Denise Hamilton's Los Angeles Mysteries

Novelist Inspired by City's Vibrant Clash of Cultures

Hamilton on the "cove stairs" in the Silverlake district of what she calls "old" Los Angeles. The stairs were in a key scene from her second mystery novel, Sugar Skull. Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR hide caption

Read the First Chapter of 'Last Lullaby: An Eve Diamond Novel'
itoggle caption Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR

You never know where a job might lead you in later life. Mystery writer Denise Hamilton started out as a journalist for The Los Angeles Times, and when she switched to fiction, her knowledge of the city's patchwork quilt of ethnic communities served her well.

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Hamilton's third novel in a series based on the exploits of an L.A. Times reporter is out now, allowing readers an inside peek at hidden parts of the city. Her heroine, Eve Diamond, prowls an updated version of the city Raymond Chandler made famous in his hard-boiled mysteries.

"I wanted to do a female Raymond Chandler — a 21st-century Raymond Chandler," Hamilton tells NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates. "That's where Eve comes from... she's my wilder alter ego."

The plots for Hamilton's books are inspired by some of her favorite stories as a reporter. For example, her newspaper article on "parachute kids" — children of wealthy Asian parents who buy a house in a good neighborhood with good schools, then return to Asia to let their children pretty much raise themselves — was the basis of her first novel, The Jasmine Trade.

Hamilton's second book, Sugar Hill, examines the double-edged sword of assimilation facing upwardly mobile Latinos. And her latest novel, Last Lullaby, revolves around the connection between the international heroin trade and the thriving private adoption market for Southeast Asian orphans.

"I think that all the cultures and all the different immigrant groups have made Los Angeles a more interesting place," she says.

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