Mike Davis, Who Wrote of Los Angeles and Catastrophe, Dies at 76
A legendary journalist, Davis’ best stories were about the decline of the West from the air. From the 1950s onward, he wrote about California’s political and economic malaise. “California’s politics are a disaster, a total and total failure,” he wrote in 1971 of the state’s politicians, businesspeople and newspaper moguls. “Their only hope at this stage of life is to blame their enemies rather than seek a sounder course.” In the 1970s, he was the go-to guy for a state that was in turmoil: the wildfires in Butte and Yuba counties, the oil shortage and the oil strike.
Davis, who died Friday at 76, was a prolific writer whose journalism made him a national figure.
His last book, “Catastrophe: California in 1968 and 1968 in California,” was published in 1995 and was described as America’s last great work of journalism.
In an interview Friday, Davis’ eldest son, Ken Davis, said he and his father agreed that he was dying. Davis’ son remembered a family story that his mother, Patricia, told him about the time she was preparing a trip to a doctor who could save her father from a terminal illness.
“She said: ‘If I go to him and ask him to give me some pills, I guarantee you I’m the first woman he’s ever treated. I get nervous,” Ken Davis said.
Davis, who grew up on a dairy farm 30 miles west of Sacramento, lived most of his life on the East Coast and became a naturalized American citizen in 1958. He was born in Los Angeles and later moved to Portland in Oregon. He was raised by his aunt, a social worker, and she introduced him to his journalism in the early 1950s, when he was a high school student. At the time, Davis was a big fan of the radio show “This I Believe,” broadcast on “Kraft Music Theater.” He would watch the show every day.