shook America but launched the careers of several lawyers. 

What happens when the world's biggest porn star becomes diseased and impotent? Since this is Hollywood, he turns to buying, selling, and using cocaine. Coke eats into bank accounts like cancer, so John Holmes soon became desperate for a quick cash fix. Cops accused him of setting up the robbery and brutal murders of his dealer and the dealer's cronies. Or did he commit the murders himself? We'll never know because Holmes was acquitted of the murders. But he wasn't acquitted of AIDS—he died of the disease a few years after his trial.

Serial killers flock to LA like vultures. The Hillside Stranglers. The Lonely Hearts Killer. Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker. But one of the strangest was Rodney Alcala. A creepy-looking dude, he actually appeared on The Dating Game...and WON—while he was wanted for child-rape and attempted murder. Alcala eventually plea-bargained those charges down to 38 months. As soon as he was out on the streets, he assaulted a schoolgirl and served two more years behind bars. Before he was caught the final time, he had murdered seven women and girls. Alcala currently sits on California's unused Death Row.

Outlaw Los Angeles is one of those books you can't put down. Every page seems more interesting than the last, and when the reader finishes reading it, he wants to contact the author and ask for Outlaw Los Angeles II.

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