The Mirage Factory
A vivid account of the birth of modern Los Angeles, a city founded on manifold fantasies by strong-willed visionaries, from bestselling author and masterful storyteller Gary KristLittle more than a century ago, the southern coast of California was sleepy desert farmland. Then from it, nearly overnight, emerged one of the world's largest and most iconic cities. The birth and evolution of Los Angeles--its seemingly impossible, meteoric rise--can be attributed largely to three ingenious but deeply flawed people. D.W. Griffith, the early film pioneer who first conceived of feature-length movies, gave Hollywood its industry. Aimee Semple McPherson, a young evangelist and radio preacher, infused the city with its spiritual identity as a hub for reinvention. And William Mulholland, an Irish immigrant turned ditch-digger turned autodidactic engineer, would design the massive aqueduct that made survival in the harsh climate feasible.But while Mulholland, Griffith, and Semple McPherson were all masters of their craft, each would self-destruct in spectacular fashion. D.W. Griffith, led by his ballooning ego, would go on to produce a string of commercial failures; Semple McPherson would be crucified in the tabloids for fabricating an account of her own kidnapping; and a dam designed by Mulholland would fail just hours after he gave it a safety inspection.Spanning from 1904 to 1930, The Mirage Factory is the enthralling tale of an improbable city and the people who willed it into existence by pushing the limits of human engineering and peddling fantasies.

The Mirage Factory Details

TitleThe Mirage Factory
Author
ReleaseMay 15th, 2018
PublisherBooks on Tape
ISBN-139780525526537
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, North American Hi..., American History

The Mirage Factory Review

  • Dave
    January 1, 1970
    The Mirage Factory is an extraordinary work tracing the early history of Los Angeles. Krist explores the path that the city took from a small backwater at the edge of the continent with no natural harbor to become one of the largest cities on earth (when counting the entire metropolitan area). Three stories are told here. First, there's the story of the city's great engineer, William Mulholland, After whom the great mountain road traversing the Santa Monica's was named. Mulholland was a great vi The Mirage Factory is an extraordinary work tracing the early history of Los Angeles. Krist explores the path that the city took from a small backwater at the edge of the continent with no natural harbor to become one of the largest cities on earth (when counting the entire metropolitan area). Three stories are told here. First, there's the story of the city's great engineer, William Mulholland, After whom the great mountain road traversing the Santa Monica's was named. Mulholland was a great visionary who foresaw that the city's growth was tied to the scarce resource of water and designed a monumental aqueduct to bring water from the Owens Valley, where the eastern Sierras drained, all the way across the high desert and over the mountains to feed the thirsty city. To him it is credited the development of LA's far flung suburbs. The taking of that water was not without controversy and it was seen as theft by the locals up in Lone Pine. The second story is that of DW Griffith, for whom the great park of Los Angeles was named. Griffith was one of the giants of the early Hollywood film industry, particularly in the silent film era. This story traces the development of the film industry from a novelty at arcades to the glittering success it became. The third story is perhaps the most fascinating, that Of Aimee Semple McPherson, an evangelist with a tremendous following, who made her center in a church in Echo Park, a church which still stands although it looks quite a bit worse for wear. McPherson was a colorful figure, whites story traces the journey that churchgoing midwesterners took to the coast, which was nicknamed at one time Iowa By the Sea. This book is so chock full of details that at times it can be a slow read, but what a fascinating and well-researched history. It is especially fascinating to those of us familiar with all the geographical locations.
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  • Blaine DeSantis
    January 1, 1970
    Another fine book by Gary Krist, who seems to have become a better non-fiction writer than novelist! This time he points his research and book at Los Angeles, a place I have always loved (heck I even went to Law School out there!). By focusing on three individuals, Krist shows how they developed this city from almost out of nowhere. William Mulholland figured out how to get water to the city; D.W. Griffith made Hollywood famous for his early film masterpieces; and Aimee Semple McPherson tapped i Another fine book by Gary Krist, who seems to have become a better non-fiction writer than novelist! This time he points his research and book at Los Angeles, a place I have always loved (heck I even went to Law School out there!). By focusing on three individuals, Krist shows how they developed this city from almost out of nowhere. William Mulholland figured out how to get water to the city; D.W. Griffith made Hollywood famous for his early film masterpieces; and Aimee Semple McPherson tapped into the areas unique religious diversity to form the first megachurch that attracted thousands to its doors on an almost daily basis. There were, obviously, others who helped develop Los Angeles, but by limiting his focus the author condenses the story to a rather fast reading book. So if I loved the book so much, why only 4****. Most likely because it does not, for me, really bring anything new to the story of Los Angeles. Maybe due to living out there for 3 years in the 1970's, or maybe because of my love of books, movies and history I had already known most of these stories, or for whatever the reason I was aware of all the players in the book. If not for that to me it would definitely be a 5* effort. Krist has become a grand chronicler of this type of "soft" history, in that while he is not a trained historian, but he uses his research efforts to zoom in on a single topic (the development of LA, or in other books New Orleans and Chicago), and paints a very vivid picture of those times. This is my 3rd book that I have read by this author and I will definitely be looking at reading more of his works.
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  • Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
    January 1, 1970
    Los Angeles is an unusual city in that it was not a natural place for a settlement -- the area had been passed over in favor of Monterey, San Francisco, even San Diego, until the second half of the 19th century. It wasn't until about 1920 that the population of Los Angeles reached that of San Francisco. Gary Krist looks at three people who were part of the rise of Los Angeles in The Mirage Factory. His choice of hydraulic engineer William Mulholland seems obvious, since without some serious rero Los Angeles is an unusual city in that it was not a natural place for a settlement -- the area had been passed over in favor of Monterey, San Francisco, even San Diego, until the second half of the 19th century. It wasn't until about 1920 that the population of Los Angeles reached that of San Francisco. Gary Krist looks at three people who were part of the rise of Los Angeles in The Mirage Factory. His choice of hydraulic engineer William Mulholland seems obvious, since without some serious rerouting of water to the normally parched region, it never could have grown as it did. The other headliners, movie producer and director D. W. Griffith, and super evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, are less obvious, but warranted. On the other hand, you could also see an an aviation pioneer such as Donald Douglas or Glenn Martin or an architect like Julia Morgan filling in one of the spots. This was a very lively geographical history -- although Mulholland was a straight arrow, the story of the engineering and political fight to move water was fascinating, and the story of the dam breaking was heartbreaking. Griffith and McPherson were more interesting characters, and the stories of their rise and fall was really quite cinematic. (Thanks to NetGalley and Crown Publishing for a digital review copy.)
