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The Cold Six Thousand [Hardcover]

James Ellroy
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 8 2001
The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, White Jazz, American Tabloid... James Ellroy's high-velocity, best-selling novels have redefined noir for our age, propelling us within inches of the dark realities of America's recent history. Now, in The Cold Six Thousand, his most ambitious and explosive novel yet, he puts the whole of the 1960s under his blistering lens. The result is a work of fierce, epic fiction, a speedball through our most tumultuous time.
It begins in Dallas. November 22, 1963. The heart of the American Dream detonated.

Wayne Tedrow Jr., a young Vegas cop, arrives with a loathsome job to do. He's got $6,000 in cash and no idea that he is about to plunge into the cover-up conspiracy already brewing around Kennedy's assassination, no idea that this will mark the beginning of a hellish five-year ride through the private underbelly of public policy.

Ellroy's furiously paced narrative tracks Tedrow's ride: Dallas back to Vegas, with the Mob and Howard Hughes, south with the Klan and J. Edgar Hoover, shipping out to Vietnam and returning home, the bearer of white powder, plotting new deaths as 1968 approaches ...
Tedrow stands witness, as the icons of an iconic era mingle with cops, killers, hoods, and provocateurs. His story is ground zero in Ellroy's stunning vision: historical confluence as American Nightmare.

The Cold Six Thousand is a masterpiece.

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With its hypnotic, staccato rhythms, and words jostling, bumping, marching forward with edgy intensity (like lemmings heading toward a cliff of their own devising), The Cold Six Thousand feels as if it's being narrated by a hopped-up Dr. Seuss who's hungrier for violence than for green eggs and ham. In spinning the threads of post-JFK-assassination cultural chaos, James Ellroy's whirlwind riff on the 1960s takes nothing for granted, except that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Hurtling from Las Vegas to Vietnam to Cuba to Memphis and back again (and all points in between), from Dealey Plaza to opium fields to smoke-filled back rooms where the mob holds sway, the novel traces the strands of complicity, greed, and fear that connect three men to a legion of supporting characters: Ward Littell, a former Feeb whose current allegiance to the mob and to Howard Hughes can't mask his admiration for the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King; Pete Bondurant, a hit man and fervent anti-Communist who splits his time between Vegas casinos and CIA-sponsored heroin labs in Saigon; and Wayne Tedrow Jr., a young Vegas cop who's sent to Dallas in late November 1963 to snuff a black pimp, and who is fighting a losing battle against his predilection for violence: "Junior was a hider. Junior was a watcher. Junior lit flames. Junior torched. Junior lived in his head."

And behind these three, J. Edgar Hoover is the master puppeteer, pulling strings with visionary zeal and resolute pragmatism, the still point around whom the novel roils and tumbles. At once evil and comic, Hoover predicts that LBJ "will deplete his prestige on the home front and recoup it in Vietnam. History will judge him as a tall man with big ears who needed wretched people to love him," and feels that Cuba "appeals to hotheads and the morally impaired. It's the cuisine and the sex. Plantains and women who have intercourse with donkeys."

The Seussian comparison isn't that far-fetched: Ellroy's novel, like the children's books (and like the very decade it limns), is flexible, spontaneous, and unabashedly off-kilter. Weighing in at a hefty 700 pages, The Cold Six Thousand is a trifle bloated by the excesses of its narrative form. But what glorious excess it is, as Ellroy continues to illuminate the twin impulses toward idealism and corruption that frame American popular and political culture. He deftly puts unforgettable faces and voices to the murkiest of conspiracy theories, and simultaneously mocks our eager assumption that such knowledge will make a difference. --Kelly Flynn

