City of Quartz Marxist
Author Mike Davis. Photo credit: Screen shot, McMaster Humanities via YouTube

Mike Davis, 76, a best-selling author, died Tuesday in his San Diego home from complications related to esophageal cancer.

His “City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles” was named a best book in urban politics by the American Political Science Association and won the Deutscher Memorial Prize, which honors a new book published in English “which exemplifies the best and most innovative new writing in or about the Marxist tradition.”

Davis, known as a Marxist urban scholar, wrote works focusing on social fractures in Los Angeles and how the contemporary city was shaped by different powerful forces in its history.

Though best known for “City of Quartz,” published in 1990, Davis wrote more than 20 books over a career spanning four decades, including “Set the Night on Fire: L.A. in the Sixties,” which was released in 2020 and became a Los Angeles Times best seller.

The professor emeritus of history at UC Irvine also was named a MacArthur Fellow in 1998.

“When you judge the work of somebody, it’s what the work itself did, the ways it makes us think differently,” historian William Deverell, director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, told the L.A. Times. “Equally important: How many ships did it launch? And `City of Quartz’ launched so many ships – whether it’s dissertations or conferences or articles.”

Davis told the L.A. Times in a July interview that he had accepted his terminal cancer diagnosis, but added he had hoped for a more dramatic end to his life.

“If I have a regret, it’s not dying in battle or at a barricade as I’ve always romantically imagined,” Davis said.

He is survived by his fifth wife, artist, curator and scholar Alessandra Moctezuma, their twin children, James and Cassandra Davis, as well as two children from his previous marriages, Jack and Róisín Davis.

City News Service



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Ellen Bullock