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  • Dick Reynolds
    January 1, 1970
    This book is one of the most enjoyable pieces of nonfiction that I’ve read in some time. Thanks to author Gary Krist’s story-telling ability it reads like an exciting novel. The setting is the early 1900s as Los Angeles is coming to grips with a most pressing problem: the need for more water to satisfy the growing number of residents of a large desert-like farming area by the Pacific. Three people, each having vastly different backgrounds and life interests, are the essential narrators of the la This book is one of the most enjoyable pieces of nonfiction that I’ve read in some time. Thanks to author Gary Krist’s story-telling ability it reads like an exciting novel. The setting is the early 1900s as Los Angeles is coming to grips with a most pressing problem: the need for more water to satisfy the growing number of residents of a large desert-like farming area by the Pacific. Three people, each having vastly different backgrounds and life interests, are the essential narrators of the larger story. The first is William Mulholland, a self-taught engineer who would oversee the construction of large aqueducts, dams and storage lakes that would transport and hold water from the Owens Valley to the city. It was a superb effort but made complicated by the strenuous objections of valley farmers who contended that their water was being stolen. (Today there is a winding mountain road in L.A. called Mulholland Drive that is named after him. There was also a 2001 movie with the same name.) The second major persona is David Wark Griffith, more often known simply as D. W. Griffith, who had a vision of constructing early motion pictures that would not only provide entertainment to the city’s residents but would evolve into its major industry. Remember, these were the days of silent black & white pictures that would be shown in vaudeville type buildings for a coin. Other prominent movie titans at the time who contributed to the industry’s growth were Louis B. Mayer and Cecille B. DeMille, along with such stars as Gloria Swanson, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks. The third person highlighted is Aimee Semple McPherson, the attractive and charismatic evangelist who preached her sermons on the radio and was so effective that she built a temple that attracted numerous followers and apostles. She founded a religion and was instrumental is helping establish a religious fiber that strengthened the character of this growing city. Gary Krist weaves the stories of these three key individuals in an expert manner to show how the city and its millions of inhabitants have been able to prosper and enjoy life. A wonderful book in all respects.
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  • Maine Colonial
    January 1, 1970
    Think about it: Los Angeles is today one of the world’s principal cities, but it wasn’t until around 1900 that its population even reached 100,000. Its explosive development isn’t far out of living memory, which makes Los Angeles seem like an achievement of fantastic ambition and imagination. And that is how author Gary Krist approaches it.Krist brings the birth of Los Angeles to life by showing us its state in the very early 1900s as a pokey, dusty town, unpromising because of its lack of a dee Think about it: Los Angeles is today one of the world’s principal cities, but it wasn’t until around 1900 that its population even reached 100,000. Its explosive development isn’t far out of living memory, which makes Los Angeles seem like an achievement of fantastic ambition and imagination. And that is how author Gary Krist approaches it.Krist brings the birth of Los Angeles to life by showing us its state in the very early 1900s as a pokey, dusty town, unpromising because of its lack of a deep-water port or enough water to sustain large-scale farming. Then, through three characters, Krist illustrates the factors that fed LA’s explosive growth and image. William Mulholland brought the water, D.W. Griffith made Hollywood a filmmaking mecca, and Aimee Semple McPherson appealed to the spiritual searching nature of LA’s from-elsewhere population.In novels, characters of towering ego and achievement inevitably take a fall, and so it is here. Krist chose his characters well, so that his history often reads like a novel. But through it all, Los Angeles, the fourth character, perseveres and lives on long after Mulholland, Griffith and McPherson have gone. If you have even a slight interest in the history of Los Angeles, I enthusiastically recommend this book.
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  • Laurie
    January 1, 1970
    I’ve read a good bit about the early days of Los Angeles, so there were parts of this book that had me wondering if I’d read this one before. Obviously, no. But there are just only so many ways of describing an event. Krist tells LA’s story by focusing on three people who were important in shaping the development of old LA: William Mulholland, D.W. Griffith, and Aimee Semple McPherson. Mulholland was the engineer who found a (temporary) solution to Los Angeles’s lack of water: drain the Owens Va I’ve read a good bit about the early days of Los Angeles, so there were parts of this book that had me wondering if I’d read this one before. Obviously, no. But there are just only so many ways of describing an event. Krist tells LA’s story by focusing on three people who were important in shaping the development of old LA: William Mulholland, D.W. Griffith, and Aimee Semple McPherson. Mulholland was the engineer who found a (temporary) solution to Los Angeles’s lack of water: drain the Owens Valley of what they thought was ample water. It was him that allowed the green lawns and lush gardens that existed for decades, before water restrictions hit. D.W. Griffith was a director working during the birth of motion pictures, who made movies an art instead of hamminess - and also made one of the most racist movies ever, The Birth of a Nation. McPherson was an evangelist who moved from the mid-west to LA to found a church that is still going- and created a space for non-mainline religions in the city. All three shaped LA; all three ended up more or less in disgrace. What makes this book different from the other “Old LA” books I’ve read is the amount of detail Krist has put into it. He’s dug a lot deeper than most others. Even though I knew the stories of Mulholland and Griffith, their stories held my attention- especially the part about the St. Francis dam failure that killed 400 people- I had never heard of that event! The chapters alternate between the three main characters; they never weave together even though they all were working during the same era. Enjoyable to read and full of facts. Four stars.
