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Dreamers and Schemers

Dreamers and Schemers

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Dreamers and Schemers chronicles how Los Angeles's pursuit and staging of the 1932 Olympic Games during the depths of the Great Depression helped fuel the city's transformation from a seedy frontier village to a world-famous metropolis. Leading that pursuit was the "Prince of Realtors," William May (Billy) Garland, a prominent figure in early Los Angeles. In important respects, the story of Billy Garland is the story of Los Angeles.

After arriving in Southern California in 1890, he and his allies drove much of the city's historic expansion in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Then, from 1920 to 1932, he directed the city's bid for the 1932 Olympic Games. Garland's quest to host the Olympics provides an unusually revealing window onto a particular time, place, and way of life. Reconstructing the narrative from Garland's visionary notion to its consequential aftermath, Barry Siegel shows how one man's grit and imagination made California history.

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Praise

"A fascinating tale about a man with so much confidence and enthusiasm that he 'literally imagined the L.A. Games into being.'"
   —New York Times Book Review (Read more)

"Siegel...stays loyal to a larger, stated goal: to plumb with care and fondness the extent to which one man could overcome so many obstacles to do something epic, successful and with wide-ranging consequences for both a city and a worldwide athletic contest."
   —LA Times (Read more)

"Siegel's journalistic slant in relaying the story makes the book engaging, accessible to the average reader and helps to overcome what could easily be a dry, overly academic read. The book should be of interest to those who appreciate sports history and how sporting events have shaped international and domestic politics. More than that, the book is a welcome addition to books on the cultural history of Los Angeles and puts a long overdue spotlight on a compelling character from L.A's past, William Garland."
   —Los Angeles Public Library (Read more)

"Meticulously researched, the book chronicles real estate magnate Billy Garland's campaign to win the Games for a city that barely registered on the international map...Siegel's tone poem to his hometown brings to life an improbable sports spectacular in a city on the cusp."
   —Miriam Pawel, Alta Magazine

"Barry Siegel brilliantly evokes a complex drama: the misery of the Great Depression, a flood of desperate migrants coming into Southern California, relentlessly optimistic boosterism promoting the first summer Olympics on US soil in nearly thirty years—and an extraordinary, larger-than-life character at the center of the story."
   —Adam Hochschild, author of Lessons from a Dark Time

"Dreamers and Schemers brings alive a rollicking era when Los Angeles came of age, even as the world plunged into war and the Great Depression. What a remarkable tale. This is masterful storytelling."
   —Gay Talese

"Dreamers and Schemers is engrossing, outlandish, fascinating, and a reading delight. It pulls the curtain back on a great piece of LA history—the 1932 Olympics—and manages to tell the entire story of the city's rise. A pleasure for anyone who loves a well-told tale."
   —Susan Orlean, author of The Library Book


University of California Press, Hardcover, October 2019, ISBN: 978-0520298583