THE Los Angeles Times named David L. Ulin, a veteran literary critic and champion of West Coast writers, as its book editor Wednesday.
Ulin's appointment fills a position left vacant since Steve Wasserman resigned in May to take a position with a New York literary agency.
Deputy Managing Editor John Montorio said Ulin will be responsible for the newspaper's Sunday Book Review and for book coverage and reviews in other parts of the paper.
Ulin, 44, has written for numerous publications, including The Times, and served for three years as book editor of the Los Angeles Reader.
Montorio, the top editor of The Times' feature sections, said that Ulin would be empowered to accomplish a complete makeover of book coverage when he starts in October.
"I think that the review will remain urbane and sophisticated, but we want it to be far more accessible and far more attuned to what is really hot in the book world," Montorio said. "We want to be dealing with books that people are really going to want to go out and read."
In 2002, the Library of America chose Ulin to edit "Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology," which received a California Book Award from the Commonwealth Club of California. That came a year after "Another City: Writing From Los Angeles," published by City Lights. Both anthologies were honored with a best book award by the Los Angeles Times.
"The fact he was asked to do the authoritative L.A. anthology by a prestigious mainstream publishing house and by California's oldest literary press tells you a little something about his reach," said Tim Rutten, associate editor of The Times' feature sections. "That's why he was such an appealing choice for this job."
Wasserman had been credited with bringing respect, and a number of top-name critics, to Book Review's pages during his nine-year tenure. But some readers inside and outside the paper complained that Book Review could be arcane or fixated on topics that appealed to a narrow readership.
One Sunday section, for instance, focused solely on writing related to the Spanish Civil War.
Ulin said Wednesday that he plans to focus more on fiction than Book Review has in the recent past and will build "on the foundation that is already there to open it up and make it as energetic and engaged as possible."
"I would like to have a Book Review that is fairly fluid and responsive to the culture, a review that treats books seriously but has fun treating them seriously, if that makes any sense," Ulin said.
Besides his criticism and editing work, Ulin wrote "The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction, and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith," which was published last year by Viking. It won best book notices from the Chicago Tribune and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Also last year, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for "The Half-Birthday of the Apocalypse," an essay on his feelings of loss returning to his native New York for the six-month anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The essay was published in the online magazine Invisible Insurrection.
In addition, his writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Atlantic Monthly, Newsday and the Nation, as well as on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."
He also taught creative writing for five years at Antioch University in Los Angeles.
Ulin is married, with two children, and lives in Los Angeles' Fairfax district.