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  • Jt O'Neill
    January 1, 1970
    I spent some time in the Los Angeles area and my mother grew up there so I was especially interested in reading this book about the early days of this city. Gary Krist does a great job of telling the stories of three individuals who played huge roles in the growth of Los Angeles in the early 1900's. The stories don't necessarily hinge on each other and so there isn't much overlap but they are happening concurrently and Mr Krist weaves seamlessly among the three stories. He is a genuine storytell I spent some time in the Los Angeles area and my mother grew up there so I was especially interested in reading this book about the early days of this city. Gary Krist does a great job of telling the stories of three individuals who played huge roles in the growth of Los Angeles in the early 1900's. The stories don't necessarily hinge on each other and so there isn't much overlap but they are happening concurrently and Mr Krist weaves seamlessly among the three stories. He is a genuine storyteller and had my attention all the way through the book. I learned a lot of interesting details and was surprised by lots of them. Although I knew that LA's water came from elsewhere, I'd never heard the whole story behind that. Who knew that a relatively uneducated engineer (at least as far as formal education was concerned) would come up with the plan that would bring water to an otherwise arid region? It was interesting to learn about how one region simply appropriated what they wanted/needed from another place. By bringing the water there, that engineer (William Mullholland) opened the LA area to millions of residents. But what was the cost? Likewise it was fascinating to learn about DW Griffith and what was behind the rise of the movie industry in Hollywood. Finally, who knew that an evangelist (female, at that) would have such an influence on the growth of a city? Aimee Semple McPherson was quite the colorful character and this was the first time I'd ever read about her. With over eighty pages of notes, the book appears to be well researched. As noted above, Gary Krist is a powerful story teller and The Mirage Factory makes me want to check out other books that he has written.
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  • Cian O hAnnrachainn
    January 1, 1970
    Los Angeles is an interesting bit of sprawl, and to read THE MIRAGE FACTORY is to come to an understanding on how that urban oasis came to be, in a most unlikely of spots.Gary Krist does a fine job of presenting three separate narratives that describe well the events that shaped LA and guided the city towards significance. He begins with the story of Mr. Mulholland, the man who stole water from other areas so that LA could grow. Intertwined with the water saga is the brief history of D.W. Griffi Los Angeles is an interesting bit of sprawl, and to read THE MIRAGE FACTORY is to come to an understanding on how that urban oasis came to be, in a most unlikely of spots.Gary Krist does a fine job of presenting three separate narratives that describe well the events that shaped LA and guided the city towards significance. He begins with the story of Mr. Mulholland, the man who stole water from other areas so that LA could grow. Intertwined with the water saga is the brief history of D.W. Griffith, the star film director who was prominent in the film business that would define the area. Finally, the author introduces the reader to Aimee Semple McPherson, a character in her own right, and the sort of resident you'd expect to find in a city that has its own culture.While the three key players were familiar to me, there was a great deal that was not, and I found this book to be a page-turner as Mulholland pushed ahead with his scheme to irrigate LA while D.W. Griffith cranked out film after film and became a force in the movie business. And how did the evangelist get her start before drifting into scandal? It's in THE MIRAGE FACTORY.I thoroughly enjoyed this treatment of LA in the early decades of the Twentieth Century, when the city grew so fast that the water supply system couldn't keep up. The book is packed with fascinating details and anecdotes, and would be better than any guide book if you're planning a trip out west. Or have ever enjoyed a film or wondered about those mega-churches that draw enormous crowds.Thanks to Penguin Random House for the advanced copy. This was one of the best I've seen.
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  • John Behle
    January 1, 1970
    A solid three star. I liked this work by Gary Krist enough that I will seek out his other offerings. Krist paints the portrait of Los Angeles using three people from that era, William Mulholland, Aimee Semple McPherson, and D. W. Griffith.My favorite thread is D. W. Griffith, pioneering Hollywood film director. The chapters on Griffith and the so-fast-rich, so-fast-fame yarns of early Hollywood read like a People magazine. A thinking person's People, without the gush. Next I followed the 30 year A solid three star. I liked this work by Gary Krist enough that I will seek out his other offerings. Krist paints the portrait of Los Angeles using three people from that era, William Mulholland, Aimee Semple McPherson, and D. W. Griffith.My favorite thread is D. W. Griffith, pioneering Hollywood film director. The chapters on Griffith and the so-fast-rich, so-fast-fame yarns of early Hollywood read like a People magazine. A thinking person's People, without the gush. Next I followed the 30 year segment on William Mulholland. This man, this one man, changed the course of rivers, drained lakes, so growing-by-the-hour LA could have tap water. A brutal blow-by-blow tale of man throttling Mother Nature. It's not nice to fool Mother Nature, we find out.Last, is uber extrovert evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson and the chronicle of her Foursquare Church. I had to skim some of this as it was bogging me down with the sensationalism and money hype of her church.Krist's style is easy and entertaining, just like those early silent movies and the creation of Central Casting.
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  • Scott Hitchcock
    January 1, 1970
    Well told history of the population explosion of LA and all of its annexes, the film industry and all the characters who helped build it up. I never realized the impact of Mulholland and the water it takes to feed LA's needs. D.W. Griffin's story from this side was interesting. I had known him as the filmmaker who directed the racist Birth of a Nation through books about WWI and Woodrow Wilson. A much more complicated character than portrayed in those histories.
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  • Michele
    January 1, 1970
    Picking up about 20 years after "Eternity Street: Violence and Justice in Frontier Los Angeles," this book gives us the birth of modern Los Angeles, from 1900 to the 1930's. It covers DW Griffith, Cecil B DeMill and the early silent film industry, to William Mulholland and the infrastructure that brought water to Los Angeles, including the St. Francis Dam disaster, and though Aimee Semple McPherson (and her mysterious disappearance) ,Robert Schuller both in the early evangelist movement in Los A Picking up about 20 years after "Eternity Street: Violence and Justice in Frontier Los Angeles," this book gives us the birth of modern Los Angeles, from 1900 to the 1930's. It covers DW Griffith, Cecil B DeMill and the early silent film industry, to William Mulholland and the infrastructure that brought water to Los Angeles, including the St. Francis Dam disaster, and though Aimee Semple McPherson (and her mysterious disappearance) ,Robert Schuller both in the early evangelist movement in Los Angeles. The book tells us of the growing pains the city had while on the way to the city we know now.
