“An entertaining, intertwined tale of triumph, hubris, and Manifest Destiny in the city of angels.” —Kirkus Reviews
os Angeles is the second largest city in the United States, home to millions; it looms in the American imagination as a glittering metropolis of celebrity, wealth, and sprawl. It is also, as bestselling author Gary Krist details in THE MIRAGE FACTORY: Illusion, Imagination, and the Invention of Los Angeles(Crown; May 15, 2018), a city that never should have existed. For decades, only a few hardy farmers and ranchers dared settle the region. Isolated from the rest of the country by mountain and desert, lacking a major river or harbor, it was an inhospitable environment for any sort of growth. But in just a few short years, the implausible would become actual—and Los Angeles would take its place as one of the world’s iconic cities.
As in his acclaimed works City of Scoundrels and Empire of Sin, Krist invites readers inside a city as it comes of age, as the foundations of its modern identity are laid—not without conflict—and built upon. Krist traces Los Angeles’s origins to a pivotal period from 1900 to 1930, and to the lives of three singular individuals who both embodied and, to a unique extent, drove the forces that would forever shape L.A.’s fortunes: William Mulholland, a self-taught engineer and L.A.’s “water czar” who would undertake the largest (and most controversial) public works project of its time to supply Los Angeles with the water that would be its life’s blood; D. W. Griffith, a film pioneer who would virtually invent a new industry and establish Los Angeles as its epicenter; and Aimee Semple McPherson, a celebrity evangelist who would inspire Los Angeles with the quest for spiritual reinvention that would become a defining ethos.
As Krist writes of his three L.A. icons, “The images they conjured up—of a blossoming city in the desert, of a thriving factory of celluloid dreamworks, of a community of seekers finding personal salvation under God’s good sunshine—all had elements of the swindle about them, like mirages whose heady promises could evaporate on closer inspection.” Yet when the dust settled—and after all three figures paid a steep price for their outsized dreams—the mirage that was L.A. remained. Combining impeccable research with the brilliant, elegant flourish of a natural storyteller, Krist has crafted a vivid, wonderfully rich narrative that examines Los Angeles through a new lens; I look forward to discussing THE MIRAGE FACTORY with you further.
About the Author
Gary Krist has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal,Esquire, Salon, the Washington Post Book World, and elsewhere. He is the author of the bestselling City of Scoundrelsand Empire of Sin and the acclaimed The White Cascade, as well as several works of fiction. He has been the recipient of the Stephen Crane Award, the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Lowell Thomas Gold Medal for Travel Journalism, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.