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L.a. Without Borders

July 10, 1994

I read Charles Champlin's "The View Through the Private Eye's Windshield" (May 29) with interest, but several things about the article puzzled me. One was the inclusion of Ross Macdonald among those writers "inspired by the city (of Los Angeles) to a remarkable prose-poetry."

I share Champlin's admiration for Macdonald, who not only wrote fine crime novels but was a fine writer, period. No one else has described the greed, anxiety, and overall spiritual emptiness of suburban California so well. But Macdonald did not write Los Angeles crime novels, unless one wants to include Santa Barbara, San Diego County, and even the San Joaquin Valley among L.A.'s neighborhoods.

Ross Macdonald did not live in Los Angeles, and made no pretense of understanding it. Like any good writer, he wrote about things that he knew. Santa Teresa, the setting of so many of his novels, is a thinly disguised version of Santa Barbara, his home. Pacific Point, where most of the others are set, is a fictional coastal town half-way between L.A. and San Diego. "Find a Victim" is set in a mythical Central Valley city that strongly resembles Bakersfield.

Another thing that puzzled me was the omission of James Ellroy from the list of significant L.A. crime writers of today. Champlin has every right to dislike Ellroy's work, but ignoring the L.A. Quartet series was petty.

WILLIAM FRIEBURGER, PASADENA

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