He reached the end of Vine Street and began the climb into Pinyon Canyon. Night had started to fall. The edges of the trees burned with a pale violet light and their centers gradually turned from deep purple to black. The same violet piping, like a Neon tube, outlined the top of the ugly, hump-backed hills and they were almost beautiful.”

From Chapter 1, The Day of the Locust by Nathaniel West

At a library close-out sale, I purchased for $1 a hardcover edition of two Nathaniel West novels (Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust). I had always meant to read The Day of the Locust, West’s 1939 novel about Hollywood, and now I had my very own copy. For me, the book’s primary appeal is its depiction of the movie business during the 1930s — and West’s observations about life in Los Angeles.

West, like his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald, was working as a screenwriter in 1940 — the year that marked the end to both men’s lives and careers. Fitzgerald dropped dead of a heart attack at age 44 on December 21, 1940 at an apartment in near Sunset and LaCienega. West died the following day at age 37 in an auto accident when driving to a memorial service for Fitzgerald. A sad ending for two gifted writers — you have to wonder if the hack work in some way hastened the demise of these fine artists.

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