Brown has lived a lot at 45, and he looks straight at you with watchful, intense eyes, as he begins the back story behind "The Los Angeles Diaries."
Some bleak facts dot the map. His mother goes to jail. His budding movie star brother shoots himself. His sister dives off a bridge into the bed of the L.A. River. Brown struggles through life as the promising young writer of such novels as "Lucky Town," while moonlighting as a raging alcoholic and drug abuser and wringing another generation of pain from his wife and young sons.
But Brown's still alive. He walks out of the restaurant and climbs into a big red pickup truck for a drive down Hollywood Boulevard, pointing out the Frolic Room, where he once drank himself into a stupor. He drives past the Pantages Theatre, past the racy lingerie shops and the sandwich board lady ("Date a Movie Star"), then turns down a side street and points out the dilapidated rooming house his brother was moving into before he killed himself.
"I think that faith is a type of strength, to understand that your life can be worth living," Brown said, adding, "even if it doesn't seem like it at the time."
Brown reads Oct. 1 at Book Soup and the next night at Vroman's.