‘Shaky Town’ by Lou Matthews – The Real Los Angeles?


‘Shaky Town’ by Lou Matthews (2021) – 232 pages

Before I read this work, I did not know that Shaky Town was a nickname for Los Angeles. Shaky Town refers to Los Angeles due to the earthquakes that make the buildings shake.

There are two sides to Los Angeles. There is Hollywood, the unreal Los Angeles most of us know about, and then there is the real Los Angeles.

Here are two surprising statistics about Los Angeles. Latino or Hispanic residents of any race make up over 47% of the population of the city while non-Hispanic whites make up less than 26% of the population. A definite south-of-the-border atmosphere infuses the city, and Mexican-Spanish words are in common usage.

‘Shaky Town’ is a collection of stories and a novella that all take place in the real Los Angeles. A novel? Not so much.

The first story ‘Crazy Life’ is told from the point of view of a young woman whose boyfriend Chuey calls her from jail because he was involved in a drive-by shooting.

The second story ‘The Garlic Eaters’ is written from the point of view of a Korean small convenience store owner who is beset by a group of drug junkies who steal merchandise from him and one time severely beat up his wife to the extent she was in the hospital. He buys a gun.

“So who you dealing with there?” Again, he answered his own question. “You got crackheads, right? You got street gorillas, crazies, glue-sniffers, red freaks, junkies. You got kids, right?”

Most of these stories here deal with the rough part of Los Angeles. The violence and cruel acts seemed somewhat excessive and sensationalistic, beyond the point of realism even for this rough neighborhood. Is the picture presented here overly grim? Having never been to Los Angeles, I cannot judge.

One device that the author uses a few times is to end a story with a shocking particularly violent act. These stories reminded me of Chekhov’s famous line, “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.”

As I mentioned before, as well as the stories there is a novella, also called ‘Shaky Town’. It deals with a teacher facing an abusive situation in a Catholic high school. The novella has some surprising and engaging twists.


Grade:   B



4 responses to this post.

  1. Interesting selection but, alas, not for me at the present (too many unread books right now). I don’t know anything about the author; should I?

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Doesn’t keep us from trying though, does it! Speaking of which, I just finished Galgut’s The Promise, which I think you’ve reviewed. I’ll have to click over this afternoon and check it out.



  3. Too grim for me.



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