Re Jected

This past few week has been a bit of a behind-the-scenes whirlwind of anticipation. Thanks to a heads-up from LA Metblog Capt. Lucinda Michele, I found out about a great gig offered via Craigslist by an Aussie outfit looking for an author to write a guide book about bike rides in Los Angeles.

So I got busy submitting clips and stuff knowing how far I could knock such a topic near and dear to my heart out of the park. Then came the phone interview early in February, followed by an in-person interview last Thursday in Redondo Beach with the publishers who were on something of a hectic visit to the states, where they’re also finalizing writers for sister books in other cities.

On Friday out of something like 50 initial candidates I was told it was between me and one other person.

Tonight, as I was out behind my office building literally swinging my leg over the bike about to get on it for the ride home from work, my cell phone rang and it was the publisher and without much in the way of chitchat I was told the decision had been made to go with that other person.

I was gracious in defeat. I told the publisher that I understood they had to make the decision they thought was best for them and the project. I stopped short of saying anything silly like “Your loss” or “You’re making a mistake,” and instead expressed my appreciation for their consideration and wished them great success with their endeavor — and I meant it. The book can be a wonderful thing for cycling in LA… even if it isn’t my name on the cover and my dedicated efforts filling it up.

The ride home across town? Yeah it was a solemn and pensive journey but I worked out some of the kinks of disappointment along the way. Some. And I was thankful that I had my bike to ride through the rain-sprinkled streets of the city I know so well and love so much.

One Classic Begat My Love Of Another

My favorite symphony is Felix Mendelssohn’s “Italian” also known as his 4th Symphony. I discovered it as a 7th grader when my mother put the record she had of it on the old Admiral Hi-Fi with the pull down turntable in the dining room of our apartment at 1933 Holly Drive in Hollywood.

Though at the time I was far more inclined to the music of Queen than the classics, I think the reason I was drawn to it almost immediately was exclusively coincidental. My English teachers (my class was team taught by a pair of wonderful women, Ms. Litzke and Ms. Diamond) had assigned us a novel to read: Richard Adams’ “Watership Down.”

A novel! I remember being handed my paperback copy and admiring its heft and thickness and its lovely illustration of a rabbit on the cover and feeling so grown-up — while cluelessly taking the title quite literally; I thought it was about a shipwreck. Captivated from the first page, I soon discovered otherwise. And to this day it remains my favorite book ever.

Anyway, it so happened that while in the midst of reading Adams’ classic my mother decided to play Mendelssohn’s classic, and I was captivated from the first notes. Not just because the music was beautiful, but moreso because the light and flowing melody of those first few bars painted a picture in my head of rabbits frolicking in a field — something the rabbits in the book that I’d come to know and love  — Hazel and Fiver and Bigwig — had little opportunity to do across their adventures.

Here’s a YouTube video of the opening of the  first movement by the Cologne New Philharmonic Orchestra:

I’ve listened to the Italian innumerable times since — on cassette, LP, CD, MP3. And while I can’t recite it entirely from memory I can pretty much sing along with it note for note. In fact, I recall a time as a highschooler working in the dungeon at Hunter’s Books on Rodeo Drive when Arthur, the elderly and most cultured of my co-workers there — always dapper in a bowtie and wingtips — didn’t believe me when I told him I knew the piece and challenged me to sing it to him. So I did and he told me  that in a world filled with  the likes of Oingo Boingo and the Go Go’s (who I loved!) the fact that a teenager of that day and age not only new of Mendelssohn but could recite his music gave him hope for humanity.

Next Sunday from seats way up in the Disney Concert Hall balcony with my mother on one side and my wife on the other I’m going to hear it performed live for the very first time. It’s been a long 32 years coming, with many of the adult ones spent unsuccessfully scouring the calendars of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Hollywood Bowl. For what it’s worth I think it helped that this year is the 200th anniversary of Felix’s birthday (which was February 3).

But it’s him and the LA Phil giving the gift. And I’ll tell you what: just as I choked up and shed some tears of joy last year seeing my favorite Broadway musical “Man of La Mancha” for the first time at A Noise Within, I already know I’ll be overcome with similar emotions when Mendelsohhn’s magical music graces my ears.

I may not be able to keep from crying, but I’ll try my best not to sing along.


It was last summer when I read Lucas Crown’s piece in Los Angeles Magazine about the enigmatic life and times and writings of his friend, novelist Mercedes Lambert who died in 2003 at the age of 55.

It was last week when I went into the Border’s across from the office building where I work to get my bay-bee a little valentine, and while I was there I decided to see if any of Lambert’s books were available, which was a great idea being where I was except for the EPIC FAIL that I couldn’t remember any of the titles, nor her name, nor her unique pseudonym. All I could remember to the clerk there was that she was dead and that she wrote using a male’s first name. Michael? David? Bradley? Fuck.

I left with a fancy card and some gourmet jelly beans, but without any of Lambert/Munson’s works. Eventually and still drawing blanks except that I was pretty confident that the first name was Douglas I got around to googling and damn if she wasn’t hard to find. I tried searching the L.A. Times website but came up totally empty same with Los Angeles Magazine. was no help and it was only when I returned to the Google and entered some variation of “noir los angeles novels by deceased female authors Douglas” in the search term box did I get a hit — and only then on the third or fourth page in!

I saw her nom de guerre: Douglas Ann Munson and slapped my knee and immediately went to Amazon and snapped up two used copies of her previously published books as well as her last, published late last year, four years after her death.

