Book Review: To Funk and Die in L.A.
Book Reviewed by Tony Lindsay
Nelson George’s To Funk and Die in LA, offers the reader multiple mysteries to solve. The protagonist, D Hunter (a New Yorker), is immediately wrapped up in his grandfather’s death, his grandfather’s friend disappearance, and the finding and creation of music (all of which is happening in LA). If the multiple mysteries don’t engross the reader, the subplots of music history, race and real-estate, man-made opiates, LA gang culture, living with HIV, the interactions of Blacks and Mexican in LA, as well as Blacks and Koreans, will keep the reader turning pages.
The mystery starts with D Hunter looking for why his grandfather was murdered. The convertible driving grandfather is loved by his family. He is admired in LA’s Black, Korean, and Mexican communities. He is a kind man who all of LA appears to respect. D Hunter’s grandfather, Big Danny, is a complicated character whose layers began to unravel when D learns of his past. His benevolent exterior peels away with D’s Investigation revealing a shewed, calculating, loan shark. Big Danny has relationships with gangbangers, knockoff retails, real-estate market manipulators, and his past romantic interest could easily promote murder.
While Nelson George expertly involves the reader in the mysteries of the novel, he uses all of LA to tell his tale. He moves the reader through the city, and readers experience LA’s different music genres; R&B rhythms and hip-hop beats are heard in the prose. As the mystery plot advances, so does D Hunter’s musical history recall, and his creation of music. This pairing of music creation and mystery solving within the prose is unique to Nelson George’s style.
What is starkly different in the novel is the exploration of a person with HIV experiencing lustful emotions. HIV doesn’t reduce a person’s emotions, and George uses this motif to add depth to D Hunter. The reader is allowed to experience the personal considerations, the weight of the decision to reveal one’s positive status or not. Nelson George’s To Funk and Die in LA is a well-crafted mystery that surprises with music history and unexpected social commentary.