Historians of Los Angeles and Southern California have long observed that the region was an extraordinary place during the 1920s and 1930s. The region’s population and economy grew at a phenomenal rate. Evangelists called new arrivals to megachurches created by Hollywood set designers. Hundreds of thousands of Iowans flocked to annual picnics in Long Beach to celebrate their midwestern roots. Hucksters sold stocks for sham companies on the streets of downtown Los Angeles. As the Depression took hold and regional economic prospects spiraled downward, seemingly equally strange proposals and movements to solve the economic crisis and its corollary human suffering emerged and gained popularity, from the Ham and Eggs pension movement to Upton Sinclair’s gubernatorial campaign.

In this carefully researched and thoughtfully written book, Errol Stevens asks the familiar question of why Los Angeles saw so many radical movements take hold in the 1930s. Over ten readable chapters, he rejects...

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