The wild wild West is alive and well high above Palm Springs in the Mojave Desert. Low Life in the Desert tells the allegedly true tale of Pioneertown in the early noughties.
David, an Australian journalist, moves to Los Angeles to be with his girlfriend, Boo, who is writing a Disney film about Australians. When he first arrives, they move into a pre-gentrified Venice Beach. The local police assure him that the best way to solve his problem with his rich, white, utterly insane crackhead neighbor is to shoot him and then drag the body onto his property. After respectively declining, the LA SWAT team uses tear gas to arrest the neighbor. Deciding they have had enough of Venice, they find LA real estate too expensive and decide to buy a house in the high desert.
Boulder House is a house literally carved from boulders and mountainside. On 17 and a half acres, the house is massive and includes a pool. All for $200,000. The nearest town is Pioneertown. Built in the 1940s to film the popular movie and later television westerns, the town is now full of iconoclasts, ex-cons and bikers. The residents stage a “shootout” every Sunday at dusk even when no tourists appear to watch. Low Life in the High Desert is the fish-out-of-water tale of David and Boo becoming desertized.
It is nice to read a memoir and to drop into the most exciting moments of someone else’s life. Low Life in the High Desert is a fascinating episodic look into life in the margins of society. However, the episodic nature is part of the problem with this book. Some episodes seem to have been added only to reach a certain page length. A story about Palm Springs’ gay, drunken Hollywood history and another about a burlesque museum don’t seem to fit into the main story at all. The main story is interesting, however, and worthy of 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Scribe US, and Edelweiss+ for a copy in exchange for an honest review.