Most Los Angelenos see their city through a glass darkly, via Armani shades or bullet-proof windows. Journalist and novelist Hillary Johnson, however, prefers her view obscured by nothing more than a flutter of "Wunder Lashes" and cheap eye-liner. Hailed by her hopeful publishers as "LA's answer to Bridget Jones", Johnson and her real-life journals are anything but. Hillary is more likely to order out for a delivery boy than a pizza on a quiet night in.

On the day Johnson moved to LA, she managed to get pregnant. Not good timing given, that she had only just flown in from New York after a sticky divorce and that the father of the child (a would-be-screenwriter called Scott) proved an even fiercer critic of her personality than her husband had ever been.

In one fell swoop she had morphed from single swinger into single mom,holed up in a ratty apartment in Koreatown and eking out a living writing reviews for the LA Times.

Johnson's collection of essays and journalism buzz with the antsy energy of the borderline depressed. Determined not to lapse into the perfect simulacrum of a "post-hippie hausfrau", she acquired false eyelashes as a first stand against New Age drab.

Pool parties at Chateau Marmont, three-way Seventies sex, interviews with Sharon Stone's make-up artist, window-shopping on Rodeo Drive and nights out with the boys (drag artistes Madame Wong and Marilyn) fill her appointment book. The cheesier the LA experience, the better - "louche" and "faux" number among her favourite words. In spite of a tendency to kitsch overload, Johnson's book does capture some truly LA moments - Jack Nicholson crouching cat-like in the bushes at a "model party"; the author's first ride on public transport (a radical act in LA).

Paradoxically, it's the most downbeat of Johnson's pieces that is also the most effective. Accepting an invitation to dinner at ex-boyfriend Scott's apartment, she and baby Tyrone end up staying the night, only to be woken at 4.30am by the rumblings of a Richter-scale busting earthquake. The earth moves, Tyrone's folks get it together again, LA recovers, and Tyrone's folks split up after arguing over a video rental.

If at times Johnson's lifestyle sounds a little too hip to be true, that's because it is. But at least this is authentic thrift-shop cool, the kind that most LA "bohemians" end up buying custom-made at Versace and The Gap. As incontinent with money, drink and the bleach bottle as Kato Kaelin on a bad day, Johnson has won her "super vixen" status in the school of hard knocks.

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