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American Tabloid: Underworld USA (1) [Paperback]

James Ellroy
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 24 2001 Vintage (Book 1)
We are behind, and below, the scenes of JFK's presidential election, the Bay of Pigs, the assassination--in the underworld that connects Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, D.C. . . .

Where the CIA, the Mob, J. Edgar Hoover, Howard Hughes, Jimmy Hoffa, Cuban political exiles, and various loose cannons conspire in a covert anarchy . . .

Where the right drugs, the right amount of cash, the right murder, buys a moment of a man's loyalty . . .

Where three renegade law-enforcement officers--a former L.A. cop and two FBI agents--are shaping events with the virulence of their greed and hatred, riding full-blast shotgun into history. . . .

James Ellroy's trademark nothing-spared rendering of reality, blistering language, and relentless narrative pace are here in electrifying abundance, put to work in a novel as shocking and daring as anything he's written: a secret history that zeroes in on a time still shrouded in secrets and blows it wide open.

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American Tabloid: Underworld USA (1) + The Cold Six Thousand: Underworld USA 2 + Blood's A Rover: Underworld USA 3
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From Publishers Weekly

Although it follows his L.A. Trilogy chronologically, Ellroy's visceral, tightly plotted new novel unfolds on a much wider stage, delivering a compelling and detailed view of the American underworld from the late 1950s to the assassination of JFK. Demythologizing the Camelot years, Ellroy (White Jazz) depicts a nexus of renegade government agencies, mobsters, industrial tycoons and Hollywood players fueling the rise and fall of the Kennedy administration. The story hinges on the entanglements of three 40-something government mercenaries who play major, behind-the-scenes roles in such events as the Bay of Pigs and the assassination of the president. Suave and sybaritic Kemper Boyd pimps for JFK while carrying out simultaneous undercover work for the CIA, FBI, Robert Kennedy and the Mob. Hulking, sadistic ex-L.A. cop Pete Bondurant, a hired killer for Jimmy Hoffa, digs dirt for a drug-addled Howard Hughes while training a cadre of bloodthirsty, anti-Castro Cuban exiles off the Florida Coast. Idealistic FBI wiretapper Ward Littel, following a series of disastrous anti-Mafia operations, becomes a Machiavellian mob lawyer. All three rub shoulders with an enormous cast of real-life characters, including clever, two-dimensional portraits of the Kennedy family, J. Edgar Hoover and Jack Ruby. Exercising his muscular, shorthand prose, Ellroy moves the narrative from break-in to lurid assignation to brutal hit job in a tightening gyre that culminates in the murder of the president. While not especially convincing as revisionist history, this is a cool and riveting evocation of a cultural epoch abounding in government surveillance, endemic corruption and yellow journalism. BOMC and QPB selections; author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Critics either adored or abhorred Ellroy's last crime novel, White Jazz, for its gritty subject matter and "word jazz" prose. American Tabloid, a fictional examination of the conspiracy-to-end-all-conspiracies-the assassination of JFK -will contain more of the same.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars American Tabloid - James Ellroy March 11 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An absolute must for any student of American history, or any student of American covert dealings. American Tabloid lays bare the murky under-workings of the United States cira 1959 - 1963. In this the first (and best) of Ellroy's USA Underworld Trilogy, you're given a front row seat to history as it unfolds in Post-War America.

This peek behind the curtain is an old-school page turner, sometimes appalling and always harrowing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gut Wrenching Reading March 5 2012
This novel about secret governmental departments and their unexpected activities is superbly written and rivets the reader to each page. Packed with action and nostalgia over history long past, it strikes chord after chord, as familiar events are given a violent twist by this story telling genius.

Other reviews detail the characters and style; I can only add that I was astounded by the brilliance in which this novel was researched, written, and organized. It takes action and psychological thrillers to a new level of genius.

In terms of crime drama, its tops, and a must read!
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5.0 out of 5 stars HISTORY WITH BODILY FLUIDS - AND STYLE! May 26 2008
Format:Mass Market Paperback
History has always been written by the victors - and they have the tendency to iron-out all its bloody details and hide all their dirty secrets. This a TRUE CLASSIC: imagine a history book that reads like a tabloid. Every story up close and personal, complete with every gory detail described. IN CINEMASCOPE & TECHNICOLOR.

The dirty making of the Kennedy fortune. Hoover as a hypochondriac cross-dressing extortionist. Everybody wiretapping everybody. The Camelot President clocked at 6 minutes. The Mob rigs the election for said President; invades Cuba with clansmen and Castro's exiles in blood-lust frenzy; gets burned - and gets even the only way it knows how. And in the middle of it all, two FBI agents trapped in a downwards spiral of serving multiple masters.