From Publishers Weekly

Dig it: Ellroy writes tight. Ellroy writes large. Ellroy vibes great lit he's the Willie S. of noir. It's easy to elbow Ellroy, but that's only because he's got his act down. His new novel is a career performance. Running from one day of infamy (11/22/63) to another (6/5/68) and a bit beyond, it limns a confluence of conspiracies beginning with the shooting of JFK in Dallas and ending with the death of his brother in L.A. In between, Ellroy depicts the takeover of Vegas by the Outfit, with Howard Hughes as its beard; the escalation of the war in Vietnam and the takeover of heroin cultivation there by the Mob; the enmity of J. Edgar Hoover toward Martin Luther King, leading to the King killing months before bullets topple Bobby K. Big names play roles huge and small: the aforementioned celebs; Bayard Rustin, an FBI blackmail target for his homosexuality; Sal Mineo, a Mob blackmail target for carving up a male trick; Oswald, Ruby, SirhanSirhan, James Earl Jones, patsies all; Sonny Liston, sliding from world champion to world-class thug; assorted "Boys," including mobster Carlos Marcellos, the spider at the center of the web. While great men pull strings, however, smaller men not only dance but sometimes tug back; a wide cast of characters mercenaries, twisted cops, thieves, financiers, pimps, whores and cons keep the conspiracies chugging while indulging in assorted vanities and vendettas. What emerges is a violent, sexually squalid, nightmare version of America in the '60s, one that, through Ellroy's insertion of telephone transcripts and FBI and other documents, gains historical credence. With Ellroy's ice-pick declarative prose (thankfully varied occasionally by those documents), plus his heart-trembling, brain-searing subject matter, readers will feel kneed, stomped upon and then kicked right up into the maw of hard truth. (On-sale date, May 8)

