July 9, 2009
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Denise Hamilton

Denise Hamilton

by Brad Eastland

      The female Raymond Chandler is coming to LaVerne.

      And for those of you not yet familiar with the Eve Diamond crime novels, that author would be Denise Hamilton.

      Mark your calendar: Hamilton will be appearing at the LaVerne Public Library located at 3640 D Street this coming Saturday, July 11th, from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., to sign copies of her newest noir novel, “The Last Embrace”.

      Who exactly is Eve Diamond?   Well, the short answer is that she’s author Hamilton’s literary alter ego, a reporter living and working in contemporary Los Angeles who spends her free time solving murders.   What could be more fun reading than that?

      “The Last Embrace” itself is not an Eve Diamond novel.   But it does parallel the Eve Diamond series in that it draws its inspiration from L. A.’s rich history of crime, intrigue, and police corruption.   As such, Hamilton can easily be seen as the natural literary heir to the 1940s noir tradition of L.A. crime thriller-mongers the likes of Raymond Chandler (“The Maltese Falcon”) and James Cain (“Double Indemnity”).   “Let’s just say I’m a huge fan of those guys!” she says modestly.

      Hamilton is relatively new to the novel-writing game.   A Fulbright Scholar, she worked as a journalist for the L.A. Times for 10 years, leaving that position in 1995.   By the late 90s she was putting together story ideas based on some of her experiences as a journalist, some of the cases she’d covered.   Her first novel, “The Jasmine Trade” (also the first of her five “Eve Diamond” novels), was published by Scribner’s  in 2001.

      Not surprisingly, there is plenty of the ex-reporter Denise Hamilton in fictional reporter Eve Diamond.

      “For me, being a reporter was wonderful training for a novelist,” says Hamilton, whose primary beat was the San Gabriel Valley, which is, not surprisingly, the primary enveloping action for many of her books and short-stories.   “You see everything.   I covered a lot of criminal trials for the Times, murder trials too.   A lot of murder trials.”

      “The Last Embrace” takes place in Hollywood, in 1949, and is based loosely on a famous unsolved crime of that place and time, the Jean Spangler case.  (Spangler was a young idealistic starlet and bit-part actress who was about to be featured in a Kirk Douglas movie, who got pregnant, and who then abruptly disappeared on October 7th, 1949.   Her body was never found.)

      Anyone who comes by the LaVerne Public Library on Saturday will have the opportunity to ask the novelist questions about “The Last Embrace” and about her work in general, as well as purchse a signed copy of any of her six crime novels to date.   Hamilton herself doesn’t see Saturday’s event as a lecture, so much as a free-flowing give-and-take about the writing process:  “It’s about my love affair with noir and crime fiction,” she says with conviction.   “L.A. is where people come to reinvent themselves.   Noir is about greed, glitz and glamour, crooked cops and high stakes, people on the make, people pretending to be someone they’re not.   It’s about femme fatales.   It’s about L.A.’s obsession with celebrities.   I think L.A. is as much entwined with the noir culture as it’s ever been.   We’re a city still stuck somewhere between Raymond Chandler and Bladerunner!   I love it.”




Crime novels by Denise Hamilton:

“The Jasmine Trade”

“Sugar Skull”

“Last Lullaby”

“Savage Garden”  (a finalist for the Southern California Booksellers Award for “Best Mystery of 2005”)

“Prisoner of Memory”

“The Last Embrace”



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