Eating with Denise in postwar L.A.

Denise at Du-pars
Eating L.A.'s Pat Saperstein joined LA Observed author Denise Hamilton on a culinary tour based on locations mentioned in "The Last Embrace," Denise's latest Los Angeles-based mystery. This one, set in postwar L.A., has a female former OSS spy as the protagonist and was inspired by the story of actress Jean Spangler.

Hamilton explained that the Spangler had been mixed up with notorious gangster Mickey Cohen, who figures in the book. But she also incorporated a fascinating plotline about stop-motion animation, inspired by the work of Ray Harryhausen.

Sci fi enthusiasts like Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury and Forrest Ackerman used to meet up at Clifton's Cafeteria, which is also mentioned in the story, along with the original Canter's in Boyle Heights and Taylor's Steakhouse. We moved on to the Pig 'n Whistle, which of course was closed for more than 50 years until Chris Breed restored the building and re-opened it next to the Egyptian Theater. The manager showed us the back room, where studio execs and tout Hollywood used to strike up jam sessions. Of course, the book also mentions plenty of long-gone nightspots like the Trocadero and Slapsy Maxie's.

The book, says Saperstein, "deftly weaves together the end of the studio system, the plight of female spies after the war, Hollywood gangsters and their world as well as the real actress's rumored involvement with illegal abortionists and Kirk Douglas."


More by Kevin Roderick:
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LA Times writers revisit their '92 riots observations
Recent Books stories on LA Observed:
Bestselling books of the week in SoCal stores
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