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  • Jane
    January 1, 1970
    Engaging account of principal people and influences on the growth of Los Angeles as a unique, major city
  • Jimmy
    January 1, 1970
    This is a fascinating book on the history of how Los Angeles became the city that it has become. I have seen previously other titles by Gary Krist on other big and famous cities and their history but this is the first time I have read his book. I gave this book a try because it focuses on Los Angeles and I have some roots and sentiments with this city. This book impressed me enough that I am considering reading other titles by Krist.The book covers the 1900s to the 1930s. In those three decades This is a fascinating book on the history of how Los Angeles became the city that it has become. I have seen previously other titles by Gary Krist on other big and famous cities and their history but this is the first time I have read his book. I gave this book a try because it focuses on Los Angeles and I have some roots and sentiments with this city. This book impressed me enough that I am considering reading other titles by Krist.The book covers the 1900s to the 1930s. In those three decades Los Angeles changed greatly. What began as a small town where experts didn’t even think would exceed a population of 100,000 went beyond anyone’s wildest expectation in the 1900s. Part of why people thought it was impossible that Los Angeles would become such an important city was because the problem of water that would be required to sustained the city’s population. Also at the same in the state of California most people saw San Francisco as the hub city of the state and for Southern California during that time San Diego seem to be more promising.Krist in the book argued that what changed all that were three individuals who took on three different occupations in their contribution to Los Angeles being the internationally well known city that it has become. Recall earlier that Los Angeles would require water in order for the city to grow beyond 100,000. The first individual that the book focused upon was William Mulholland. Most cititzens of Los Angeles would probably recognize the name because of Mulholland Blvd running through the city. William Mulholland was important to the city because he designed massive aqueducts to supply the city with water. His projects was enormous and unprecedented for his time. The second individual that the book covered is D.W. Griffith. D.W. Griffith was responsible for transforming the motion picture industry to become what we know it as today with Hollywood (which is in Los Angeles). Of course films have become one of America’s favorite past time and that of other countries in the world. This lands Los Angeles as a major cultural influence with its export of motion pictures. The third person that Krist covered is Aimee Semple McPherson, a woman evangelist who laid the foundation for the city's reputation for new spirituality. Aimee McPherson would later become known as the founder of the Foursquare Church, a Christian denomination.Besides their accomplishment each of these personalities were interesting in their own right. I learned a lot about these three individuals. Readers will relish to discover all three individual’s humble background and beginning. One learn of how Mulholland was an immigrant ditch-digger turned self-taught engineer. Then there’s Griffith whose impoverished background began in a farm in Oldham County, Kentucky. He began as a poor playwright and part time actor. McPherson herself was born in Canada to a mother who was involved with the Salvation Army and specifically with their soup kitchen. Before moving to Los Anglese Aimee and her mother would travel around the country preaching.The book hightlighted their journey towards success. For Mulholland it was his steady climb up the Los Angeles City Water Company. Mulholland was able to come up with ideas of massive water projects for the city of Los Angeles including the nearly impossible feat of acquiring water from the Owens Valley. He was not only able to do it but he was able to build it quickly and cheaper than anyone else who can do it. This is no small undertaking as he was involved with all the details from purchasing water rights, purchasing land in order to build the aqueduct and the feeding and payroll of all the workers. For Griffith it was his innovative approach towards motion picture from longer narrative films, camera techniques and pioneer method of directing that led him to make motion pictures interesting and a large success, with his most famous film being The Birth of a Nation. McPhearson would preach in Los Angeles and have massive crowds gathering to hear a woman evangelist speak, something of a novelty in her time. Yet she manages to use Hollywood type of techniques to gather the crowd to listen to her with things that are new such as her dressing up as her character that she is preaching about. Her success is seen in the construction of her church called the Angelus Temple,Yet the book doesn’t stop at their success but also discuss their decline. I also thought the author did a good job narrating the book in such a way that you already began to see the cracks even with their success. For example Griffith is an incredible risk taker and willing to do things that is outside the box and different. He clashes with studio executives and ask for funds that were unheard of during his time all the way making his financial backers worry of major setbacks and failures. While this led to his success with The Birth of a Nation it also led to his ruin in other projects. Muholland was himself an amazing man who can remember very specific details even without a map concerning streets, roads and water hydrants. Yet because everything depended so much on one’s man that led a major crisis when St. Francis Dam collapsed. As the author pointed out no one person should be in charge of everything. Muholland was a crushed man after the incident given how lives were loss and properties were destroyed. McPhearson as a Christian servant of God had a scandal herself concerning an alleged kidnapping and possible extramarital affair. Yet even in the beginning the author noted her former husbands and divorces, signs of things aren’t as stable with the evangelist concerning marriage and romantic interests.Again I learned a lot from this book. Sometimes it’s the side thing that is also interesting. As someone who grew up in Southern California I didn’t know the Christian radio station I grew up listening to was started up by McPhearson. She was a pioneer with Christian use of radio at a time where there was only two radio stations in Los Angeles and her station was called KFSG for years. I also didn’t know that the charismatic private Christian school “Life College” was Four Square; I have known some people who went there. Also interesting was finding out names behind landmarks such as Eaton Canyon and one getting the feel of a young Los Angeles.
