L.A. Weekly is determining the best L.A. novel ever by holding a tournament featuring 32 of our favorites in head-to-head matchups, until there’s only one novel standing. Check out the complete set of brackets here: Best L.A. Novel Ever: The Tournament.
With the right soundstage and set design, Los Angeles can be anywhere. Some say, though — and I’m inclined to agree — that the best noir can only be set in Los Angeles. The genre’s very defining feature, its blackness, is a retort to Southern California’s citrus-scented sunshine. (Mike Davis makes the argument most compellingly in his history of L.A., City of Quartz.)
The first match-up in the “Noir” division of our tournament pits James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity against Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice.
Both books borrow their titles from the insurance industry — “Double Indemnity” refers to rare circumstances in which an insurance policy will pay out twice the amount of its benefits; “Inherent Vice” refers to a defect that precludes, or voids, insurance coverage. Both books are about a man, a woman he wants, and a pile of money — but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.