Kim Cooper signs "The Kept Girl" at L.A. Times Festival of Books

The annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books takes place April 12 (10am-6pm) and April 13 (10am-5pm) at USC, with numerous scheduled talks and signings.

Join LAVA co-founder Kim Cooper at booth #367 at the end of the day Sunday, where she'll be signing her new historic Los Angeles mystery The Kept Girl in the company of fellow Sisters in Crime Los Angeles scribes Rosalkind Barden, Donna Chaffee, Chris Lynch and Naomi Hirahara.

Kim Cooper's "The Kept Girl" reading and book signing

LAVA co-founders Kim Cooper and Richard Schave invite you to join them at Vroman's Bookshop for a reading and book signing for The Kept Girl (Esotouric Ink), Kim's debut novel of 1929 Los Angeles. Kim will read a selection from the book, answer questions and write something sweet inside your copy. Vintage attire is encouraged, but not required.   

The Kept Girl is inspired by a sensational real-life Los Angeles cult murder spree which exploded into the public consciousness when fraud charges were filed against the cult's leaders in 1929. The victim was the nephew of oil company president Joseph Dabney, Raymond Chandler's boss. In the novel, Chandler, still several years away from publishing his first short story, is one of three amateur detectives who uncover the ghastly truth about the Great Eleven cult over one frenetic week. Informed by the author's extensive research into the literary, spiritual, criminal and architectural history of Southern California, The Kept Girl is a terrifying noir love story, set against the backdrop of a glittering pre-crash metropolis.

LAVA's 36th Sunday Salon

Join LAVA for our revived free monthly Sunday Salon series. We return to South Broadway, to the mezzanine of Les Noces du Figaro, which was recently opened by the family behind Figaro Bistro in Los Feliz. This handsome space was formerly Schaber’s Cafeteria (Charles F. Plummer, 1928), and the mezzanine features wonderful views of the Los Angeles Theatre.

On the last Sunday of each month, LAVA welcomes interested individuals to gather in downtown Los Angeles (noon-2pm), for a structured Salon featuring formal presentations and opportunities to meet and connect with one another. If you’re interested in joining LAVA as a creative contributor or an attendee, we recommend Salon attendance as an introduction to this growing community. We also recommend the eclairs.

Read about the original Sunday Salon at Clifton's Cafeteria here.

Because of the scope and scale of the program, this month’s Sunday Salon will not follow our usual varied two-act structure, but will focus almost entirely on Electronic Music. The program will include the history of the genre, some theoretical discussion, a performance and a hands-on demonstration. We will break for about ten minutes about an hour into the presentation.  

Our focus is on Electronic Music, and the sub-genre known as Circuit Bending. Circuit Bending is the creative rewiring of pre-existing circuits to make new media. Often these circuits are found in inexpensive children’s toys and “obsolete” devices. Important aspects of Circuit Bending are the D.I.Y (Do It Yourself) autodidactic nature of immediate exploration into new electronic sounds and the ability to engage in instrument building without the need for an electrical engineering degree. The artists presenting today, Andy Ben, Jeff Boynton and Mona Jean Cedar, explore the implications of Circuit Bending through a variety of contexts, including performance, documentary video and education.

For Mona Jean Cedar (poet, dancer and sign language interpreter) and Jeff Boynton (electronic musician), “Circuitry and Poetry” arose out of a desire to create collaborative artwork. Jeff’s initial impulse was to create interactive electronic instruments that would respond to Mona’s hand and body movements. This did not happen immediately due to the steep learning curve of electronics, but it led to the discovery of the “black art” of Circuit Bending. This was the jumping off point, and eventually Jeff was able to develop interfaces that would allow Circuit Bent instruments to respond to light, sound and movement. Mona had already been creating work in which poetry and movement was composed specifically for how well they will work with sign language. Presenter Andy Ben is a musician and technologist and film maker who is interested in the digital convergence and post consumer culture.

The LAVA Sunday Salon will also feature a short presentation by the scholar and writer Fanny Daubigny about the American translator Louise Varèse and her work with 19th century French poetry. (Louise Varèse was the wife of Edgar Varèse, whose compositions are considered a cornerstone of electronic music.)

