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L.A. Confidential [Paperback]

James Ellroy
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 1997
L.A. Confidential is epic "noir", a crime novel of astonishing detail and scope written by the bestselling author of The Black Dahlia. A horrific mass murder invades the lives of victims and victimizers on both sides of the law. And three lawmen are caught in a deadly spiral, a nightmare that tests loyalty and courage, and offers no mercy, grants no survivors.

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From Amazon

James Ellroy's L.A. Confidential is film-noir crime fiction akin to Chinatown, Hollywood Babylon, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Jim Thompson. It's about three tortured souls in the 1950s L.A.P.D.: Ed Exley, the clean-cut cop who lives shivering in the shadow of his dad, a legendary cop in the same department; Jack Vincennes, a cop who advises a Police Squad- like TV show and busts movie stars for payoffs from sleazy Hush-Hush magazine; and Bud White, a detective haunted by the sight of his dad murdering his mom.

Ellroy himself was traumatized as a boy by his party-animal mother's murder. (See his memoir My Dark Places for the whole sordid story.) So it is clear that Bud is partly autobiographical. But Exley, whose shiny reputation conceals a dark secret, and Vincennes, who goes showbiz with a vengeance, reflect parts of Ellroy, too.

L.A. Confidential holds enough plots for two or three books: the cops chase stolen gangland heroin through a landscape littered with not-always-innocent corpses while succumbing to sexy sirens who have been surgically resculpted to resemble movie stars; a vile developer--based (unfairly) on Walt Disney-- schemes to make big bucks off Moochie Mouse; and the cops compete with the crooks to see who can be more corrupt and violent. Ellroy's hardboiled prose is so compressed that some of his rat-a-tat paragraphs are hard to follow. You have to read with attention as intense as his—and that is very intense indeed. But he richly rewards the effort. He may not be as deep and literary as Chandler, but he belongs on the same top-level shelf.

From Publishers Weekly

An intricate procedural set in 1950s L.A. has crooked cops participating in a shoot-out with gangsters and in a precinct-house riot. According to PW , although "even the most noble of the characters here are relentlessly sleazy. . . their grueling, sometimes maniacal schemes make a compelling read for the stout of heart."
Copyright 1991 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 loved it May 16 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Since I really enjoyed the movie I thought I should finally read the book and what a treat! Highly recommend for fans of the genre,
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Noir saga with mythic journey at its heart Feb. 4 2004
It's a spider web. It's a labyrinth, and the minotaur at its heart is both a psychotic murderer and the central selves of its three main characters. As a surface read, this novel is a stellar exemplar of the noir California genre. The Los Angeles it conjures up is both a nightmare and a reality (Johnny Stompanato, the gangster lover of Lana Turner, is a character, and his murder by Turner's daughter provides a final knife-twist in the plot). Ellroy's dark city exhibits more seething, foul vice crawling over itself than I have ever encountered between the covers of one book. Yet it turns out to be about the ultimate redemption, or at least coming to terms with self, of the three primary characters. Ed Exley, a privileged son whose apparently burnished war record is a sham; Jack Vincennes, whose weakness for pills and booze has led him into a shameful error he can't shake; and Bud White, who is trying to overcome his powerlessness to prevent his mother's brutal murder by finding wife-beaters and rapists and punishing them all to a bloody pulp. This trio of damaged and damaging cops all converge on an insanely ramified late night slaying at the Nite Owl cafe. It lines to prostitution, drugs, plastic surgery as a racket, harder than hard-core porn, organized crime, blackmail, extortion, and a host of petty and major criminals both inside the LAPD and outside. Ultimately, though, the lines go way further back by 35 years, to a series of child murders done to create a grotesque little eros--a thing composed of the wings of birds and parts of children. This horrific image should tip you off--you are in the presence of something more epic and mythic than mere noir. Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The underside of 50's Los Angeles Aug. 15 2003
James Ellroy's L.A. Confidential is a facinating look at Los Angeles in the 50's as seen through the intertwining stories of three LAPD cops. Plot and style are very much in the hard-boiled tradition. However Ellroy's clipped narrative style takes a bit of getting used to. As good as the book is, this is one of the few instances where the movie is better than the film. Mainly because the plot in the movie is much tighter and the ending more satisfying.
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By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 50 REVIEWER
This novel is the third in James Ellroy's L.A. Quartet, and is set in Los Angeles in the period between 1951 and 1958. The story involves three LAPD officers: Wendell `Bud' White, a quick -tempered and quick- fisted enforcer; Jack Vincennes, working in narcotics and recovering from substance abuse; and Edmund `Ed' Exley an ambitious decorated war veteran and college graduate. Bud is looking for vengeance: he has an especial hatred of wife beaters. Jack likes the spotlight: he's involved as a technical advisor on the TV hit show `Badge of Honor' and he also feeds breaking stories to the local tabloid press - for a price. Ed wants to make a name for himself and to impress his father - himself a former LA Detective who is now in the construction business.