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  • Sam Law
    January 1, 1970
    Summary:A look at the founding of the great city of Los Angeles, told in the third person viewpoint of three of its early legendary figures.Read More Book Reviews on my blog It's Good To Read Main Characters:William Mulholland: Born in Dublin, Ireland, this single-minded workaholic transformed himself from an immigrant digger of ditches, to “The Chief”, serving the city of Los Angeles for over 50 years, rising to become the head of the powerful Department of Water.D W (David Wark) Griffith: The Summary:A look at the founding of the great city of Los Angeles, told in the third person viewpoint of three of its early legendary figures.Read More Book Reviews on my blog It's Good To Read Main Characters:William Mulholland: Born in Dublin, Ireland, this single-minded workaholic transformed himself from an immigrant digger of ditches, to “The Chief”, serving the city of Los Angeles for over 50 years, rising to become the head of the powerful Department of Water.D W (David Wark) Griffith: The man who, more than most, helped establish the movie industry in LA, dominating the silent screen era.Aimee Semple McPherson: An evangelical child prodigy, she grew to become a charismatic preacher.Minor Characters:Various hangers-on, lovers, co-respondents in legal cases, the residents of the Owens Valley.Plot:This is a coming-of-age story for an entire city, a city that, as the author reminds us several times, had no right existing in the first place. There was nothing that indicated the future sprawl of Los Angeles, not its lack of harbour, its arid desert, its rugged mountains – until it was transformed by the arrival of the Southern Pacific railroad in 1876.This is the story of water, its theft and use, the violence and the bitter recriminations, and the sacrifice of a community for the greater good of a city. William Mulholland is the man behind this story.It is a story of the selling of celluloid dreams, of creating worlds without sound, and the maturing of an iconic industry. D W Griffith was the giant who transformed the movie industry from a disreputable working-class pursuit, to a glamorous, fashionable and highly-desirable career option.Finally, it is the story of salvation, the drive to find spiritual meaning in the midst of tumultuous upheaval, continental and global migration, and the need to feel part of something greater than oneself. Aimee McPherson became the poster child for faith healing and evangelism, creating the foundation of Los Angeles’ reputation of nurturing the full gamut of religious sensibilities.Water:Without water, none of this would have happened. William Mulholland, the unschooled immigrant Irishman, had the vision to create an aqueduct from the Owens Valley to the city. He is portrayed as a workaholic, not given to suffering fools, and single-minded in his pursuit of the water that would give his city life. He brought his aqueduct project in ahead of schedule, and below budget.Strong-minded and intelligent, he was also ruthless in his business dealings, seeking secretly and overtly to get the rights to the ground water. Politically astute, he managed elected city officials for over fifty years, gaining support for his actions and vision. He carried a full map of the city’s water and sewage systems in his head, able to give on-the-spot detailed instructions dealing with a relatively remote pump.His tactics did bring him enemies, in particular those residents of the Owens Valley, who claimed he stole their water, and effectively destroyed both the livelihoods and community. They responded by dynamiting his dams, and taking legal action. The case was also fought in the court of public opinion, with the powerful newspapers taking various positions, which publicity he also had to manage.His legendary stubbornness was felt even by close friends, for example Frank Eaton with whom Mulholland refused to negotiate buying land from, as he felt the price was too high. They only reconciled effectively on Eaton’s deathbed.Without doubt, he was an incredible man, and achieved incredible things. However, he was also touched and undone by tragedy, in particular the devastating collapse of the St Francis dam in 1928. Hundreds of people died in the onrushing water, millions of dollars damage was caused to public and private property, and as Chief Engineer Mulholland took full responsibility. He took his punishment, saying “it was human error, and I am the human”. His career was effectively ended by this tragedy, and he died a few short years later.Film:The movie industry had very humble beginnings in Los Angeles. 1907 saw two men from the Selig Polyscope company filming an unknown actor playing Edmond Dantes as he emerges from the sea, a famous scene from The Count of Monte Cristo. This was the first film to be made in the greater LA area. Eighteen months later, a proud Shakespearean actor slightly embarrassed financially would take a $125 two-day job. His was probably the first, but most definitely not the last, whose “code of ethics fell before the onslaught of Capital” in the movie business. Bosworth was in fact making history, appearing in one of the first narrative films shot entirely in LA.At this time, nickelodeons were on Main St., but were very disreputable for respectable people to frequent. The “industry” was barely ten years old, and heavily reliant on being able to use the Edison-controlled licences. Productions were consumed by inner-city working class. Eventually this monopoly would be successfully broken through legal challenges, and “independent” studios would rise. However, DW Griffith initially did not want to be associated with this vulgar medium.Griffith was born into a once-wealthy Southern family, but knew poverty and want growing up. He wanted to, and eventually became, an actor, travelling the length and breadth of the country. It was a precarious existence, which he aimed to supplement with a modestly successful writing career, and eventually one which drove him into movies, being hired by Biograph. He was modestly successful as an actor, but encouraged to do directing. Meeting and partnering with Billy Bitzer as his cameraman put him on the road to greatness.What followed was unprecedented creativity, in a new industry. Different shots, panning shots, up-close- Griffith invented practically all of it, or else refined and expanded it. His stock was rising.By 1910, Griffith had moved west , away from the big bosses in the east, and the film industry in LA was born. Movies were becoming more acceptable, and actors became front-page as well as entertainment page news. Charlie Chaplin, Lilian Gish, Tom Mix – names still known today.In 1915, he released a film called Birth of a Nation, which hit the financial jackpot. He financed this through a motley of means, which would become his trademark in later years, but his investors were handsomely rewarded. The success of this film and others led him to be termed the “Father of Film”. However, it opened the eyes of the Wall St money men, who got involved and turned this “cottage industry” into a well-oiled cash generating machine.Griffith’s story has been well documented elsewhere, but suffice to say that he fell victim to hubris, and success in later years became hit and miss. Repeated failures caused his glittering crown to slip, and fall to the likes of Cecil B DeMille, the Warner Bros, and others. The movie business had undergone several scandals (Fatty Arbuckle’s murder lawsuit, several other actors being arrested for drug violations, myriad sex scandals and suicides). Self-regulation was brought in, and coupled with the emergence of behemoths such as United Artists, Paramount, Warner etc., independents got squeezed out.Financially secure, he ended his days drinking from morning to night, eventually dying alone in 1948 in an anonymous Hollywood hotel room. He was a visionary, blazing a trail and taking the risks that allowed the industry to thrive in LA.Evangelisation:Aimee McPherson, or “Sister”, is for me the most intriguing. A child prodigy who learnt the bible off by heart, she was wavering in her faith until she attended a Pentecostal revival in her mid-teens, which transformed her. She fell in love then