The Salon will be followed by a free walking tour, The Flaneur & The City: Broadway on My Mind walking tour #8. Please visit the tour series Landing Page for videos and descriptions of past tours and the goals of the series.

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles tour

Bungalows. Crime. Hollywood. Blondes. Vets. Smog. Death.

This was Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles, which resonated under deft and melancholy fits from his writer’s bow.

Join us as we go down the mean streets that shaped his fiction, and that in turn shaped his hard-boiled times, in a four hour tour of downtown, Hollywood and surrounding environs: The Los Angeles Athletic Club, the Larry Edmunds Bookshop, the Hotel Van Nuys, Paramount Studio’s gates, and much, much more, including a Chandler-themed gelato stop at East Hollywood cult favorite Scoops.

Through published work, private correspondence, screenplays and film adaptations, we trace Chandler’s search for meaning and his anti-hero Philip Marlowe’s struggle to not be pigeonholed or give anything less than all he has, which lead them both down the rabbit hole of isolation, depression, and drink.

Tour passengers will have the opportunity to purchase an autographed copy of co-host Kim Cooper's mystery novel The Kept Girl, inspired by this tour and starring the young Chandler and the real-life Philip Marlowe on the trail of a cult of murderous angel worshippers.

The Birth of Noir: James M. Cain's Southern California Nightmare

Southern California 1931: Amongst the burgeoning urban sprawl built atop bulldozed orange groves and the bitter realization that you can’t eat the sunshine, recent emigré James M. Cain found a kernel of truth and his voice, which would eventually distill through his novels, ”The Postman Always Rings Twice,” “Mildred Pierce” and “Double Indemnity” and subsequent film adaptations into the unique American genre: Film Noir.

How did this East Coat sophisticate go from managing editor of “The New Yorker” to populist novelist accused of writing dirty books? The tour explores Cain’s L.A. from Hollywood to Glendale and along old Route 66, and includes illuminating visits to Forest Lawn Memorial Park (a Glendale institution and site of the funeral of Mildred Pierce’s “other” daughter, Ray), the Glendale Train Station where the “Double Indemnity” murder plot played out, and the punch line to a Billy Wilder joke so subtle, it’s taken 63 years for anyone to get. The tour will also cover the artisans who transformed Cain’s tales into film, including Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler, Joan Crawford and Lana Turner, each an important contributor to the Film Noir canon.

Crash and Spatter

To purchase a ticket for this special event, click here. If you'd like to be contacted when another crime lab tour and lecture are scheduled, subscribe to LAVA's occasional Crime Lab Newsletter.

Join us in the Cal State Los Angeles teaching crime lab for an afternoon’s inquiry into the development of new breakthroughs in forensic science coming out of the Criminalistics Department.

We are delighted to announce the debut crime lab appearance of Prof. David Raymond, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at CSULA. Prof. Raymond will provide an overview of Forensic Engineering with a focus on his specialty, Forensic Injury Biomechanics. The presentation will introduce attendees to the field of forensic engineering and subspecialties; including injury biomechanics. Dr. Raymond will provide some historical background on the genesis of this field along with modern applications of injury biomechanics in engineering design and in forensic applications. Finally Dr. Raymond will demonstrate the utility of biomechanics in forensic science through the presentation of real-world cases.

For the second presentation, LAVA crime lab host Prof. Donald Johnson will provide an overview of Blood Stain Patterning through his long working relationship with Dr. Raymond.

The first topic covered will be the development of an Automated Imaging System for Blood Stain Patterning, demonstrating their work in producing more sophisticated mathematical models—recognizing that trajectories are arcs, not straight lines, for example — leading up to a means by which wound origin and trajectories can be quickly processed by forensic investigators at crime scenes. Numerous real-life case examples will be used to illustrate this discussion.

Next Prof. Johnson will discuss their work on micro RNA, which is leading to determination of wound of origin for blood stains. Using the 1990s-era British murder case against Sion Jenkins as a jumping off point, Prof. Johnson will explain the methodology and instruments by which his graduate students are learning how to pinpoint proteins in RNA specific to respective organs and account for them in blood stain patterns.

