Paperback LA 3: Secrets, Sigalerts, Ravines, Records

Paperback LA is back, and better than ever. In her third Los Angeles anthology, Paperback LA 3: Secrets, Sigalerts, Ravines, Records, editor Susan La Tempa once again weaves together a colorful cross-section of the City of Angels.

La Tempa has worked as an editor for LA Style Magazine, Westways Magazine and The Los Angeles Times, and brings a keen editorial mind to her passion for uncovering unusual elements of LA’s history and culture. All three anthologies are a treasure trove celebrating Los Angeles, but her third volume may be the most eclectic yet.

Photo by Alexandra Hedison

Paperback LA 3 includes a mix of fiction, non-fiction and photography. It’s a quirky, thoughtful, and odd collection. There are reflections on everything from the genesis of the teen sensation, The Monkees, to a fictionalized account of street racing in the 1970s, and from the founding of a seminal gay rights organization in the 1950s, to what author R.J. Smith describes as “the lost African American renaissance of the 1940s.” 

La Tempa includes a selection by late LA Times food writer Jonathan Gold; excerpts from the lifestyle section of the first issue of Los Angeles Daily Herald—published on October 2, 1873;  a photo essay of industrial landscapes by Ann Elliott Cutting; and an excerpt on hipster arts culture in the 1930s at the Dragon’s Den restaurant from On Gold Mountain, Lisa See’s acclaimed look at her family’s Chinese American experience in LA.

Highlights include reflections by River Garza on growing up with Mo’omat Ahiko, the outrigger canoe built by the local Tongva community to help revive and celebrate the culture of Los Angeles’ First People; and a selection of photographer Alexandra Hedison’s weirdly evocative photos of a coast that has been engineered with pylons and seawalls but is still in the constant process of transformation. Anyone who has ever spent a summer on the East Coast will enjoy the snarky 1989 commentary on Summer in LA. vs Summer in N.Y. by former LA. Style columnist Patricia Freeman.

It’s appropriate that Jonathan Gold, who sampled and shared so much of LA.’s food culture with the world gets the last word: “As people here like to say, often when contemplating a piece of Peruvian-style sushi or one of the Teriyaki Donut stands that have popped up in Quentin Tarantino flicks: “only in LA.”

Like its predecessors, Paperback LA. 3 is effortlessly engaging and just plain fun to read. Some of the selections seem too short, suggesting snatches of conversation overheard in a situation where the listener isn’t able to ask to hear more. However, the brevity keeps the pace moving quickly from subject to subject, as La Tempa pulls together a colorful, eccentric and compelling portrait of Los Angeles from the threads of the different stores she has selected.    

La Tempa is a Topanga regular who recently visited the Topanga Library to share  an evening of LA. stories. Paperback LA. 3 is an excellent way to beguile the time until her next visit and, we hope, her next anthology. Highly recommended for all aficionados of LA. history and culture.


Suzanne Guldimann

Suzanne Guldimann is an author, artist, and musician who lives in Malibu and loves the Santa Monica Mountains. She has worked as a journalist reporting on local news and issues for more than a decade, and is the author of nine books of music for the harp. Suzanne's newest book, "Life in Malibu", explores local history and nature. She can be reached at

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