married the preacher and, after he died in China, she and her children returned to the US.She made her name as a travelling preacher, being charismatic and eloquent, and as a faith healer. Eventually she, her mother, her children and her assistant travelled across country to settle in Los Angeles in late 1918. She founded a church based on donations, and regularly attracted crowds of up to ten thousand people at her sermons.She does not seem to have done this for personal profit, and indeed her later trial could unearth no hint of any financial impropriety. How the funds were spent did cause huge issues between her and her mother, leading to several separations then re-unions.She founded a subscription magazine, and was lead contributor. She built the Angelus Temple, and founded the Foursquare Church in Los Angeles, which still thrives today. She was renowned for her good works – Anthony Quinn the actor believes she kept most of the Mexican people alive during the recession. She became one of the first female radio broadcasters. All this success fostered envy and opposition, with rival preachers attacking her and casting doubt on her goals.However, it was the curious story of her 1926 kidnapping and eventual escape which proved the turning point in her career.Sister had gone to the beach with her secretary, Emma Schaffer. Schaffer left her swimming for about ten minutes, and Sister was gone when she returned. Cue a nationwide hunt, which became the lead news story across the nation, with multiple sightings, various theories, and a few ransom notes. The most virulent was re-surfaced rumours of an affair with a married man.About six weeks after the disappearance, Sister re-appeared in an Arizona hospital, with a derring-do tale of imprisonment and escape.This eventually led to a trial, in court and by media, for perjury and fraud. Sister won the court battle, but her image had been tarnished. Her life descended into multiple splits and reconciliations with the mother, and virtually everyone else. She died of an accidental drug overdose in 1944.What I Liked:- Well written, with a detached objective view of the three figures.- Very well researched, and the author makes the stories flow well.What I Didn’t Like:- Sister could have gotten some more detail.- I would have liked to see a section around the corruption of the time, both from city officials and criminals, and the impact that had on the characters (if any).Overall:This is an extremely engaging read. The author does a superb job in keeping the facts straight, and in a narrative that does not become a dusty tome, but breathes life into the origin story of this vibrant city.The story has everything, as you would expect from a Hollywood blockbuster – sex, drugs, lies, court drama, explosions, violence and death – and it is a true story! If you are a history buff, definitely well worth your time reading. If you are not, it still makes an interesting read.Acknowledgements:Thanks to the author and Penguin First To Read for the free copy, in return for an objective review.
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  • LAPL Reads
    January 1, 1970
    The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination and the Invention of Los Angeles examines three historical figures who forged the development of Los Angeles as a metropolitan epicenter between 1900 and 1930. Krist, a journalist for the New York Times and Esquire, argues that three “visionaries” from L.A.’s storied past (city engineer William Mulholland, film director D.W. Griffith and evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson) ultimately ignited the technological, artististic and spiritual zeitgeist that beca The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination and the Invention of Los Angeles examines three historical figures who forged the development of Los Angeles as a metropolitan epicenter between 1900 and 1930. Krist, a journalist for the New York Times and Esquire, argues that three “visionaries” from L.A.’s storied past (city engineer William Mulholland, film director D.W. Griffith and evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson) ultimately ignited the technological, artististic and spiritual zeitgeist that became the foundation of this modern city.The book pursues a chronological approach to events, beginning with William Mulholland and Frederick Eaton exploring the Owens Valley and details the story (now familiar to most Angelenos) of diverting the Owens River to Los Angeles, and the crisis it stirred throughout California. It was Mulholland’s radical technological vision that resulted in the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and against all odds, allowed Los Angeles to grow into a city that could be a player on the world stage.The narrative then shifts to the birth of the ‘flickers’ with David Wark Griffith’s serendipitous career transition from actor to director culminating in the creation of his controversial masterpiece, The Birth of a Nation (1915) and its follow-up, Intolerance (1916). Griffith’s artistic vision forever changed the economic growth of Los Angeles and the fledgling movie industry that made its home within the burgeoning city. Popular perceptions of the film industry shifted almost overnight as movies began to assert their financial clout, establishing an industry that would define Los Angeles in the eyes of the world. In just under thirty years Los Angeles had gone from a town with “no dogs or actors” signs pasted in boarding house windows to one that threw a parade for actress Gloria Swanson when she returned as both figurative and literal Hollywood royalty.Finally, the arrival of Canadian transplant Aimee Semple McPherson, and her Pentecostal religious fervor that straddled the line between religion and entertainment concludes Krist’s hypothesis. McPherson would usher in a kind of spiritual anarchy that flew in the face of expectations, not only on religion but women's roles, within religious practices. Every week McPherson did not simply deliver a sermon, but injected her religious proclamations into a lavish theatrical production. McPherson offered a carnival of unorthodox spirituality to a town that was transfixed with all things larger-than-life, and Krist contends that she sowed the seeds that allowed eccentric theology to flourish within Los Angeles.By the late 1920s this trio would each meet their proverbial Waterloo: Mulholland and the St. Francis Dam; Griffith’s series of commercial failures; and McPherson’s kidnapping/disappearance. These events were catalysts in the fall from the heights each had ascended. By the 1930s all three would be relatively forgotten in the ether of time, but each had forged a path that would permanently mark the city forever.The stories of these three individuals probably won’t be news to Angelenos who know their history, but Krist’s thesis is intriguing and makes revisiting these stories worthwhile. His writing is vivid and captivating, putting energy back into stories that have circulated fairly regularly in Los Angeles history circles. The chapter recounting the St. Francis Dam disaster is easily among the most exciting examples of storytelling ever written about that event. Overall, the book is an engaging and entertaining way to acquaint oneself with some milestones in L.A. history, and with three of the personalities who helped to shape and influence the city's history. Reviewed by Nicholas Beyelia, Librarian, History and Genealogy Department
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  • Alex Abboud
    January 1, 1970
    Interesting look at the development of Los Angeles in the early 20th century. Your mileage with this book will vary depending on how interesting you find the three characters and their respective industries - were I more interesting in the film industry and the evangelical movement I would have rated this higher.
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  • Jared | beardedreading
    January 1, 1970
    The Mirage Factory is an illuminating blend of religion, entertainment, and the human condition. As the city-that-should-never-have-existed, Los Angeles is shown as a beacon of ingenuity, even though the road to genius is wrought with failure, mishaps, and sometimes death.