By proving the wound of origin for blood evidence, forensic scientists can discount the claims of suspects who insist a victim’s blood at a crime scene got there by innocent means (nose bleed, minor accidental injury, etc.). Using the new analytical methods developed in Prof. Johnson’s lab, a scientist can prove that the blood stain in question originated with bleeding from the lungs, and not from the mucus membrane in the victim’s nasal passage.

Crawling Down Cahuenga: Tom Waits' L.A. bus tour

This is the definitive tour of Tom Waits' formative creative life in Los Angeles, and the people, places and late night pastries that shaped it.

 Click here to purchase David Smay's book about Tom Waits. Press clips: Leonie Cooper of The Guardian got an emotional weather reporton the once-a-year Tom Waits bus adventure. The 2013 edition of our once-a-year Tom Waits tour is L.A. Weekly's Go >> L.A. pick of the week.  

Calling all rain dogs, gin-soaked boys and Gun Street girls! Climb aboard as your hosts David Smay (author of the new 33 1/3 series book on "Swordfishtrombones") and Esotouric's Kim Cooper (a Zoetrope Studios intern who'll tell how she used teenage subterfuge to arrange a private concert by Tom) lead you on a scrupulously researched ride through Tom's epic misdeeds and shenanigans, from the Trashing of the Troubadour to epic nights at the Tropicana.

And oh, there are such tales to tell, from food fights with L.A. Punks and smackdowns with L.A. Police. We'll crawl through the Sewers of Paris, tattle on the Ivar Theater, and get the lowdown on Tom's legendary performances at the Wiltern and elsewhere. Before departing for points rural, Tom left his mark all over L.A., from Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope Studios to Sunset Sound to Skid Row. We'll show you where Tom found his true love and collaborator, Kathleen Brennan, and how all the pieces came together to transform a drunken, desperate singer into the multi-faceted, multi-media artist he'd become.

Raised near San Diego, Tom Waits launched his musical career in L.A., signing with David Geffen's Asylum Records in 1972, living at the raunchy Tropicana Hotel (where he sawed off the kitchen drain board so his piano would fit), and building a reputation as a songwriter willing to risk his own health and sanity to get inside the sad sack characters that peopled songs like "The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)," "On The Nickel" and "Pasties And A G-string (At The Two O'clock Club)."

By 1980, Tom was 31 and starting to feel the effects of his hard living. While scoring the music to Francis Ford Coppola's "One From The Heart," he met Kathleen Brennan, whose influence would completely transform his life and his art. After a whirlwind courtship the pair married and began a 28-year creative and personal partnership, beginning with the revolutionary album "Swordfishtrombones," the subject of tour host David Smay's recent book.


"Crawling Down Cahuenga" spans Tom's personal city, from The Nickel (aka Skid Row) to once-ratty West Hollywood, favorite strip clubs and midnight diners, recording studios, night clubs, record labels and film studios, before rolling back downtown via the filming location of Waits' "In The Neighborhood" video.

ABOUT THE HOSTS: Longtime collaborators David Smay and Kim Cooper co-edited the books "Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth" ("quite simply the most fun music book I have ever read." -Bucketfull of Brains) and "Lost in the Grooves: Scram's Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed" ("the perfect book for the advanced record collector" -Ear Candy) before penning their solo 33 1/3 series books on Tom Waits and Neutral Milk Hotel. Kim gives Esotouric's rock history and true crime tours. David Smay lives in San Francisco, where he is working on a history of the Beats.

20 Years After: Charles Bukowski Memorial Gathering

Henry Charles Bukowski (August 16, 1920 – March 9, 1994)

You are cordially invited to join with friends, fans and followers of Charles Bukowski on the 20th anniversary of his death for an evening of poems, toasts and memories.

The evening is hosted by Richard Schave (Esotouric’s Haunts of a Dirty Old Man bus tour & the De Longpre bungalow preservation campaign) and will include readings from five notable Los Angeles poets and friends of the late writer: Dan Fante, S.A. Griffin, Suzanne Lummis, Joan Jobe Smith and Fred Voss.

