"I'm an LA native with a lot of love for LA crime fiction, but instead of preaching to the noir choir about The Long Goodbye, I'd like to gush about Southland by Nina Revoyr. It's a brilliant, ambitious, moving literary crime novel about two families in South Los Angeles and their tangled history between the 1930s and the 1990s. The central mystery is the death of four black boys in a Japanese-American man's store during the Watts Rebellion of 1965. It's a powerful book, one that I think about often, as well as a huge influence on my work. Right up there with Chandler."
--Stephanie Cha (of the LARB) in GQ on "The Greatest Crime Novelists on Their Favorite Crime Novels Ever"
"Jackie Ishida's grandfather had a store in Watts where four boys were killed during the riots in 1965, a mystery she attempts to solve."
--New York Times Book Review, Ross MacDonald on "Where Noir Lives in the City of Angels"
"It is the kind of saga that often epitomizes and shocks LA--friction and violence between races and cultures."
--Los Angeles Times, named one of the 20 Essential LA Crime Books
"[A]n absolutely compelling story of family and racial tragedy. Revoyr's novel is honest in detailing southern California's brutal history, and honorable in showing how families survived with love and tenacity and dignity."
--Susan Straight, author of Highwire Moon
Southland brings us a fascinating story of race, love, murder and history, against the backdrop of an ever-changing Los Angeles. A young Japanese-American woman, Jackie Ishida, is in her last semester of law school when her grandfather, Frank Sakai, dies unexpectedly. While trying to fulfill a request from his will, Jackie discovers that four African-American boys were killed in the store Frank owned during the Watts Riots of 1965. Along with James Lanier, a cousin of one of the victims, Jackie tries to piece together the story of the boys' deaths. In the process, she unearths the long-held secrets of her family's history.
Southland depicts a young woman in the process of learning that her own history has bestowed upon her a deep obligation to be engaged in the larger world. And in Frank Sakai and his African-American friends, it presents characters who find significant common ground in their struggles, but who also engage each other across grounds--historical and cultural--that are still very much in dispute.
Moving in and out of the past--from the internment camps of World War II, to the barley fields of the Crenshaw District in the 1930s, to the streets of Watts in the 1960s, to the night spots and garment factories of the 1990s--Southland weaves a tale of Los Angeles in all of its faces and forms.
Revoyr (The Necessary Hunger) returns to the gritty, central Los Angeles of her debut with this compelling if overlong tale of a headstrong Japanese-American lesbian law student obsessed with discovering her family history and solving a murder mystery. Jackie Ishida, 25, is undone by the sudden death in 1994 of her loving, seemingly healthy Japanese grandfather, Frank Sakai. A veteran of World War II, he lived a philanthropic life and in the 1960s owned a small grocery in the racially integrated Crenshaw district he grew up in. When Jackie's aunt Lois finds a large shoebox with $38,000 in cash in Frank's closet, both women are perplexed, particularly since they also discover a mysterious beneficiary, Curtis Martindale, in a decades-old will. Lois dispatches Jackie to find Curtis. Enter strong, street-smart James Lanier, a cousin of Curtis's, who informs Jackie that Curtis is dead. An employee at Frank's store during the Watts riots in 1965, Curtis, along with three other black teenage boys, was found frozen to death in the store's freezer. This heinous crime was never reported (nor discussed within the Sakai family) and though white beat cop Nick Lawson was pegged as a prime suspect, the case was never solved and Frank closed the store permanently. As Jackie and James dig deeper into Curtis's past, their friendship (and awkward attraction to each other) takes its toll on Jackie's fading three-year relationship with girlfriend Laura. In chapters alternating past and present, clues are uncovered that romantically link Curtis's mother Alma to Frank. When a surprise suspect in the killings is fingered, it paves the way for a dark conclusion rooted in skepticism, injustice and racial intolerance. Somewhat overplotted but never lacking in vivid detail and authentic atmosphere, the novel cements Revoyr's reputation as one of the freshest young chroniclers of life in L.A. is The Dial Press.