The Mirage Factory by Gary Krist

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: L.A. was full of crazy people from the beginning.

Quick synopsis: The story of the origins and early years of L.A. as it was becoming the city we know today.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: In trying to bring enough water to the fast-growing population of L.A., a dam was built to allow for water delivery. The St. Francis Dam broke and was one of the worst dam disasters in U.S. history. And if you’re not from the West Cost, you probably never hear of it.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: The birth and early years of the movie industry are fascinating, and Kirst takes special time on D.W. Griffiths, who made Birth of a Nation. The racist one, not the new one.

My Take: This is the third of Gary Krist’s biographies of a city by focusing on three major players in the development of said city. This is probably his best too.

Krist focuses on William Muhlholland, who is the engineer that made it possible for L.A. to have the water it needed to survive; Aimee Semple McPherson, an evangelist who set L.A. aflame with religious fervor; and D.W. Griffiths, one of the visionary directors of early Hollywood.

This kind of scale can make a book seem very disjointed and disorienting. Krist is up to the task by keeping the narrative tight and never spending too much time with any particular subject. It also helps that he found three subjects who have pretty crazy stories which encapsulate what we think of when we talk about L.A. today.

Verdict: It’s a must read and easily accessible to all audiences. Even if you hate L.A.!

If You Liked This Try:

  • Gary Krist, City of Scoundrels
  • Gary Krist, Empire of Sin
  • Gary Krist, The White Cascade
  • Russell Shorto, The Island at the Center of the World
  • David McCullough, The Johnstown Flood
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The Mirage Factory by Gary Krist
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