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The Vicodin Thieves: Biopysing L.A.’s Grifters, Gloryhounds and Goliaths


In this stories collection years in the making, you’ll find twenty nine articles on a sumptous basket of subjects originally published in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Los Angeles Daily News, L.A. Weekly and other publications. Hold on for the unexpected and the maddening, the heartbreaking and the mystifying. The feature, investigative and opinion pieces here by Chip Jacobs have something evocative to share.

There’s Tommy Koulax’s litigious, chili-cheese hamburger empire, Lockheed’s super-secret Skunk Works defense plant and the deadly 1913 construction accident at Pasadena’s famous Colorado Street Bridge. There’s the first casualty of “Operation Desert Storm,” chromium-6 pollution outrages and violent bus drivers. Profiles of Southern California political heavyweights Richard Riordan, Danny Bakewell and Richard Alatorre, among others, add personal narrative to the pages. The Vicodon Thieves, which draws its name from a Los Angeles Times feature about pharmaceutical burglars who prey on medicine cabinets at real estate open houses, also includes expanded articles on a couple of doozies. One delves into the high-flying, smog-emissions broker who fell in with shadowy, ex-CIA and military-intelligence operatives bent to “repatriate” forgotten U.S. government aid from around the globe; the other is about the unsolved, execution-style murder of one of suburbia’s most electrifying young mayors blocks from his childhood home. Two new stories grace this compendium. One explores the prodigal life of an early, Universal Pictures director (the author’s great uncle, Nat Ross) gunned down in 1941 by a sociopathic drifter. Two photographs of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., likely captured hours before he was assassinated in the kitchen of Los Angeles’ old Ambassador Hotel, inspires another original piece. Few outside of the most ardent of Kennedyphiles probably realize how close RFK came to not being there the night America’s trajectory changed forever.

Published by Rare Bird Books  / Buy the Book! Amazon.com * Barnes & Noble 

The Vicodin Thieves: First place, best anthology/compilation, Southern California Book Festival; a Vroman’s Bestseller

“Chip Jacobs’ eye on the sad, seamy and scandalous nether pockets of the Los Angeles region is one of the keenest I’ve ever experienced in decades of reading about my native city. THE VICODIN THIEVES could be the New Journalism lovechild of the works of Tom Wolfe and Joan Didion; it’s every bit as sociologically expansive as it is all-too-human. A must-read for anyone who wants his or her LA-centric bookshelf or Kindle to be considered complete!” – David Kukoff, author of Children of the Canyon


Part One: The Intimate Execution of America’s Youngest Mayor; Operation Bald-Headed Eagle; Scaffolding, Man and Machine; The Full Employment Act for Spies; The Vicodin Thieves; State as Slumlord; The Mystery Million; Greasing the Skids, Death on the Tarmac; Drowning with Eyes on Him.

Part Two: Dan Quixote; The Last Los Angeles Picture Show; Dropping Science; Holding on to Huey Long; Dear Rifle; Par for the Landfill; Green Edifice Complex; Requiem for the Lungs; Godfather of South Central; The Speculator.

Part Three: Return of the Native; When Bus Drivers Beat the Shit Out of People; Drinking the Koulax; Got Your Back; Watching the Dumpster Divers; Locked Out from Lockheed; Stealth by the Sub-Division; Outhouse Lawyers, Karma for the Carmakers.



PRC Vicodin Thieves Ascension of Jerry Smogtown Wheeling the Deal Image Map