Eternity Street: Violence and Justice in Frontier Los Angeles

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9780393051360: Eternity Street: Violence and Justice in Frontier Los Angeles

“John Mack Faragher is one fine writer, bringing early L.A. to life as the setting for all manner of horrific killings and gruesome justice. Eternity Street will keep you up at night ruminating on the roots of American violence.”―Richard Wightman Fox, University of Southern California, author of Lincoln’s Body: A Cultural History

Eternity Street tells the story of a violent place in a violent time: the rise of Los Angeles from its origins as a small Mexican pueblo. In a masterful narrative, John Mack Faragher relates a dramatic history of conquest and ethnic suppression, of collective disorder and interpersonal conflict. Eternity Street recounts the struggle to achieve justice amid the turmoil of a loosely governed frontier, and it delivers a piercing look at the birth of this quintessentially American city.

In the 1850s, the City of Angels was infamous as one of the most murderous societies in America. Saloons teemed with rowdy crowds of Indians and Californios, Mexicans and Americans. Men ambled down dusty streets, armed with Colt revolvers and Bowie knives. A closer look reveals characters acting in unexpected ways: a newspaper editor advocating lynch law in the name of racial justice; hundreds of Latinos massing to attack the county jail, determined to lynch a hooligan from Texas.

Murder and mayhem in Edenic southern California. "There is no brighter country where nature is more lavish of her exuberant fullness," an Angeleno wrote in 1853. "And yet, with all our natural beauties and advantages, there is no country where human life is of so little account. Men hack one another to pieces with pistols and other cutlery as if God's image were of no more worth than the life of one of the two or three thousand ownerless dogs that prowl about our streets and make night hideous." This is L.A. noir in the act of becoming.

16 pages of illustrations

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About the Author:

John Mack Faragher is the Howard R. Lamar Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University. He is the author of many books on the American frontier, including Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer, which received a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and, A Great and Noble Scheme.


“Hugely readable ... Faragher is one of the great living American historians, and his area of expertise is the American frontier. His 1992 biography, “Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer,” is a modern classic, and “Eternity Street” is destined to become one.”
- Allen Barra, Chicago Tribune

“[A] fascinating account of the twisted threads of murder, ethnic violence and mob justice in 19th century Southern California. . . . The sheer power of these events. . . burn up these pages. . . . The insights gained may help dissect gang violence, drug violence, honor killings, witch killings ― even the unseen internal disputes of the various peoples subjected to recent counter-insurgency and state-building projects.”
- Jill Leovy, author of Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America in the Los Angeles Times

“Eye-opening ... As you read, you may regret that There Will Be Blood was already taken, but Faragher’s book is the ideal prequel to Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 epic about SoCal’s formative years in the early twentieth century.”
- Tom Carson, Bookforum

“Groundbreaking ... if you read Professor Faragher’s Eternity Street you will be enlightened to discover the violent story of the West―real and imagined―today’s and yesterday’s―begins and ends in Los Angeles.”
- Stuart Rosebrook, True West Magazine

“Faragher’s stories evoke Cormac McCarthy. In a grim but riveting narrative, languid preconceptions of Edenic California’s birth give way to murder and mayhem, carnage and cruelty. Eternity Street describes human beings at their worst, but this is American history at its best.”
- Elizabeth Fenn, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Encounters at the Heart of the World

“Gripping and authoritative, this is a masterwork of scholarship and literary grace. Faragher’s dark portrait of L.A. pulls no punches and asks us to consider what grim DNA yet lurks in the City of Angels.”
- William Deverell, University of Southern California, author of To Bind Up the Nation’s Wounds

“In Eternity Street, John Mack Faragher has unearthed a blood-soaked history of nineteenth-century Los Angeles that blows away ‘Wild West’ fantasies. Faragher’s masterwork should be read by all who wish to understand more about the violence that has shaped the American past.”
- Stephen Aron, UCLA, author of The American West: A Very Short Introduction

“Through chilling anecdote and skilled storytelling, John Mack Faragher explores the experience of frontier violence for L.A.’s Mexican, Anglo, Indian, Black, and Chinese residents. This may just be the true origin story for L.A. noir.”
- Amy Greenberg, Penn State University, author of A Wicked War

Eternity Street will be an enduring landmark. Faragher’s stories are not happy ones, but they are ones we need to remember if we hope to embrace the West’s full history and cope with the legacy that continues to bedevil us.”
- Elliott West, University of Arkansas, author of The Last Indian War

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