Reading Satan’s Playground, Paul Vanderwood’s latest history of the San Diego– Tijuana borderlands, I was struck by its unexpected resonances with Mike Davis’s City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (Verso, 1990), one of the foundational texts of postmodern geography. City of Quartz offered up provocative readings of the great early twentieth-century southern California mythmakers — boosters, noirs, mercenaries, exiles, etc. — and the often toxic legacy they left behind. For Davis, the Los Angeles produced by these mythmakers “has come to play the double role of utopia and dystopia for advanced capitalism” (p. 18). While Vanderwood shows little interest in “excavating the future” in San Diego– Tijuana, he shares Davis’s fascination with the glamour, hype, sleaze, and violence that have marked southern California culture since the great westward migrations of the 1920s brought a combustible mix of dreamers, scammers,...

You do not currently have access to this content.