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  • Argum
    January 1, 1970
    I received a free copy of this book from Penguin First to Read program. An interesting history of a city as told by three major players in its early years. Mirage Factory details the early years of Los Angeles from a small desert town to the seeds of what it has become today by following the careers and lives of the engineer Mulholland who brought water to the desert allowing it to grow, the director D.W. Griffith who played a major role in the birth of film and filmmaking in LA, and the evangel I received a free copy of this book from Penguin First to Read program. An interesting history of a city as told by three major players in its early years. Mirage Factory details the early years of Los Angeles from a small desert town to the seeds of what it has become today by following the careers and lives of the engineer Mulholland who brought water to the desert allowing it to grow, the director D.W. Griffith who played a major role in the birth of film and filmmaking in LA, and the evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson who took her tent revival to millions on the radio and made quite a spectacle of herself as a celebrity preacher. Fascinating people alone, but woven together to tell the tale of how LA went from nothing in the desert to the Mirage FActory we know today.
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  • SibylM
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars.
  • Suzanne
    January 1, 1970
    An interesting perspective on the early start of Los Angeles and the three larger than life characters that created the most impact in the early 20th Century. Between delivering water, creating a company town and establishing the start of (many) religious pursuits, author Gary Krist describes the DNA for Los Angeles that was established by the early 1930s. The book reads as though it is fiction although it is well-sourced and true. One hundred years later, we can still see the origin story play An interesting perspective on the early start of Los Angeles and the three larger than life characters that created the most impact in the early 20th Century. Between delivering water, creating a company town and establishing the start of (many) religious pursuits, author Gary Krist describes the DNA for Los Angeles that was established by the early 1930s. The book reads as though it is fiction although it is well-sourced and true. One hundred years later, we can still see the origin story play out. I received my copy from Penguin’s First to Read Program.
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  • Halley Sutton
    January 1, 1970
    Fabulously interesting history of early Los Angeles. Makes me feel closer to my city.
  • Keri
    January 1, 1970
    I am both fascinated with and disappointed by Los Angeles, so I was eager to read about its history and growth from a deserty backwater to large metropolis . The story is told primary through the lens of the rise and fall of William Mulholland (development/water rights), D.W. Griffith (Hollywood/film-making), and Aimee Semple McPherson (evangelism/Foursquare Church). This is clearly well-researched, and perfect for those who are, like me, drawn to the City of Angels.
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  • Jenna
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating history of the origins of Los Angeles; apparently there's always been a traffic problem. 😀 Extra fun now that I know the area better.
  • Casey Wheeler
    January 1, 1970
    I received a free Kindle copy of  The Mirage Factory by Gary Krist courtesy of Net Galley  and Crown Publishing, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.I requested this book as I am interested in american history and the description made this book sound interesting. I also have read one of Gary Krist's earlie I received a free Kindle copy of  The Mirage Factory by Gary Krist courtesy of Net Galley  and Crown Publishing, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.I requested this book as I am interested in american history and the description made this book sound interesting. I also have read one of Gary Krist's earlier books (The White Cascade) and enjoyed it.This book covers the story of the development of Los Angeles from 1900 - 1930 through the lives of three individuals who played key roles in different ways. The three are William Mulholland, D.W. Griffith and Aimee Semple McPherson. Mulholland developed the water system for the city, Griffith was instrumental in the growth of the motion picture business and McPherson was one of the first to development a broad based religious following (Four Square) that grew out of the Los Angeles area.The book is well researched and written. The author uses the rotating chapter style going from one individual to the next while making it easy to follow. I am sure that others also played key roles in the development of Los Angeles during this time, but the author chose these three and did a very good job of explaining their importance. The final chapter briefly deals with what happens to the three after the time period covered by the book.I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the era that moved Los Angeles from a small player in the scheme of things to a major player in the development of Califronia, the motion picture business and new religious beliefs.
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  • John Spiller
    January 1, 1970
    "The Mirage Factory" shares many of the attributes that made Krist's previous book "Empire of Sin" such a wonderful read:meticulously researched, well-written, and filled with interesting historical detail that had been previously consigned to obscurity.Krist tries to capture lightning in a bottle again by examining a pivotal 30 year period in another iconic American city, Los Angeles. Here, his reach exceeds his grasp. While "The Mirage Factory" is not short, it still felt superficial. The supe "The Mirage Factory" shares many of the attributes that made Krist's previous book "Empire of Sin" such a wonderful read:meticulously researched, well-written, and filled with interesting historical detail that had been previously consigned to obscurity.Krist tries to capture lightning in a bottle again by examining a pivotal 30 year period in another iconic American city, Los Angeles. Here, his reach exceeds his grasp. While "The Mirage Factory" is not short, it still felt superficial. The superficiality derives from Krist's narrative approach, which focused on three individuals who helped spur the expansion of LA from regional burg to global metropolis. For me at least, only one of the individuals he chose as his narrative engine -- Aime Semple McPherson -- had the charisma to engage the reader. Engineer William Mulholland is a cipher with a monomaniacal focus on delivering water to LA. Movie director D.W. Griffith revolutionized the movie business with "Birth of a Nation," but was rather inconsequential for the last 30 years of his career.Krist struggled mightily to tie together Mulholland, Griffith, and Semple McPherson, but their disparate stories did not cohere. It didn't help that Griffith became largely irrelevant to motion pictures once they became an economic powerhouse for LA. While Mulholland drove the California Water Wars, he was not a direct participant in many of the dramatic conflicts between the residents of Owen Valley and the Los Angeles Water Department.Don't get me wrong: "The Mirage Factory" is a great read, but I couldn't help but feel that it could have been better.
