A 1999 LOS ANGELES TIMES BEST BOOK
DELUXE EDITION, WITH NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN RECOVERED CHAPTERS
—Los Angeles, 1967—
With gleaming detail and blinding precision, Lou Mathews freeze-frames a hidden corner of L.A.’s outlaw culture in the moments before it becomes extinct. The heart of the culture is the drive-in, where street racers meet to challenge their rivals and place their bets. This world comes to life after dark, lit by headlights and street lamps, a moveable feast of drag races, peopled with its own lost generation: young men and women who have left high school but have no thoughts of college.
Drifting from one dead end job to another, supplementing their income through thieving, doing the occasional stint in prison, and reluctantly entering the armed services when there is nothing else left, they live, and sometimes die, for the excitement, the danger, the money of racing. In the world of drag racing—fleeting and bittersweet, like the end of summer—the stakes the stakes grow higher and higher as, one by one, each player spins out and disappears from the scene:
Here, we meet Vaca, crippled in soul and body, prefers the armor of his car to a wheelchair. The ex-con Brody—Vaca’s driver—is the best street racer in town. Reinhard, a loner who has no one and nothing but the exquisite machines he builds and races. Charlie, the race organizer who tells the story. And Connie, who rolls her eyes at the whole parade, never without a sarcastic riposte, but who can’t stay away from the boys and their toys.
Stunning, bleakly beautiful, and laugh-out-loud funny, LA Breakdown paints a riveting portrait of 1960s Los Angeles, frozen in time yet disintegrating before our eyes with all the reckless speed of romantic era.
“Mathews keeps the reader so firmly focused on horsepower, hand-rubbed black lacquer paint jobs and custom pinstripes that the small epiphanies that unfold here really do sneak up, as surprising and pungent as burning oil.” —Los Angeles Times