Early in the novel, a police brutality case provides Ed Exley with an opportunity to make a name for himself but by testifying against other police officers he makes enemies as well as some powerful friends. Bud White is one of those enemies after his partner is sacked, and Jack Vincennes is moved from Narcotics to Administrative Vice.

A bloody massacre at the Nite Owl Café is the case that involves all three of the men, and reveals systemic corruption in their own precinct. Solving the case involves a journey through organised crime, political corruption, drug trafficking, pornography, prostitution and institutional racism.

Finding out the truth has a cost, as Vincennes, Exley and White discover while pursuing different investigations associated with the case.

I enjoyed this novel, with all of its twists and turns. I recommend reading the novels in order as each novel builds on the story of its predecessors. James Ellroy's Los Angeles is a bleak, nasty, sleazy place peopled with opportunistic and flawed people.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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4.0 out of 5 stars The darkness steps lightly Jan. 16 2007
In L.A. Confidential, James Ellroy has concocted a darkness that permeates every chapter of the story. This darkness is both oppressing and liberating, it is suffocatingly lethal yet embraces with a soft velvet touch, it tosses and turns in tormented souls or lies dormant in troubled minds. This darkness blurs the line between good and bad, conceals the past and distorts the present, and provides a backdrop that places in the limelight, the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles in the 1950s, the glowing light of the Nite Owl, the gaudy neon signs, the golden curls and satin gown of Veronica Lake look-a-like, Lynn Bracken.

James Ellroy's razor sharp wit carries the plot at a quick pace with his fragmented style of writing. The short sentences and omission of unnecessary words sets the tone of the story; there is no place for dilly-dallying in the cutthroat world of cops and robbers. The fragments are smart, vague and perfectly timed, often leaving the reader to figure out what is on the character's mind. Ellroy is somehow able to achieve elegant flow and continuity with curt sentences and short chapters.

Ellroy balances the graphic violence portrayed in the story with the subtlety of the storyline. He draws pictures of dramatic characters, in speech and gesture and in their actions. Yet, the story he spins is full of subtle twists and turns and you may be lost if you are not careful. The author likes to tease the reader by dropping clues long before the resolution, as if to say, "I dare you to figure it out." For example, we are introduced to David Mertens in one of the first chapters, long before we are able to perceive his significance in the novel.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Reccomending yet a bit dissapointing...
"L.A Confidential" is the perhaps the most famous novel in Hollywood, L.A noir mystery writer James Ellory's career. Read more
Published on Aug. 11 2003 by Taisei Fuma
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book!
I've just finished "The Big Nowhere" (the book before "L.A. Confidential") and it's a marvelous read! But "L.A. Con" is still the GREATER book, in my opinion. Read more
Published on June 7 2003 by anna-joelle
5.0 out of 5 stars Sergeant Edmund J. Exley
In the MOVIE adaptation, the character of Bud White, the "thug"-cop who is only half-intelligent (in detective work, I mean) and prefers "speaking" with his fists, is given... Read more
Published on April 19 2003 by anna-joelle
5.0 out of 5 stars Graphic and Exhilirating!!
James Ellroy is likely America's best active crime fiction writer. In his dark and disturbing vision of Los Angeles in the 40's and 50's the bad guys are pretty bad, but the cops... Read more
Published on Jan. 12 2003 by James R. Mckinley
5.0 out of 5 stars dark and disturbing
More than any other writer since Jim Thompson and the early Greats (Chandler, Hammett, Cain), Ellroy is able to create a dark and disturbing world all his own. Read more
Published on Dec 12 2002 by David Group
5.0 out of 5 stars Tough as nails and well worth my time
LA Confidential begins as hardboiled as a book has ever begun. It's Los Angeles in the early 1950s with plenty of organized crime and questionable police tactics. Read more
Published on Nov. 1 2002 by Thomas Stamper
5.0 out of 5 stars A Staggering Piece of Crime Fiction
Jame's Ellroy's "LA Confidential" is a remarkable book. Most people know of it only by it's excellent film adaptation. Read more
Published on Oct. 31 2002 by Patrick A. Hayden
5.0 out of 5 stars Really like it
I read this straight after closing the covers on The Big Nowhere, and liked it just as much. The malevolent presence of Dudley Smith is omnipresent - even when he's not in a scene,... Read more
Published on Sept. 11 2002 by saliero
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