L.A. Rex - Will Beall
I'm still struggling to make up my mind about L.A. Rex. It paints a very grim picture of life in a deprived area of one of the richest cities in one the most affluent country in the world . The portrait painted by Beall of South Central Los Angeles reads more like a war zone from the third world country than an area of L.A.
Everywhere you turn there is death and bloody violence. The cops aren't much better than the bad guys are they supposed to be policing. Every time you step out of your card, potential death awaits. Life is cheap in South Central. People can and do kill for one wrong glance.
L.A. Rex reminded me of the writing of James Ellroy. Intense, violent and peppered with slang - often incomprehensible. The author makes no concessions for readers who aren't familiar with the life.
Initially my interest was held by wondering how on earth do these men and women retain their sanity with the daily death and violence described in the book. Then about half way through it started to lose me. It seemed every time Ben and his partner rode out in their patrol car someone would be maimed or die - usually messilly and painfully.
There were two time lines in the book: 10 years in the the past which gives some of Ben's history and his relationship with his extremely unpleasant lawyer father and the current day which tells us the day to day story of life in the LAPD . There were so many peripheral characters popping in and out of the story; some appearing in both time lines, that it became a bit confusing.
It was a difficult book to read in many ways and I asked myself, was it worth it? I'm still not sure. What I find myself thinking about after finishing L.A. REX is the fact that the author is a serving LAPD Officer. I can't help but wonder how much of the book reflects the true experience of Police Officers in South Central L.A. If it is even a fraction of what police have to deal with, how on earth do they retain their sanity? Or do they? I read an interview with the author who said that he kept a journal for a number of years and found he felt compelled to write a book as the journal could no longer contain what he had to write. Perhaps this book was some sort of catharis for Beall. A way to purge himself of all the mindless violence and death he was witnessed.
What I've discovered that is haunting me is not the book itself, but the questions it raises. How such a third-world type situation where life is so cheap can exist side-by-side with such affluence in one of the most propserous nations on earth. Is it blindness on the part of the authorities? Short-sighed self-interest from politicians who have no interest in investing the sort of level of funding needed to even make a dent in the problem? Not enough votes in it for them perhaps. Are the different levels of society so cut off from one another that this problem remains unseen by the majority? What has gone so wrong with the American Dream that it has come to this in some areas of the country?
L.A. Rex follows Ben Halloran from his first day as a rookie cop with the LAPD. Ben has been assigned to 77th Division; one of the toughest areas in L.A.'s South Central Area. Ben has been assigned to ride with Miguel Marquez, one of the last of old school of officers. Marquez is a legend in the 77th and if a rookie cop listens to him, he has a fighting chance of survival. But Ben isn't what he seems. He has his own agenda.