LA can be particularly difficult because they tear down and replace everything they can every ten years. I'm astonished City Hall has held out as long as it has. The sheer expense of tearing down skyscrapers helps, but a lot of Victorian blocks disappeared to make room for parking lots and tickytacky stucco cubes. They also have leveled about every hill they could, so that today's town is much flatter.
This is why I say that research trips are generally over-valued for actual help to the writer until after you have done so much research that you almost don't need it. They otherwise mislead you, but, hey, it's one of the few perks a writer has, taking research trips off on the taxes. But your research books are deductible, too.
The WPA Guide to Los Angeles. If you can get one for your locale, you will, too. This is a list of all the free guides and the many more that need to be made into PDFs and put online because they were public domain since they were printed.
1) History Outline
2) Everyday Life
3) General transportation
4) General costume
5) Specific transportation
7) Spectator entertainments, whether theatre
or sports, a general overview.
8) Self-entertainments, like card games,
lawn games, and children's games.
9) Food and dining, including what sort
of public dining was available.
11) Marriage and family
12) Specific costume, for your demi-decade,
including specialty costumes for clerics.
13) A book on the religion(s) dominant
in the time and place, as practiced then, not the current version.
14) A fat history book of the area and century.
15) A history of the most influential country
at the time (country A).
16) A history of its rival (country B).
For all three of these, Simonds, Frank H., LittD & Brooks Emeny, PhD The Great Powers in World Politics; International Relations and Economic Nationalism 1935-1939 American Book Co., NY. Since the author didn't know what was to come or what was to be found out, he provides one actual period American view of the world. Post-War books all suffer from 20/20 hindsight. For what was happening in the press, Flappers, &c.
17) A biography of the leader of country
18) A biography of the leader of country
19) A history of the country you are setting
20) A history of the country you are setting
in, that era.
21) A biography of the leader of the country
of your setting.
22) An everyday life for the commoner of
your time and place.
23) An everyday life for the upper classes
of your time and place.
An everyday life for the middle class of your time and place.
25) An everyday life for the women of your
time and place.
26) An auto/biography of someone like your
protagonist, or a book as much as possible focused on people
27) A book on houses and furnishings of
28) A book about courting, romance, and
sex of the time.
29) A source of period names.
30) Medicine of the time
31) Climate: L.A. Times for daily weather reports. The WPA Guide describes a much colder LA than I knew.
32) City & Buildings: Bruce Henstell; Los Angeles, An Illustrated History; 1980; Alfred A. Knopf, NY. Covers Los Angeles 1781-1980.
33) City & Buildings: Lee, Shippey; photos by Max Yavno; The Los Angeles Book, 1950; Houghton Mifflin Co, Boston. This gives some info and a lot of pix of LA, 1920-1950.
34) Design & Architecture: TheodoreMenten; The Art Deco Style in Household Objects, Architecture, Sculpture, Graphics, Jewelry; 1972; Dover, NY
35) City & Crime: Otto Friedrich; City of Nets, A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s; 1986; Harper & Row, NY; starts a bit earlier in background on West Coast gangland.
36) Scientists: Laura Fermi; Illustrious Immigrants: The Intellectual Migration from Europe, 1930-1941; University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2nd ed. 1971; A precise but emminently readable story of the efforts of American academics to rescue their fellows from the Nazi regime, giving valuable background on what their lives had been like in Europe, and what they faced in the New World. The bulk is given over to following the continuing success of these figures (and the occasional failure) and the effect they had on American arts and sciences by being here.
37) Ideologies: Leslie A. Gould,, American Youth Today; 1940; Random House, NY: youth culture of a more serious bent, unemployment, red-baiting, racism, Great Depression, communism; 1930-1940
38) Military: The Military Service Publishing Company; The Officer's Manual; Harrisburg, PN, 8th ed. 1941; If you want to present an Army officer and you haven't been one, or weren't in the right branch of service, this is great. If you were one, you will still want it to make sure you're not being anachronistic. It covers the National Guard as well, with organization of the Army, the command structure, what you wear, with whom you serve, your first station, your last will and testament, ad infinitum. Mercifully written before gobbledegook, in a clear and simple format, which is neither flowery nor dull. However, a 9th edition, 1943, would be way off for this period,because so much changed in 1942. I have four editions of this -- so far. Maybe I'll turn it into a collecting hobby. I can put them between the atlases and the etiquette books.
39) Military: Nancy Shea; The Army Wife, What She Ought to Know About the Customs of the Service and the Management of an Army Household; Harper and Brothers, NY, 1941 revised edition; Put together to meet the needs of women who suddenly found their husands in the army, on the bones of a book for girls marrying cadets or other men already in, Shea tells what to expect in almost any situation. It's a great guide to what foreign postings are likely to come up in this pre-NATO era.
40) Military: Aerospace Publishing, Inc.; Combat and Survival: What It Takes to Fight and Win; 1991; H.S. Stuttman, Inc., Westport, CN. There's a lot of modern stuff, but there's plenty of WW2, still.
41) Natural History: Judith Viorst; The Natural World: A Guide to North American Wildlife; 1965; Bantam Books, NY. Knowing the flora and fauna that's out there is always a good idea. This is the oldest that I've located.
42) Espionage: H. Keith Melton; OSS Special Weapons & Equipment (1991, Sterling Publishing, NY)
43) Espionage: Kurt Singer, Spies and Traitors of World War II 1945 Prentice-Hall, NY. It covers some work in this period; actually, it begins with Canaris' work in WW1.
44) Espionage: Hingley, Ronald; Russian Secret Police: Muscovite, Imperial Russian and Soviet Political Security Operations; 1970; Dorset Press, Marboro Books Corp, NY.
45) Everyday Life: Charles & Helen Dalrymple Goodrum; Advertising in America: The First 200 Years; 1990; Harry N. Abrams, Inc. NY. These provide snack foods, catch phrases, and images of the ideal.
46) Everyday Life: Bruce & Mike Pinfold Crowther; The Big Band Years, 1988 Facts on File, NY. Because someone's girlfriend is a songbird
47) Language: Eric Partridge; A Dictionary of Catch-Phrases, British and American, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day; 1977; Stein and Day, Briarcliff Manor, NY. One has to go through this and mine out the ones of appropriate vintage.
48). Women in War: A. A. Hoehling, Women Who Spied: True Stories of Feminine Espionage; 1992, Dodd, Mead & Co, NY. This ranges from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th, but is good on WW2.
49) Women in War: Jessica Amanda Salmonson, The Encyclopedia of Amazons: Women Warriors from Antiquity to the Modern Era, 1991 Paragon House, NY.
50) Music & Radio: Check Live365 for Cladrite Radio. Their logo says music of the 20's, 30's & 40's, and there's a fair amount of late 30's swing. I find myself using #50 to comment on music, because in Near History radios are on, people ordinarily go out dancing, and all that. The Andrews Sisters are just breaking in 1937 but the swing band is the Benny Goodman Orchestra.
Yes, I have more than this, starting with our movie and music collections, and all the "prelude to WW2" coverage in our home library. 50 Books is a minimum list, to make sure you don't have big holes in your knowledge. Much of what we have is the militaria that WW2 buffs would read, and doesn't fill in everyday life. We were choke aircraft and Naval Institute Press books, but it took the 50 Books list to shove me into getting sex manuals of the time, The Modern Home Physician, the proper version of The Officer's Manual (I had older and newer), or the San Pedro/Fort MacArthur books. You can always go beyond 50 to find out wonderful things.
|If you need something else for your particular story around this time, maybe Historical Novelists Center can help with their Swing Age pages.|