JAMES ELLROY does not pretend to write the dark side: he has barely escaped it himself and knows all its intoxicating scents and shadows. Read for the plausible details of history's margins. Enjoy the staccato prose of natural wit, verbatim FBI communication files and 50's Tabloid lingo.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Savage, Dark, Awesome! April 29 2004
Ellroy's "American Tabloid" takes the Kennedy-Bay of Pigs era and throws it in the shredder, hacking through the Golden Age myths of Camelot and the reader's pre-conceptions about the JFK presidency.
America has never looked so seedy or corrupt. In a work that should be accompanied by a Quentin Tarantino-selected soundtrack, Ellroy spins a tale of duplicity, false alliances, and mutual interest that alternately unites and tears apart the men of the CIA, the FBI, the Mob, the Teamsters, and teven he insane Howard Hughes. The trio of anti-heroes who drive the story forward, Pete Bondurant (hand-cuff snapping hired muscle), Kemper Boyd (Kennedy wannabe from the CIA), and Ward Littel (fallen FBI angel) rub shoulders with the Kennedys, J. Edgar Hoover, and other infamous movers and shakers from the period.
One hopes that Ellroy's exhilirating tale is not historically accurate, but Ellroy weaves enough historical detail that you feel as if "you are there, live!" If even one tenth of Ellroy's tale *is* true, then we are reminded how fragile and savage our American experiment with democracy really is.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing, epic, and mind blowing... April 19 2004
I'm beyond words. It is pulp fiction at it's most riveting. It is history and conspiracy turned upside down. It is humanity in criminals and criminality in heroes and lots in between. I love Ellroy's style. This first bit of fiction of his that I have read and I can't wait to read the rest of his novels. He is amazing. The story is complicated, but you never get lost. It is "What if.." history. It is fact and lots of fiction, but it works. Just read it. If you love Ellroy, crime fiction, historical fiction, or just a good book...this is it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ellroy has grown up... April 9 2002
By Bauler
Reading all the reviews about this book is quite repetitive : everyone seems to consider Ellroy as a cute story-teller with complicated but breathtaking plots. I have even read that American Tabloid was a good MTV thriller !!!
Well, one cannot understand Ellroy without having read some of his major books and especially my dark places, his most personnal work. Ellroy is a story-teller, that's a fact, but whereas America has a bunch of story tellers, it only has one Ellroy. His style is unique and exhilarating and American tabloid is probably the best example of his talented writing. Read it and be prepared to have no sleep for a while. This book, whose plot is inspired by FBI files recently made public, is hard to appreciate because it is mature, tenseful, nervous and also so very dark. That's the way Ellroy is and that's the way he is, as far as I'm concerned, one of America's greatest talents in writing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars American Tabloid Nov. 9 2003
American Tabloid is one of the finest crime fiction novels in my library. Ellroy is a master of blending actual events with plausible and frightening characters. "Big Pete" Bondurant is a fierce animal that no sane man would want to face in a confrontation. Walt Borchard shines as an idealistic failure. I liked American Tabloid so much I bought the hardback and intend to read it again. This book isn't for the faint of heart - don't leave it laying around unsupervised children.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!
As a reader of primarily non-fiction (history/economics), I am no expert on popular authors. However, after reading American Tabloid, it is clear that James Ellroy is a cut above... Read more
Published on July 26 2003 by LMJ
5.0 out of 5 stars American deathtrap
The subjets covered in this book are both sensitive and explosive: the mafia, the teamsters, the FBI, the CIA and the Kennedy's. Read more
Published on April 5 2003 by "podojo"
2.0 out of 5 stars BORING !!
Incredible!! Seven hundred pages of violence, nasty words, treason, murders, knives in the back, despisable characters...
That's all you've got here. Read more
Published on Dec 5 2002 by Poverty
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing! Every character is not worth a penny!!
Unbeliavable! Ellroy wrote a book where 99,9% of all characters are vile and mean, totally indecent and immoral, including the ones with real names! Read more
Published on Nov. 25 2002 by PATHERSON
5.0 out of 5 stars A Master at the Top of his Game
In "American Tabloid", James Ellroy achieves what few authors ever accomplish. He flawlessly writes his own characters into the political and mob world of the late... Read more
Published on Oct. 28 2002 by Patrick A. Hayden
5.0 out of 5 stars American Tabloid by James Ellroy
Listen, let's cut through the long, lenthy review process. This book is violent, bitter, corrupt, and brillant. Read more
Published on Oct. 15 2002 by Paul Pierog
2.0 out of 5 stars started off rather interesting...
Started off rather interesting, but degenerated into absurd non-stop cussing and comic book-style violence. Read more
Published on Oct. 14 2002 by "wwerewolff"
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