Being Los Angeles natives, we are always struggling with negative stereotypes, misconceptions and a lack of understanding about our great city. Few people truly know about our fascinating past and even fewer go to the next level and share it with the rest of the world. Enter Sporting Guide: Los Angeles, 1897 - a new work of historical fiction written by acclaimed author, director (Pretty Things) and native Liz Goldwyn. When we first heard about her new book we immediately identified with the concept. Ms. Goldwyn has created a portal back in time - to an era of the city that was filled with development, expansion, vice and corruption. During the late 1800's Los Angeles was a booming town of settlers and dreamers and the city was essentially up for grabs. This created a beautifully twisted Darwinist world of sordid tales and captivating figures.
Sporting Guide does an incredible job of using historical facts and people and crafting something totally new and unique - capturing the essence of the time while still very much maintaining a connection to the present. We love the book's characters and the depiction of vice, corruption and lawlessness had us hooked like a classic pulp novel. We were hungry for more information and reached out to the author. Ms. Goldwyn graciously discussed her book with us and we are excited to share the Q&A below:
The Brvtalist: Sporting Guide takes place in Los Angeles in 1897, not necessarily a year people associate with the city. Being a native myself, I always love to see our amazing past exposed. Talk about the decision to set your book in L.A. at this time and your connection to the place and history.
Liz Goldwyn: I wanted to set my story in my own hometown, at the dawn of the Industrial Age, well before the movie business, which most people associate with the beginning of Los Angeles - I love being able to show an earlier time of a city I love, at a pivotal moment where so much change and technological advance was upon us. Now a century plus later, in the world of online sex, Tinder, Grinder, sexting and Snapchat, so little has changed of the basic human experience of love, sex, addiction fear and loss. It's fascinating to see the same stories repeat themselves whether in 1897 or 2015.
TB: I love that you find glamour in the worlds of vice and illegal trade. What do you think draws you to these types of characters and what about them interests you?
LG: I wouldn't say that the world of prostitution as depicted in Sporting Guide is glamorous. Perhaps on the surface - silks, ostrich feathers, perfumes and stockings may be aesthetically pleasing, but my characters are by and large lonely hustlers, driven by necessity to their trade, one which uses their bodies and places great strain upon their souls. Ultimately of course, I am as drawn to vice as the next gal but digging deeper, I am interested in humanity, in all its' flaws and ugliness and have a desire to shine light on people who have been ignored or forgotten by the history books because of their profession.
TB: The book is historical fiction which is such a great genre. Many of the characters and locations in your book are based on real people and places. I've been so curious to know how you approached the research and going this far back in Los Angeles history.
LG: First I had the characters in mind - Mr. X, Jack , Frances and a version of Cora Phillips. Back when I was finishing my first (nonfiction) book, Pretty Things: The Last Generations of American Burlesque Queens, I started simultaneously researching prostitution in a broader scope (courtesans of the Italian Renaissance, bordellos of ancient Rome, harems, etc.) and found again that many of the same themes and situations repeated themselves in every time period. Later I decided to set it in Los Angeles, making the city the seventh character in the story. I love research so that part was second nature to me. It was hard to pull myself away from the facts and data I amassed over a number of years. I had to let the characters start speaking to me at a certain point and let the details become part of the background and the interstitial chapters.
TB: We love to talk about fashion and style - what are some of your favorite aspects of the fashions from this period? Was this a pivotal time in style for madams, call girls and the like?
LG: I actually love 19th century men's fashion. Give me a dandy any day! A floppy bow tie on Oscar Wilde or high button shoes. For women, it's all about a bloomer with the slit in the ass. Talk about covered up with a sexy surprise!
We would like to thank Liz Goldwyn for her great responses and it has been a pleasure for The Brvtalist to discover such a great book and be able to speak with its author. Sporting Guide: Los Angeles, 1897 is available now through Regan Arts and other fine booksellers. We urge you to pick up a copy as you won't be able to put it down.