The Disappearance of Dulce and Bonita is the second volume in a new series featuring former DEA agent Charlie Parker. Charlie made his first appearance in The Two Way Shake. At the end of that story, Charlie was adrift and damaged by the loss of the woman he loved. His only remaining tie to that lost love is Jackie Black, an off the track Thoroughbred who is all that keeps him going.
Charlie is sidetracked from his path of self-destruction by his landlady Blanca who insists that Charlie is the right person to search for two young girls gone missing from the neighborhood.
Charlie’s investigation into the disappearance of Dulce and Bonita leads to the discovery that they are only two in a series of disappearances – downplayed by the authorities as typical teenage runaways.
His search will lead him through the backstreets of L.A. and into a heartbreaking world of lost, damaged and forgotten children preyed upon by people who Charlie believes don’t deserve to live.
Ultimately, the truth that Charlie uncovers is completely unexpected.
There is a very personal reason that a lot of this story is set in one of my favorite L.A. neighborhoods – Echo Park.
Many years ago, when I first came to L.A. with my friend Georgie, we lived with my beloved Auntie Eva in Echo Park. Her apartment was on the second floor above a branch of the Bank of America, just a couple of doors from the intersection of Sunset and Alvarado. The apartment was big. It even had a formal dining room. All across the back was a room resembling an enclosed porch with louvered windows all across the outside wall. Georgie and I used to sit on the back steps overlooking a weed strewn empty lot. It was not the most scenic of views but there was an undeniable charm to the area.
I left L.A. for awhile but ultimately I returned. When we drove into town, I insisted that we get off the freeway and drive to the corner of Sunset and Alvarado. I wanted to get out of the car and kiss the ground. I wasn’t born here but L.A. is home and Echo Park is my special neighborhood.
The building that housed my Auntie’s apartment is long gone and sad to say, developers are taking over Echo Park.
Every time we drive down Glendale Boulevard on our way to The Pantry, there is a new multi-unit building which seems to have appeared overnight. No matter how steep the hillside or how tiny the lot, builders are managing to cram some charmless building that is totally out of harmony with the character of the neighborhood.
People call it gentrification. That’s a polite term for pricing out people whose families have lived there for generations.
The area’s proximity to downtown and the jewel at its center – Echo Park itself and its beautiful lake – plus the steep hillsides with their breathtaking views of the downtown skyline are all drawing people who a few years ago would not have considered calling it home based upon a reputation for gang activity and crime. Interestingly enough, according to the L.A. Times, the most recent figures place the crime rate as lower than nearby Silver Lake.
There are plenty of people out there who believe that the remaking of Echo Park into a neat middle class community of overpriced fancy boxes is a good thing. I am not one of them. I miss every little old frame or stucco home, every unique apartment building. It’s enough to make you long for graffiti or at least, artistic street murals.
You will continue to see my Echo Park in this and future books in which I will single handedly attempt to celebrate and preserve the character of one of L.A.’s most picturesque neighborhoods.
A special reason to celebrate the neighborhood is Masa of Echo Park 1800 West Sunset Boulevard L.A. CA. Masa is a delightful restaurant with a large and eclectic menu. I wanted to try everything but settled for what brought me there – the Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. It is simply the best deep dish pizza I’ve ever eaten and that includes the original that I enjoyed in Chicago. Most deep dish pizza that I’ve tried in L.A. has a thick, doughy crust. Trust me, that is not what deep dish is supposed to mean.
At Masa, the cornmeal crust is thin and crisp on the bottom and sides but with a beautiful crunchy roll of crust all along its edges.
Order as soon as you sit down because this true Chicago Deep Dish takes at least 40 minutes to bake. While we waited, we enjoyed a Guinness Stout. With the pizza, we switched to Blonde Ale.
We were really satiated after the pie, but had to try the signature dessert - The Warm Croissant Bread Pudding made from chocolate and almond croissants in a vanilla cream custard drizzled with caramel sauce. My review - it’s even better than it sounds.
As if all of this isn’t enough, the staff is warm and welcoming, the place is pet friendly with outdoor tables. It was delightful to see staff rush out with a bowl of water, a big biscuit and a rug for each doggy guest.
Wait, there’s more – this is a restaurant which is vegetarian and vegan friendly as well – with lots of choices for non- meat-eaters.
This kind of research is one of my favorite parts of writing. Masa of Echo Park makes its first appearance in this book but I’m pretty sure Charlie is going to be spending a lot of time there in the future.
Check out the website masaofechopark.com for all details.
And watch for updates on The Disappearance of Dulce and Bonita