Novel by Kim Cooper

 Silver Birch Press Review

*****Five stars *****

While Los Angeles has been called a city with a “history of forgetting”—with wide-scale demolition of landmarks and even entire neighborhoods—author Kim Cooper helps readers relive L.A.’s past in her captivating first novel, The Kept Girl (Esotouric, 2014), a book based on real people and events.

Cooper—a social historian, nonfiction author, and historic preservationist—serves as our guide as we travel back to Jazz Age L.A., the summer of 1929, just a few months before the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression.

It was a time when L.A. was starting to boom, thanks to abundant oil reserves and the burgeoning movie business—with dreamers and people who preyed on dreamers converging on the City of Angels to reach for the gold ring.

One of these California transplants was Raymond Chandler, who moved to L.A. after his years of service during WWI—and by 1929, he had lived in the city for a decade. As a 41-year-old oil executive, his fondness for booze and broads complicated both his professional and private lives—since he made a living as an executive in the oil business and was married to an ailing woman nearly 20 years his senior.

Cooper’s novel reveals Chandler before he became L.A.’s premier chronicler of crime—the writer who more than anyone created the neon noir image of L.A. that the city has enjoyed ever since.

The Kept Girl—which takes place a decade before Chandler published his first novel, The Big Sleep, in 1939—offers a speculative history of how the author may have got his start as a purveyor of crime fiction. In Cooper’s telling, Chandler’s employer asks him to investigate a religious cult that has squeezed $40,000 from Clifford Dabney, the boss’s nephew. Chandler enlists his secretary/mistress Muriel Fischer and an honest cop named Tom James—believed to be the model for detective Philip Marlowe—to assist him in solving the crime.

Throughout the story, the three protagonists deal with personal demons—including aging, sexism, alcoholism, and corruption—as they endeavor to crack the case of the Great Eleven Cult, headed by a shady mother and daughter who claim they receive messages and directives from angels.  A range of gullible types fall for their spiel—mainly out of greed, since the angels promise to reveal the locations of the richest oil deposits in California.

As P.T. Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” and the L.A. of 1929 is much like a circus sideshow—with humanity in all its flaws, foibles, and hopes on full display. Cooper does a masterful job of pulling all the disparate parts of the story together into a riveting mystery. The big reveal at the end is worth the price of admission. So step right up and read The Kept Girlyou’ve never seen anything like it: history, social commentary, and an engaging mystery all in one tidy 274-page package.

The Kept Girl is available in Kindle and paperback versions at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kim Cooper is the creator of 1947project, the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric’s popular crime bus tours, including Pasadena Confidential, the Real Black Dahlia and Weird West Adams. Her collaborative L.A. history blogs include On Bunker Hill and In SRO Land. With husband Richard Schave, Kim curates the Salons of LAVA–The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. When the third generation Angeleno isn’t combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, she is a passionate advocate for historic preservation of signage,vernacular architecture and writer’s homes. Kim was for many years the editrix of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. Her books include Fall in Love For LifeBubblegum Music is the Naked TruthLost in the Grooves and an oral history of the cult band Neutral Milk Hotel. The Kept Girl is her first novel.

COVER ART: Paul Rogers