In a nutshell Lambert was a lawyer turned novelist and the author of three well-received titles: El Niño in 1990, Dogtown in 1991 and Soultown in 1996. All are based in Los Angeles, with the last two centered around a female detective named Whitney Logan. By the publication of her third she was considered one of L.A.’s top mystery writers among James Ellroy, Michael Connelly and Walter Moseley. In 1996 she quit being a lawyer and moved to Washington to finish her fourth title “Ghosttown.” A month later Viking notified her they’d rejected it. After unsuccessfully attempting to retool the book she gave up and moved to Czechoslovakia and taught English until 2001 when she discovered a lump in her breast and returned to the U.S. for treatment. She’d previously beaten breast cancer in the 1980s, but this time she was given six months to live. She exceeded that prognosis, but succumbed in December 2003. Her ashes were returned to California and scattered in the waters off Marina Del Rey.

Source: Douglas Anne Munson Wiki page.

Crown’s piece in L.A. Magazine went into a bit more detail about the tragic last year or so of her life, making her unrealized future as a writer, one cut short by disease and her own demons, all the more poignant. I can’t remember specifics but I believe there was a period where she was almost completely destitute and even homeless on the streets of L.A. for a spell.

I think I’m drawn as much to her mysteries as I am the mystery that she was.

From Out Of The Blue

I’m not going to do much explaining here largely because I am still too blown away to translate my feelings. In my inbox yesterday was a note with the subject line “Response To Review” that read as follows:

Dear Will Campbell . . .

I’ve just read you most interesting comments on your website, in which you remark lengthily — and delightfully — about my book, The Silent Sky. Thank you for an engrossing and very pleasurable read.

(I can only add, I wish you had scored with Mindy Fenton!)

Best regards . . .
Allan W. Eckert

I won’t go into the details here. All the background you can eat can be found at my February 2006 post that Eckert references in his note, headlined “Learning The Hard Way.” But in the meantime I can’t quite quantify what it’s like to have the author of one of the most important books (published in 1965) of my youth and my life just suddenly reach across the 25 years since I first read it and say hey.

But of course I wrote him back:

Mr. Eckert,

I do believe my eyes bugged out and I got chills when I realized I’d just gotten an email from the author of one of my favorite books ever. Thanks to the wonders of the internet I am as humbled here by your kind words as I was whenever I was in the presence of Mindy Fenton. Or at least pretty close.

120707_06091.jpgAnd speaking of the wonders of the internet, long before the worldwide web came into being I spent years haunting public libraries for a copy of your book. I eventually found another in the library of the college I attended when I finally went back in the early 1990s to finish up my degree at 30 years of age. Then a few years ago I decided to see about getting a copy of my very own and while I can’t recall if it was facilitated by eBay or Amazon or Craigslist, I was eventually able to procur a paperback version that I display proudly in my bookcase.

Kindest regards,
Will Campbell

Allan Eckert’s website

River Ride Gonna Rock

Just in case you’re not planning on attending this Sunday’s IAAL•MAF “Serenity Now: An L.A. River ODDysey” bike ride from Griffith Park to Cypress Park and back that I’ve been planning, you’re gonna miss out on an a sincere attempt at and edutaining experience.

I’m so into getting some fact-based talking points down for the roll that I biked over to the library today and checked out “The Los Angeles River: It’s Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth” by Blake Gumprecht (1999, John Hopkins University Press).

Little did I know the wonderful and entire and definitive volume is online here if you want to check it out for yourself.

Words On The Move

I opted to bus it to my friend Joel’s regularly scheduled ExecTec networking event in Westwood via the No. 704 “Rapid” bus. Point of order: Nothing is rapid between Silver Lake and the westside at 6 p.m. and it took me an hour to get there from here. On the plus side, it also allowed me to chew up a travel-sized chunk of pages from my current read, John Gregory Dunne’s absolutely awesome “True Confessions,” and I just have to share with you a snip from chapter five when Detective Tom Spellacy is recalling his barely legal past as a repoman, and how during on particular grab a dog bit him badly on the backside and his future partner with the LAPD showed up, to save his butt — literally.

He rubbed his ass.

The dog who bit him in 1933 was named Wolf and Wolf had taken thirrty-seven stitches worth out of his ass when he was trying to lift a black Packard with nine thousand miles on it. Crotty was the cop on the beat and when Tom Spellacy screamed, Crotty showed up and drilled Wolf with one shot. You dumb fuck, Spellac had said, you could’ve got me. Not a chance, Crotty had said. He blasted Wolf once more for good measure. You ought to think about joining the department, Crotty said. It beats hot cars and you can shoot the fucking dogs.

That last line made me laugh out loud, right there in the back of the No. 704 bus westbound out of Century City on Santa Monica Boulevard, and as I looked up from the pages I found one of the MTA’s “Poetry in Motion” series placards hanging above the window across from me. It featured a work by Gwendolyn Brooks titled “Speech to the Young : Speech to the Progress-Toward.”

Say to them,
say to the down-keepers,
the sun-slappers,
the self-soilers,
the harmony-hushers,
“even if you are not ready for day
it cannot always be night.”
You will be right.
For that is the hard home-run.

Live not for battles won.
Live not for the-end-of-the-song.
Live in the along.

Who knew one could fall in love with two works of art and their artists right there in the back of the No. 704 bus as it crawled past the Mormon Temple.