Karen Grigsby Bates

It's been a few decades, and many published books, but Robert Crais can tell you exactly when mystery writing first caught his attention: He was a bright 15-year-old living in Baton Rouge, La., when he read Raymond Chandler's The Little Sister, which depicted the shady side of sunny Los Angeles through the eyes of private investigator Philip Marlowe.

Since then, Crais has found huge success with his own crime novels, also set in LA. The city is the perfect canvas for a modern mystery, and Crais' eyes still grow wide when he talks about what Chandler painted on it.

Journalist Karl Fleming chronicled many of the key moments in the civil rights era in the South. He then moved to Los Angeles, where he was beaten during the 1965 Watts Riots. Fleming died last weekend at age 84.

Andy Cohen has been yakking for most of his 44 years. He has a book titled Most Talkative — a title he earned in high school.

"My mouth has been my greatest asset and also my biggest Achilles' heel," he says.

Most days, it's an asset.

Paul Revere Williams began designing homes and commercial buildings in the early 1920s. By the time he died in 1980, he had created some 2,500 buildings, most of them in and around Los Angeles, but also around the globe. And he did it as a pioneer: Paul Williams was African-American. He was the first black architect to become a member of the American Institute of Architects in 1923, and in 1957 he was inducted as the AIA's first black fellow.

If you've had a manicure in California, odds are the person at the other end of the emery board was of Vietnamese heritage.

Vietnamese immigrants now dominate California's nail-care industry — and make up a significant percentage of all manicurists nationwide.

The story began with a hurried immigration after the fall of Saigon almost four decades ago.

Sparked by the interest of a group of refugees and the help of a Hollywood star, the demand for affordable manicures quickly became the foundation of the American dream for many Vietnamese newcomers.

Twenty years ago Sunday, Los Angeles erupted into destructive riots after the verdict in the Rodney King trial. The violence lasted six days and left more than 50 dead and over $1 billion in damage. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates remembers; she lived in the one of the neighborhoods that went up in flames.

Several years ago, I interviewed Karl Fleming for the 40th anniversary of the Watts riots. He was a veteran journalist who'd covered the civil rights movement in the in the 1960s for Newsweek.

With a helicopter buzzing overhead, the videotape of Rodney King's encounter with police is so famous, you could say he was beaten into American history: The image of him writhing in pain as several Los Angeles police officers repeatedly beat, kicked and tasered him is, by now, world-famous — and synonymous with abuse of power.

Just over half of Americans of Spanish-speaking origin have no preference between the terms "Hispanic" and "Latino," according to new data from the Pew Hispanic Center.

Of those with a preference, 33 percent preferred "Hispanic," versus the 14 percent who said "Latino" better describes them.

On the eve of the 54th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, the conversation was all about Whitney Houston. The 48-year-old pop diva was discovered dead in her room at the Beverly Hilton Saturday afternoon. The cause of her death was under investigation.

Houston died alone in the same hotel that was the venue for a party she had often entered in triumph: the annual pre-Grammy Awards bash given by her mentor, recording impresario Clive Davis.

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