It’s almost too easy to get photos for the Michael Connelly police novel Angel’s Flight, featuring the dour detective Harry Bosch. The Angel’s Flight funicular railway is an oft-photographed bit of L.A. oddity just east of the downtown skyscrapers. Built in 1901, refurbished every so often — it’s closed even now for yet another refurbishment — the two cable cars have been peacefully hoisting passengers up and lowering passengers down for over a century. It took the evil mind of a mystery writer to turn it into a crime scene — and a double homicide at that!
Still, I thought it might be worth the while of Bosch readers to get some new angles on the locus and I think this handful of humble snaps are successful in doing that.
First, here’s Harry on the scene:
“Bosch had ridden the inclined railroad as a kid and had studied how it worked. He still remembered. The two matching cars were counterbalanced. When one went up the side-by-side tracks the other went down, and vice versa. They passed each other at the midpoint. He remembered riding on Angels Flight long before Bunker Hill had been reborn as a slick business center of glass and marble towers, classy condominiums and apartments, museums, and fountains referred to as water gardens. Back then the hill had been a place of once-grand Victorian homes turned into tired-looking rooming houses.” [Angel’s Flight, 1999]
At top of the post, we have a photo taken by your intrepid reporter from the very steep slope of a park to the south of the tracks. There are the two cars stopped midpoint, awaiting whatever repairs the operation is undergoing. A guy who works there assured me it would be open again soon.
Here, to the left, is a view of the whole shebang looking west from across Hill Street. There is the lower terminus — now sealed — the tracks (see how they separate at the midpoint to accomodate two vehicles?), the two cable cars themselves, gabbing, and, finally, way up there at the top of Bunker Hill (yes, really) is the housing for the cables and wheels and gears.
There’s a huge fountain-filled plaza up there serving the museums and office buildings that surround it. While the train awaits repair you must climb those many stairs on the left to enjoy a caffeine treat at one of the many little tables that dot the plaza.
Strengthened by hikes into the upper reaches of the Santa Monicas, I was able to make it to the summit of Bunker Hill. There, halfway to the stars at the upper gate, I tried to take photos through the window of the shiny machinery that made the magic happen but window glare fought me. Happily, an Angels Flight caretaker was on hand. He was kind enough to let me into the cable house to obtain the photo you see to the right. The guy told me he hadn’t read Angel’s Flight yet because his wife had told him he must read the Bosch series in order and he was still on the earlier ones. He’d met Connelly, though, and we both mused a while on how such a nice guy could come up with such wicked thoughts as murder in this cheerful spot.
Of course, a spooky spot might put timorous folks on their guard making it that much harder to slay them according to the requirements of the drama, so a cheerful locale might be just the ticket for your professional murder novel culprit. In this case, he would have chosen well indeed.
I mean, look! See how peaceful and sunny it is. Why, there’s even a woman happily exercising, not a care in the… but, wait! Could she be the multiple murderer? For that matter, what about the guy who unlocked the cable house? He had the means and opportunity… what could the motive be? And why do I think that a mere weblog photographer has some special protection from the maniacs that lurk in this Halloween-colored nexus of horror?
Fortunately for me, returning to the relative safety of Hill Street and my semi-legally parked RAVmobile is as easy as skipping with some haste down this many-angled set of stairs, footsteps echoing behind me.
Those are the sinister ties of the inclined railway you see to the left, above the hand rail. And there, there, at the bottom is the lower terminus and freedom — but it never seems to be nearer no matter how fast I run.
I’m scribbling these notes on the back of an informational flyer about Grand Central Market (another scenic spot across Hill Street). In the event of my disappearance and the retrieval of the flyer and my little EasyShare Kodak, please post to my weblog. I can face death at the hands of a raving lunatic, but the thought of my dear readers going unserved is too bitter to contemplate.
Angels Flight, a Harry Bosch police thriller by Michael Connelly, Warner Brother paperback, 480 angst-ridden pages.