Ghosttown, the third novel in Mercedes Lambert’s trilogy featuring L.A. attorney Whitney Logan, comes out from Five Star this month. Lambert was the pen name of Douglas Anne Munson, who died of cancer in 2003. The first two Logan books, Dogtown and Soultown, will be reissued by Stark House next spring. All three were written in the 1990s.
The L.A. Times this week profiled Munson, who apparently came across as “a tough chick” until one noticed that “she was painfully soft-spoken and so fragile her hands would tremble”:
“Like a lot of noir novels, the career of Douglas Anne Munson, a hard-boiled Los Angeles writer who once seemed like one of the city’s bright new lights, just gets murkier and more confusing the closer you look. …
“…despite her early success that included rave reviews and anchoring a sizable magazine article on L.A.’s then-nascent noir revival, she never quite arrived as a writer.
“In fact, after some early success, she spiraled downward when the conclusion to her trilogy was rejected by her publisher. Health problems, severe depression, a stint of homelessness in Santa Monica, an escape to Prague and death by cancer in 2003 followed. …
“Her advocates describe her as a potentially major figure, ahead of her time for her hard-bitten female protagonists and her portrayal of multicultural L.A. in love and squalor. …
“…her key inspiration was probably Raymond Chandler, and Munson was acutely conscious of dressing Chandler’s work in drag: Each of the detective novels includes an epigraph from his work…”
As LA Observed noted, Munson “has champions in Michael Connelly, Carolyn See, John Rechy and Jonathan Kellerman. Also in Denise Hamilton, the editor of L.A. Noir…”
Here’s an excerpt from the hot-off-the-presses Booklist review of Ghosttown:
“Much of Ghosttown is superb, diamond-hard noir, but mimicking the late author’s life, it devolves into surreal meanderings.”
Sounds like one of those books that’s better if you’re immersed in the back story. And reading that back story is enough to have any mystery author reaching for a stiff drink.