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  • P.e. lolo
    January 1, 1970
    A wonderful book about the history of Los Angeles. With the advent of movies and bringing the film industries from the east coast to Los Angeles. How D.W. Griffith was one of the pioneers of the film industry in Hollywood was interesting, for I just knew the name from the park I used to go to when I was younger. He goes into the different ways of bringing water to this dry part of the land. How the people of Owens Valley did not like the way the water was taken from them. How Mulholland who with A wonderful book about the history of Los Angeles. With the advent of movies and bringing the film industries from the east coast to Los Angeles. How D.W. Griffith was one of the pioneers of the film industry in Hollywood was interesting, for I just knew the name from the park I used to go to when I was younger. He goes into the different ways of bringing water to this dry part of the land. How the people of Owens Valley did not like the way the water was taken from them. How Mulholland who without an engineering degree built the aqueduct and was able to supply water to the ever-growing area. He was also responsible for the Saint Francis Dam collapse which 431 people died and are still the second greatest loss of life in California behind the 1906 earthquake. What was not in the book was that the collapse happened in 1928 and that in the 70’s 1992 and 1994 bodies were still discovered from this disaster. I also found the part about Aimee Semple to be very interesting. Not only her life and her preaching but who the different people were attacking her. Overall I found this to be a very good book with a lot of information, especially how there were oil wells in different parts of the city and how they were done away with as the city grew. Just one of many observations. Very much worth the read. I received this book from Netgalley.com I gave this book 5 stars. Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com
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  • Paula
    January 1, 1970
    If I could go back in time, one of the first places I'd visit would be Los Angeles in the early years of the Twentieth Century. My family roots go deep here, and I would just love to experience the bucolic vistas that were here before all the open spaces got filled in. Such a sleepy little town when my grandfather was born here in 1900, growing to the 2nd largest city in the United States 80 years later.And that is why I loved this book. "The Mirage Factory" weaves together the stories - includi If I could go back in time, one of the first places I'd visit would be Los Angeles in the early years of the Twentieth Century. My family roots go deep here, and I would just love to experience the bucolic vistas that were here before all the open spaces got filled in. Such a sleepy little town when my grandfather was born here in 1900, growing to the 2nd largest city in the United States 80 years later.And that is why I loved this book. "The Mirage Factory" weaves together the stories - including the ultimate downfalls - of three people who were instrumental in spurring on that transformation - engineer William Mulholland, evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, and film director D. W. Griffith. It is a fascinating and thoroughly researched account of Mulholland's audacious plan to bring water to LA from the Owens Valley, including the violent feud that the building of the LA Aqueduct ignited with the residents of the Owens Valley; the rise of McPherson and her still-functioning Angelus Temple; and the story of early Hollywood and D. W. Griffith, the father of the art of filmmaking. He brought his talents out west and helped to establish the Los Angeles area as the center for film production early in the twentieth century. If you are at all interested in early Los Angeles history, or the history of film, I highly recommend this book.
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  • Angie
    January 1, 1970
    I must admit I found myself a little surprised to be reading a history of the founding of LA -- having visited the city once for a conference during which I saw mostly the inside of conference rooms. But it was a much more intriguing story than I anticipated. Kristy covers the stories of (in decreasing order of interest) the man responsible for bringing water to the city and making its existence -- Mullholland, the most prominent director of early Hollywood -- D. W. Griffiths, and the founder of I must admit I found myself a little surprised to be reading a history of the founding of LA -- having visited the city once for a conference during which I saw mostly the inside of conference rooms. But it was a much more intriguing story than I anticipated. Kristy covers the stories of (in decreasing order of interest) the man responsible for bringing water to the city and making its existence -- Mullholland, the most prominent director of early Hollywood -- D. W. Griffiths, and the founder of a megachurch that dominated the city --Aimee McPherson. With my own sciency background, I found the stories of the politics and engineering feats around procuring enough water to support the exponential growth of the city fascinating. The Hollywood stories wove together a tale of the founding of the biz in LA that I knew pieces of but not the whole thing from this perspective. And the evangelism seemed out of left field, but it added interest. It's a well-written story, and the things that the characters have in common are not only the formation of the city's character, but their personal downfalls/crises in the late 1920s. I must say that even here, McPherson was the oddest fit, but there was little enough of her in the book that she didn't distract too much and she kept in the rhythm of the overall story.Well done.I got a copy to review from First to Read.
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  • Michael Malone
    January 1, 1970
    An intriguing look at Los Angeles from 1900 to 1930, as its population was booming and it was turning from a desolate farmland to a mega-metropolis. Krist focuses on three people who helped build Los Angeles as it took off: filmmaker D.W. Griffith, evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, and engineer William Mulholland, who brought the metropolis water in a controversial manner--by linking LA to a region a few hours north with an aqueduct. Notably, each of the three meets a dismal fate. Griffith neve An intriguing look at Los Angeles from 1900 to 1930, as its population was booming and it was turning from a desolate farmland to a mega-metropolis. Krist focuses on three people who helped build Los Angeles as it took off: filmmaker D.W. Griffith, evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, and engineer William Mulholland, who brought the metropolis water in a controversial manner--by linking LA to a region a few hours north with an aqueduct. Notably, each of the three meets a dismal fate. Griffith never equaled the acclaim of his early film Birth of a Nation, Semple McPherson went through what she claimed was a kidnapping ordeal that ended with charges against her, and Mulholland's dam burst, killing hundreds. Of the three, I wonder about the merits of including Semple McPherson in the book. LA may have been religious then, but it's not now, so one wonders about her legacy in the city. Still, she makes for a fun yarn. The Mirage Factory is an engaging and unique look at Los Angeles from a few angles you probably haven't seen it from before.
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  • Jackie Stanton
    January 1, 1970
    "The Mirage Factory", a history of Los Angeles from 1900 -1930, is an engrossing and detailed account of how the second largest city in the US bloomed in an inhospitable desert. Krist, who documents his sources in both footnotes and annotated bibliography, weaves a fascinating, true tale about my native city. I love LA, and I loved this book.Three divergent and very different city icons are studied here: William Mullholland, who was primarily responsible for bringing vital water to the desert-by "The Mirage Factory", a history of Los Angeles from 1900 -1930, is an engrossing and detailed account of how the second largest city in the US bloomed in an inhospitable desert. Krist, who documents his sources in both footnotes and annotated bibliography, weaves a fascinating, true tale about my native city. I love LA, and I loved this book.Three divergent and very different city icons are studied here: William Mullholland, who was primarily responsible for bringing vital water to the desert-by-the-sea community via his Owens Aquaduct project, D.W. Griffith, one of the pioneers of the motion picture industry that made LA the entertainment capital of the world, and Amy Semple McPherson, who started and based a world-wide Pentecostal movement in Southern California. Ktist carefully documents the vast influence each had on the growth of Los Angeles, and gives the reader a broader understanding of how a desert coastal city without a deep water port and no direct access to water grew in power and influence around the world.
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