Wednesday, March 26, 2008

L.A. Outlaws: T. Jefferson Parker Spins a Yarn

Were you ever torn between becoming a policeman/fireman, or becoming an outlaw?

The moment of choice for Charlie Hood, now a promising detective in the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, happened long ago. He tried crime for an afternoon and scared himself sick, back onto the straight and narrow path.

But Charlie never figured on meeting a sex goddess turned serial armed robber in the form of Allison Murrieta -- a gorgeous and very competent athlete and hot car driver who's a direct descendant of notorious California outlaw Joaquin Murrieta. The 19th-century armed robber was a Latino gone wrong, avenging wrongs done to his family. But Allison, well, that's a different story. In a lot of ways, Allison has a great life as Suzanne Jones, award-winning schoolteacher and serial lover of strong men and her sweet sons.

If all this sounds like a different T. Jefferson Parker than the one who wrote, say, LITTLE SAIGON or SILENT JOE, think again. The quirks of the characters, the tang of California history and mythos, and the great car chases are classic TJP.

But L.A. OUTLAWS, Parker's 2008 offering, takes a sweeter and more heroic tack than most of his other books. There are few moments of terror in the book -- although quite a few of risk! -- and although death stalks the territory with a sharp blade, it's death with a heart that's been hurt. Death that's, well, understandable.

Pick this up for a quick, fun read, a well-spun tall tale that's salted with just enough news reporters and twisted betrayals to keep the plot zipping. And oh, yes: Keep track of the fast cars. And keep your eyes on the diamonds, the ones that are putting Allison's Jesse James-style career and life on the line.

Here's a list of Parker's other books:

Laguna Heat (1985)
Little Saigon (1988)
Pacific Beat (1991)
Summer Of Fear (1993)
The Triggerman's Dance (1996)
Where Serpents Lie (1998)
The Blue Hour (1999) 1st in the Merci Rayborn series
Red Light (2000) 2nd Merci Rayborn novel
Silent Joe (2001)
Black Water (2002) 3rd Merci Rayborn novel
Cold Pursuit (2003)
California Girl (2004)
The Fallen (2006)
Storm Runners (2007)

And for more back-story on the "real" Murrieta, check out the author's web site,

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