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Relentlessly violent jaunt through the Sixties Feb. 10 2004
I've only read this book, not knowing it was part of a trilogy. For another great (shorter) trilogy, check out Ellroy's L.A. NOIR; three novels with psycho-genius cop Hopkins and his psycho-genius antagonists. With THE COLD SIX THOUSAND, I think Ellroy is trying to pull off a sometimes impressive feat that often falls flat.
The first page grabbed me. That's all you'll need. The characters are wonderful. Wayne Jr.'s evolution in Ellroy's morally dead world is often fascinating. Big Pete is a great, almost operatic figure. You find yourself empathizing with these characters who are really horribly racist, spiritually empty fascists and psychopaths. The intrigue is the fuel that keeps you going. I'm just glad he didn't drag it out with some spin tying in John Lennon's murder.
That said, the darn thing is too long, and not particularly well-written. Good editing would have pared a lot of redundancies. The clipped sentences Ellroy deploys get mind-numbing, and feel very contrived most of the time. I don't know what he's up to, but it comes off as some Hemingway-meets-meth style that simply aggravates. Eventually, the pattern gets so old that you find your eyes floating over them. At least they're grammatically correct for the most part, and don't destroy the overall narrative (check out T. Harris' ludicrous HANNIBAL for that effect).
Repetitive phrasing is aggravating. Any sentence longer than four words is something along the lines of: "[Wayne/Pete/Ward] went and *braced* said [someone/something], which *vibed* très boocoo [hophead/Fed/swish/Klan/etc.] blah blah blah." Everything and everyone seems to be getting *braced* at any given moment. Insane. I'm serious; entire pages are filled with that basic sentence patter over and over.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Worthy Follow-Up April 27 2004
Ellroy's follow-up to "American Tabloid" takes another look at the morally-bereft American crime world in the late '60s. This book (and its precursor) are the perfect shot of grain alcohol to obliterate the syrupy '60s image we see all too often of flower children, sensitive singer-songwriter-superstars, and the like. Ellroy's vision of the '60s is harsh and certainly not for the squeamish, as Ellroy knocks icons such as Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King off their pedestals and gives us a J. Edgar Hoover as an evil Wizard of Oz, pulling levers and manipulating events behind his veils at the FBI. Ellroy's previous characters, the haunted FBI agent Ward Littel and everyone's favorite French Canadian strong-arm Pete Bondurant, meet with a new cast of nasties, including the Tedrows, Wayne Junior and Senior. A bunch of nasty people meet nasty ends (as do others), and nobody is allowed to ride off into the sunset. While not quite up to the standards of "American Tabloid," (perhaps only because "Tabloid" came first) this is an excellent read, particularly if you're a fan of Ellroy's rapid-fire style. **** Definitely read "Tabloid" first -- the back story here, especially regarding Bondurant and Littel, is critical. ****
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5.0 out of 5 stars "The concept rocked". April 1 2004
This is an astoundingly good novel. What is most striking about it is James Ellroy's buckshot prose, which he has taken to a new level, even for him. It scans almost like beat poetry.
Virtually every page (of 700 odd) is studded with short (and I mean *really* short, even by Ellroy's standards), staccato sentences repeating phrases in groups of three: "Frank was a doctor. Frank had bad habits. Frank made bad friends."; "Wayne yawned. Wayne pulled carbons. The fine print blurred."
I can see that this could, quite reasonably, prove extremely irritating, but I found that it gave the novel a real rhythm, like a Bo Diddley jungle beat. That sounds pretentious, I know, but if you read it (and buy into it) you'll see what I mean. And it is used to extremely good, often comic effect.
As is the case with all Ellroy's novels, life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and (for the most part) short, although it must be said the principal protagonists do, by comparison, seem blessed with unfeasible longevity, and the plot is so Byzantine as to make Constantinople look like a one horse town: Cuba, Vietnam, Howard Hughes, the Vegas mafia, JFK's assassination, RFK's assassination, the Klan, Martin Luther King's assassination - it's all here, and in Ellroy's universe it's all inextricably linked.
I doubt it has any value as history (whether or not it is, Ellroy is clearly steeped in the history of the era), but it's such an exhilarating read, it really doesn't matter.
Olly Buxton
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4.0 out of 5 stars if you know, then there you go Feb. 23 2004
have you read Ellory before? have you put in your time in the L.A. books? Have you traced the evil that was dudley smith from his intro (not officially in the L.A. books, but if you know, then there you go) to when he took a wolverine to the face? If so, then you may be ready for this. M-16 prose, chain-saw whiplash violence, a kracked, krazy, kaleidescope view of the dekades that shaped amerika. No joke, if you haven't been on the bus, then this one will leave you behind and wondering what's up. I wasn't down with "Tabloid" -- too much plot and not enough of the pulse of the bad men who shape the world we call life. But this one runs the pulse like a spurting artery. Annoying prose? You know it. Strobe-light, beatnik jazz-like, hop-head krazee? That's just the beginning. The demon dog's going deep into what makes amerika the place it is. It simply isn't for you if you haven't been on the ride before this. All you've have is guestions and wonder what the hell's up. But if you've been listening to the white jazz and wolverine blues for a while, this is the apotheosis. Don't get me wrong -- Big Nowhere, LA Confid and White Jazz blow white hot compared to this, but for the dark places of the '60s, from Saigon to West LV and how they touch today, Ellroy's ride is rough, rambunctious and strangely vulnerable. You'll shudder, you'll wish for a shower, but you'll come through to the dawn with a burned-pure soul that's earned. Bring on the next.
And really, can you not but wish that the big dog would turn his eye on what's been going on with today's unknown, unsung bad men, in places distant, dusty and shaped by bad, bad, power (and golf)?
Oh, yeah -- and for the first time, cats (CATS) get their moment in the light -- and they make the dogs look like pussies.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Ellroy's Ulysses? Maybe...
Dig. This is one hot tome. Ok, so much for my one sentence attempt to copy Ellroy. Anyway, this is fascinating, intense, and loooooooonnnnnggggggg book. Read more
Published on June 6 2004 by Robert Wellen
4.0 out of 5 stars Subject verb object dot
This was my first Elrroy's books. I didn't have the American Tabloid at the time, and I can say, that even though it would had helped to read the first part first (this is the... Read more
Published on Dec 21 2003 by Juliano
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant but not for everyone
I am a huge fan of Ellroy, and this book did not disappoint. I loved it. Fans of Ellroy who have not already bought it should do so immediately. Read more
Published on Oct. 14 2003 by "bunyan1993"
1.0 out of 5 stars Style vs. Story
Let me just say this: I am a fan of experimental prose styles. I read Ulysses for chrissake.
But these choppy ass little sentences seemed trite and annoying. Read more
Published on Sept. 24 2003 by L. Bullock
2.0 out of 5 stars Literary Experiment Gone Horribly Wrong
Ellroy writes short sentences. Ellroy writes many short sentences. Ellroy writes short, declarative sentences over and over. Ellroy's style starts out annoying. Read more
Published on Aug. 21 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars We Didn't Light The Fire
This is a difficult book to read. It's also the type of book reviewers have in mind when they talk about a "tour de force" or about a writer "taking risks". Read more
Published on July 2 2003 by Skip Senneka
5.0 out of 5 stars Perplexed. The Cold Six Thousand.
After just finishing this epic novel I found myself wondering what others thought and when I went through the reviews I was seriously perplexed by how many people thought this was... Read more
Published on May 17 2003 by Philip D. Donohue
4.0 out of 5 stars "Ellroy shunned adjectives. Ellroy waxed ...
...brilliant. Ellroy spritzed '60s tumult, concurrant."
This is an incredible book in terms of both form and substance. Read more
Published on April 4 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars "Ellroy shunned adjectives. Ellroy waxed ...
...brilliant. Ellroy spritzed '60s tumult, concurrant."
This is an incredible book in terms of both form and substance. Read more
Published on April 4 2003 by Greg Joslyn
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