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The Metaphoric Rise of Glendale

April 29, 2001|TOM NOLAN

The city of Glendale was a recurring presence in California popular culture a half century ago--as a running gag. Glendale seemed to most Angelenos like the back of beyond: a place so remote and socially deprived that its very name was good for a laugh.

In a play on the CBS Radio show "Suspense" in 1948, private eye Sam Spade answered the question, "Do you think all private dicks are clever?" with: "I once knew an operative who, while looking for a pickpocket at Santa Anita racetrack, had his wallet stolen. He, uh, later became a lieutenant of detectives in Glendale."

When Lew Archer was kidnapped by thugs in Ross Macdonald's "The Drowning Pool" (1950) and driven from Hollywood to a desolate burg: "I didn't know where I was, but I had the Glendale feeling: end of the line."

Today Glendale is again a literary reference point--but in a brighter way. When a Dodger scout wants to display the California good life to a hot Dominican prospect in April Smith's 2000 thriller "Be the One," she shows him the "fountains and brass railings" at the Glendale Galleria's food court. The high-tech LAPD Bomb Squad in Robert Crais' 2000 novel "Demolition Angel" is, as in real life, "based in a low-slung modern building adjacent to the Glendale police substation. . . ."

The onetime "end of the line" is now even home to novelists such as Mark Salzman ("Lying Awake") and Jerrilyn Farmer ("Dim Sum Dead")--a far cry from the era when the social-climbing daughter of title character Mildred Pierce spurns her Glendale roots in James M. Cain's 1941 novel.

But there are echoes from the past. This year will see publication of a previously unprinted 1950s Ross Macdonald story, "The Angry Man," in which a would-be client shouts in Archer's Sunset Strip office: "You hear me?" The gumshoe answers dryly: "They hear you in Glendale."

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