After much searching, then discovering the novel to be a collector’s item due to a limited one-time print run, I bought the e-book version of Digging the Vein by Tony O’Neill. While I was on the thirteen hour flight to Los Angeles I started reading it and was pleasantly surprised to discover it was set in LA. Before I left LA, less than four days after arriving, I had finished O’Neill’s debut.
I was hooked.
I was also bitterly disappointed at the conclusion as I desperately wanted a happy ending yet received exactly the opposite. So when I discovered O’Neill had penned a sequel, Down and Out on Murder Mile, I purchased it, read it in record time and received the aforementioned happy ending that eluded me previously.
Unable to get enough of the author’s work it was time to move onto novel three, Sick City, also set in LA coincidentally. This novel took a bit more time to complete, but in the process of doing so something unexpected happened. My previous dislike of Los Angeles (see City of Angels?) began to evaporate and my affinity with the city began growing.
The majority of the locations O’Neill describes in his first three novels I walked through in August 2015. Somehow this has brought me closer to the City of Angels, it was like I knew its deepest and darkest secrets. Then from out of nowhere on page 331 this conversation occured between the two main characters Jeffrey and Randall about the MacArthur Park area…
“This fucking place creeps me out, man” Jeffrey said.
“Creeps me out. So fucking sketchy. I hate being down here. The pigs are crawling all over the place.”
Randal snorted. “So long as the fucking Eighteenth Street remembered to pay off the cops this month, we’re cool.”
“I hate it, though. It’s fucking depressing. The poverty. I mean, Jesus, imagine raising your kids here?”
Randal laughed. “Listen–nobody gives two shits about these people. They don’t care how these people’s kids grow up. This place is totally abandoned by the rest of the city. I mean, there are people I know who have never so much as driven through this neighbourhood. It doesn’t really exist to them. Imagine, a whole section of the city they call home, and it may as well be fucking deepest Africa or something. That’s why the fucking subway stops at Beverly. It’s not just because the rich fuckers don’t want to come here. It’s because they want to keep these people contained. This city is fucked up, Jeffrey. It’s a fucking cesspool. Calling this place the City of Angels is a horrible fucking joke. It isn’t a city of angels. It’s a city of fucking whores. The thing is, you can’t act like this neighbourhood is the problem and over in Beverly Hills everything’s hunky dory.”
* * * *
“Beverly Hills might be a fucking cultural black hole, but at least I don’t have to worry about getting my throat cut for my wallet over there. I don’t like it. If I didn’t need drugs, I’d happily never set foot around here again. I grew up around poverty. It depresses me.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read this as it echoed almost exactly my feelings on the area. I was somewhat shocked at the poverty.
Now, I’m mid-way through O’Neill’s fourth novel Black Neon, which is the sequel to Sick City and is unsurprisingly partly set in Los Angeles. And I couldn’t be happier.