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LA writer Richard Lange takes us on a tour of his MacArthur Park

by Hayley Fox | Off-Ramp®

Author Richard Lange walking through MacArthur Park. Corey Bridwell/KPCC

Richard Lange is an L.A. author who revels in the unglamorous side of the city. He's published a novel, "This Wicked World", a collection of short stories, "Dead Boys," and been published in Slake Magazine and the "Best American Mystery Stories of 2011".

Los Angeles author Richard Lange has published a novel, multiple short stories and a collected works titled "Dead Boys" that embody the sights, smells, triumphs and defeat of living in Los Angeles.

"There's so many different types of people coming here to fulfill their dreams and they all get broken in so many unique ways, that it's perfect fodder for a writer," Lange said.

An Angeleno transplant via Oakland and multiple small Central California cities, Lange landed in L.A. at the age of 17 and never left. After a short stint at USC film school, Lange realized he wasn't suited for the movies because it was "a little too collaborative" for him. He liked working alone, so he began to pursue a career in writing.

"Everyone seems to come here with a dream, which makes for a great city. There's a lot of energy," Lange said. "There's this strange hopefulness here because everybody seems to be striving for something, for these goals."

Lange was encouraged by the writing classes he took from T.C. Boyle and he landed his first big job working for Larry Flynt at Flynt Publications. Lange was the managing editor of a heavy metal magazine before going on to edit textbooks and work for a trade magazine. For 10 years, Lange did what most writers do; struggle to get published and write on late nights after they finish working their day jobs.

Lange said living in neighborhoods such as Echo Park, Koreatown and South Central, as well as coming from a working class family, greatly influenced the subject matter and characters in his stories.

He writes about the aspiring actress looking for fame, the chef looking to open his first restaurant or the first-generation immigrant trying to make money to send home to family; hard-working, everyday people that make L.A. the city that it is.

Lange writes with an intimate sense of detail that demonstrates an authentic understanding of L.A. culture. He didn't have a car until he was 34-years-old, and said that walking and riding buses helped him experience the city in a visceral way many don't.

Lange has literally walked miles in his characters' shoes; he's traced the same littered path around the MacArthur Park lake, drank Bud Lights at the same dive bars and felt the burst of heat from a metro buses' exhaust.

Many of Lange's storylines exist within the margins of society, and many completely delve into the crime underworld. He attributes his vivid depictions of both to decades of reading the Los Angeles Times and paying acute attention to the stories coming out of his own community. If all else fails, he does some good old-fashioned Internet research.

"To this day I walk out of my house, I live in Echo Park, and I walk out of my house and I hit Sunset Boulevard and there's 20 stories between my house and the coffee shop up the street," Lange said.

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