Book Proposal: Queen of L.A.


From 1930 to 1975 the best criminal defense attorney was an eccentric Jewish woman who dressed like a Las Vegas show-girl.  When a criminal committed a horrible crime, if he knew anything at all, he shouted, “Get me Gladys!” 

Queen of L.A. is the first book to analyze the public, professional and private life of Gladys Towles Root

My proposed biography, Queen of L.A., is, I believe, a book that will place Gladys Towles Root in the hierarchy of feminism.  And not by distorting or condemning her opinions, but by revealing a complex, powerful and talented woman.  Queen of L.A. is a book that will show the truth behind that commercial on television – ‘You’ve come a long way, baby.’  Women are now part and parcel of the American legal system.  The Attorney General of California is a woman.  I believe Gladys blazed the trail.

Gladys Root’s life spanned the women’s liberation movement.  She helped usher in equal rights for women and legalized abortion, and was living proof that women can pursue their dreams, excel in a man’s world, achieve fame and fortune, raise a family, and make a difference. 

Was Gladys a product of her times, or did she help make her times?  Some women have the ability and the scope of personality to ride the tiger, to make a place for themselves in history by being history.  In many ways Gladys Root was all women.  She did what all women want to do but don’t have the pluck to do.  She didn’t try to fit in.  She dressed the way she wanted to dress.  She didn’t think or act the way she was supposed to.  Gladys became a lawyer and took the cases that her male counterparts avoided, the scuzzy cases.  Gladys Towles Root believed even these so-called ‘scum’ deserved a fair chance. 

Gladys went where few women have gone before, to paraphrase Star Trek.

Queen of L.A. will cover Gladys’s life from her childhood, where she grew up in Los Angeles with a silver spoon in her mouth, to her death.  During childhood, Gladys was greatly influenced by her liberal parents.  As a former actress, her mother challenged Gladys to be theatrical, while her father, who was a successful businessman, encouraged her to do whatever she wanted to do.

As a result, in 1929 Gladys opened her one-woman law office, where she took the cases that walked through her door – the cases no other attorney wanted. After proving herself in the courtroom, her reputation grew and high-profile cases came her way.  In one case, Gladys got involved in the power struggle between Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X for control of the Nation of Islam.  In another case, Robert Clayton Buick was her client.  Buick’s trial for bank robbery elevated Gladys to new heights of fame.