Monsters of L.A.
by Lisa Morton
Bad Moon Books (2011)
I'm a fan of themed anthologies. An editor has an overarching idea and assorts the stories from various authors into some semblance that helps bring the whole thing together. So, it stands to reason I ought to check out a collection of short stories by a single author, all under the umbrella of a single theme. In Lisa Morton's case, she's arranged twenty stories involving two key ingredients: monsters and her hometown of Los Angeles.
Monsters of L.A. starts off with one of the most iconic monsters of all, Frankenstein's monster. Lisa's incarnation isn't the one from Mary Shelley's classic tale, or even the Boris Karloff shambling giant, but a very frail, very human character named Daniel Moss. He and many of the other monsters that appear in this collection are reflections of the city in which they live, while other monsters are definitely of a more fantastical nature and still offer some glimpse of Los Angeles that Lisa feels deserves a brief spotlight.
A few of the stories are interconnected in various ways, either through being a direct followup like "The Bride" is to "Frankenstein", or through allusions and passing mentions like "The Phantom." There are also some aspects of the city that crop up periodically through the book, like Lisa's appreciation for architecture and fascination with a couple of the city's urban legends. There are moments where the book feels like a gruesome type of Pulp Fiction, with the focus jumping from place and place and person to person while still clinging to a singular ideal.
Like any collection, themed or otherwise, not every story resonated with me, and a couple felt like mere interludes before diving into richer subject matter. A couple of the favorites I'd recommend to anyone reading this collection are "The Phantom," which is a saddening story of a musician's fall from grace and an unexpected glimmer of solace; "Cat People," which explores one of those urban legends that I'd never heard of before called La Japonesa; and "The Hunchback" with its strikingly topical look at homophobia and bullying in schools.
Unlike other collections and anthologies, where I feel free to jump around and read stories at whim, I kind of felt like this collection needed to be read from front to back, kind of like how you listen to certain albums beginning to end. Pink Floyd, anyone? While comparing this book to one of those iconic records like The Wall or Dark Side of the Moon might be a stretch, it's a good book that really shows a love and abiding dedication to a city that is long fabled as a glitzy train wreck. Monsters of L.A. might not be a love letter to the city, but it's definitely a love letter to monsters.