The location for this free event is the King Eddy Saloon, a location celebrated in the fiction of Bukowski’s idol, John Fante, and located smack on The Nickel, where the young Bukowski came to learn about the world of men. The formal program is scheduled to run from 6:00 - 7:30pm, after which you are encouraged to remain and talk Bukowski into the night.

The Orange and the Dream of California

Cloaked in mystery and, until modern times, available only to the elite, the orange has been known as the fruit of the gods and a symbol of health, wealth, and love. The dream of California, since its discovery by Europeans, has been that it is a place of plenty, of potential, of personal opportunity. When the orange and California were finally linked, their partnership created a compelling fantasy and a fantastic reality. The Orange and the Dream of California takes a lively, literary, and extraordinarily visual look at the symbiotic relationship between the Golden State and its “golden apple.” The orange became a symbol of everything California promised, and California became the center of the Orange Empire. “The orange and California have built upon one another for hundreds of years,” explains author David Boulé, “crafting a vision that appeals to our universal desire for beauty, health, enchantment, and reinvention.” Books will be available for purchase and personally signed by the author.

LA in Focus is a free lecture series presented by Photo Friends of the LAPL and generously sponsored by Christy & Stephen McAvoy

LAVA's 35th Sunday Salon

Join LAVA for our revived free monthly Sunday Salon series. We return to South Broadway, to the mezzanine of Les Noces du Figaro, which was recently opened by the family behind Figaro Bistro in Los Feliz. This handsome space was formerly Schaber’s Cafeteria (Charles F. Plummer, 1928), and the mezzanine features wonderful views of the Los Angeles Theatre.

On the last Sunday of each month, LAVA welcomes interested individuals to gather in downtown Los Angeles (noon-2pm), for a structured Salon featuring formal presentations and opportunities to meet and connect with one another. If you’re interested in joining LAVA as a creative contributor or an attendee, we recommend Salon attendance as an introduction to this growing community. We also recommend the eclairs.

Read about the original Sunday Salon at Clifton's Cafeteria here.

The Salon will be broken into two distinct presentations each lasting about 45 minutes. You are encouraged to arrive early if you wish to order food and beverages from the counter downstairs, and bring your meal upstairs. 

Presentation One: In celebration of National Poetry Month, Suzanne Lummis, Cece Peri and Dale Raoul will present a series of readings in the vein of Poetry Noir. The readings will explore the themes of this genre: crime, decay, anonymity, hauntings from the past and a palpable sense of place and feel unique to Los Angeles.

Presentation Two: Architectural historian Nathan Marsak, author of Los Angeles Neon, will present on Los Angeles's great public mausolea. In this cultural and architectural history of how Los Angeles came to understand the community mausoleum, Marsak will chart the southland's parallels with and digressions from America's developing mores and attitudes toward the space of death.

Emerging from the early 20th-century Garden Cemetery movement, Los Angeles not only contributed the concept of the memorial park, but also many of the finest--and sometimes strangest--grand public mausolea known. Los Angeles, long noted for its mimetic "California Crazy" and futuristic Googie architecture, needed, in its funerary architecture, to strive for solemnity and sublimity.  Nevertheless, its cemetery buildings betray a peculiar and genuinely Southern Californian ethos in their expression.

Discussed will be the 1903 Chapel of the Pines crematory and columbarium; the early community mausolea of the 'teens; the interbellum wonders of Forest Lawn's neogothic Great Mausoleum, Angeles Abbey's Arabian wonderland, and early-Christian meets Art Deco at Calvary Cemetery. Particular study will be given to the postwar era and the specific challenges mausoleum design faced adapting to Modernism--it is during this period they are routinely disparaged as filing cabinet necro-tenements--and how new considerations of population and land management influenced the building of open garden-court mausolea and columbaria.

Their legacy has left us with a means to gauge the city's development (as well as remarkable tile work and stained glass).  Through this lens, Marsak will reveal this significant, yet little-valued aspect of our architectural landscape.