Los Angeles by Peter Moore Smith

There are as many ways to tell a story as there are authors to invent them, but the rules of the game call for certain elements to be in place. LOS ANGELES is presented as a mystery and it is, complete with a missing woman, a protagonist searching for her, his villainous father and minions set against the lavishly seedy backdrop of Hollywood.

Angel Veronchek, pale and pink-eyed, is the albino son of an immigrant movie mogul and his delicate Swiss-French wife. Angel is fragile, sensitive to light in a place where light, both natural and artificial, flourishes. In his spare apartment the film BLADE RUNNER plays in a continuous loop on a wide screen television; Angel nukes microwave dinners, speaks snippets of dialogue from the movie and avoids contact with his father. Dad has a new wife, Melanie, and an adopted mixed-race child named Gabriel. His home above the ocean is a cathedral of wealth and power; Melanie wants to be a mother to Angel while Gabriel seems lost in the world of autism.

A young woman appears at Angel’s door with a casserole dish of his favorite meal, lamb stew. Though African-American, her eyes are a startling blue. They become lovers as well as neighbors; Angel and Angela have discovered one another. Angela gathers a bouquet of hyacinths from a neighbor’s garden; Angel is ecstatic and can’t quite believe his good fortune. Then, after a phone call in which she speaks his name, the lady vanishes.

Angel is perhaps the definitive unreliable narrator. He’s heavily medicated, enjoys Jack Daniels, frightens children and dresses mainly in black. Past and present aren’t a linear progression in his world; he’s a scientist, devoted to the uncertainty theory made famous by the experiment with Schroedinger’s Cat. Angel sees alternative realities grounded in the law of superposition of states; the cat’s neither alive nor dead, but trapped inside a box with a vial of poison.
Angel’s box is more elaborate, defined and redefined by his intolerance to light, his bizarre childhood, the machinations of his father and the mysterious Frank, entertainment lawyer and fixer. Angel’s sudden break from self-imposed exile disturbs the fragile equation of secrets and constructs that shade his reality; a trip to Rio de Janeiro becomes a nightmare of garish images and violence. Angela has several identities; she’s a stripper named Cassandra, she’s an actress called Jessica Teagarden. Reasonable facsimiles of her are provided by an escort service; they’re not Angela, they’re simply replicants.

In the end Angel’s life ceases to be one part movie set, two parts science project. He completes his quest, not in Los Angeles, but the cold gloom of Manhattan in winter. LOS ANGELES delivers on the promise implied when Angela telephones Angel from the dark; it’s dangerous to open the box and look inside. Angel perseveres through explosive sunsets, distorted recollections, chemical imbalances, and physical threats to find out if one thing he believes is true. What survives his quest, and what’s destroyed along the way, is both surprising and satisfying.