Will Beall,
L.A. Rex
(Riverhead, 2006)

Author Will Beall is a beat cop in Los Angeles' infamous 77th division, which is the setting of his debut novel L.A. Rex. This made-for-a-screenplay novel is the gritty story of a whitebread rookie cop with a hidden past who is paired with a streetwise old-school doorbuster of a partner.

Rookie Ben endures a trial by fire (as in "Training Day") in his first days on the streets with the oddly principled Miguel Marquez. The novel is populated with Crips, Bloods, the Mexican Mafia (Eme), a gangster turned rap mogul (Suge Knight, anyone?), sleazy lawyers, crackheads, confidential informants and a pet jaguar. Several plotlines intersect as Ben and Miguel investigate dirty cops, drug lords and murder within the rap industry.

Beall has stated in interviews that he likes the street-level action of working in the 77th, where he feels like he knows everyone in a small town. Unfortunately, this "small town" feel doesn't translate well in a story taking place between 1972 and 2007, because every character is implausibly intertwined with several (or a dozen) others. The coincidences stretch the plausibility of the story, but they sure would make for some great action in a movie adaptation. Beall tells the story in chapters set at various points over this 15-year period, but different sets of characters appear in various chapters, requiring devotion on the part of the reader to keep them all straight.

The author's day job as a cop brings a sense of legitimacy to the novel, which employs violence involving fire, trains, a garbage disposal, shanks, scalping and that pet jaguar. Beall is at work on a sequel called The Lion Hunters and, yes, L.A. Rex has been optioned for a big screen adaptation.

review by
Jessica Lux-Baumann

12 January 2008

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