Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Bad City: Peril and Power in the City of Angels by Paul Pringle

I have no idea how Bad City: Peril and Power in the City of Angels by Paul Pringle ended up on my list. It seems like a book I wouldn't read unless someone recommended it to me strongly, but I don't have it on record who that was, so if it was you, thanks for the recommendation! (Found it! It was Lisa.)

Pringle is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and he gets a tip that the dean of USC's medical school was at a hotel room when a 911 call was made for a woman overdosing. Pringle starts looking into this and gets stymied time after time in an attempt to get information about this event. He runs into roadblocks from the police, city call, USC, and from his very own newspaper. What follows is a compulsively readable narrative about how a journalist does his job against overwhelming odds.

If you are a process person, which is to say that you're the kind of person who wants to know all the details (he had a knee replacement right in the middle of reporting the story!), this is a book for you. If you are the kind of person who thinks conspiracies in this modern age aren't really possible because as soon as more than one person knows a secret, it's going to come out, you should really read this book because it will make you reconsider all you think about how easy it is to compel silence among many people. If you are the kind of person who likes to see how a mystery is solved, this is for you. 

There's also lascivious scenes of sex and drugs, rogue reporters, violence, and sexual abuse, so be warned going in that this is not a book where the journalist mires everything in euphemism and closed door scenes. It's honest and forthright in a way that I found unexpected. 

There was a bit in the middle when Pringle kept running into roadblocks with his editors that I found repetitive and slowed the pace down. I understand that he felt the need to include all of that because it explains why this story took so long to report and how what appeared in the paper wasn't all of his reporting, but I almost would have rather had just a series of emails/memos in place of the narrative about his meetings to make that section move along a little bit better, but that's my only nitpick of the book.

I'm not sure why this book wasn't on everyone's best non-fiction lists of 2022, but it's quite compelling. It's full of twists and turns, a page turner to the extreme, and I was so very glad I took the time to read it. 

4.5/5 stars


  1. I am glad you enjoyed this! I really liked it, too! I heard about it from Sarah's Bookshelves Live. It was one of those 'stranger than fiction' kind of reads. I could have done w/ less of backstory about the challenges for the paper/changes in ownership. I think in the final like 10% he talks more about that and I was less interested. A colleague's son was interested in going to USC (which, by the way, is insanely expensive - like $80k/year!). She really didn't want him to go there so said maybe she should read this book or have him read it. Between this and all the controversy around their sports program and parents cheating to get their child admitted to the school, I would never want to send my child there. Maybe that sounds judgy? Hopefully changes have been made, but this story was so bananas and all the cover-ups were disgusting. The part about the doctor at student health was so disturbing, too!!

    1. The ending with the student health doctor was so disturbing! So many people knew! Since the 90s! Imagine being a teen girl and that being your first experience with a pelvic exam! So many exclamation points, but I was so shocked by it. I think USC's reputation should be entirely ruined at this point, for sure.

  2. Wow, this sounds good- and until the end of your review I didn't get that it was non-fiction. It's unusual to have a real story be that compelling. I'll look for this at my library!

    1. Oh, yes! Pringle is a real-life Pulitzer Prize winning journalist! This is absolutely nonfiction that reads like a crazy fiction story that you probably would have said was unbelievable if someone had come up with out of their heads. It's insane and incredibly compelling to read.