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Bread & Hyacinths:
This brief, useful book illuminates an obscure chapter in the history of Los Angeles and America's socialist movement. Job Harriman was an Indiana farm boy who, by the turn of the 20th century, had become California's most prominent socialist. Harriman clashed with L.A.'s unofficial king, Los Angeles Times publisher Harrison Gray Otis, who hated labor unions. In 1910, an explosion at the Times building killed 20 workers. The ensuing criminal case became a cause celebre, with Clarence Darrow defending the accused unionists. Meanwhile, as socialism grew in popularity, Harriman beat the incumbent in the Los Angeles mayoral primary. But the unionists pleaded guilty shortly before the general election, sabotaging Harriman's candidacy and paralyzing the local and national labor movements. Rolfe ( In Search of Literary L.A. ), researcher Greenstein and Lennon ( The Sagebrush Bohemian ) describe the conflicting evidence regarding Harriman's knowledge of the plea, as well as internal struggles within the left. The book also serves as a corrective to the Times' s distorted history of the Llano del Rio Cooperative Colony, a socialist community founded by Harriman in Southern Calfornia's Antelope Valley. Photos. [via]