White Jazz Hardcover – Sep 1 1992
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From Publishers Weekly
Blacker than noir, this latest novel from the author of L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia is set in 1958 and features a dirty LAPD detective with a breathtaking mastery of corruption. Dave Klein, a gangland heavy, USC law grad and police lieutenant, can thread a legal loophole as easily as he slips on brass knuckles. Assigned by the police commissioner to head an investigation into a narc squad payoff source, Klein smells a setup. To save himself, he traces a genealogy of double-dealing that includes incest, institutionalized bribery and police corruption, all going back decades. Ellroy's telegraphic style, which reduces masses of plot information to quick-study shorthand, captures the seamy stream-of-consciousness of this tainted cop and carries the reader from initial repulsion to a fascination that lingers long after the story's last notes have faded away. Ellroy adroitly transfers the manic energy of scat and bebop to this final volume of his tense, lowdown L.A. epic. Moreover, he demonstrates perfect pitch for illegalese, but the hepcat banter never obscures the complex plotting of politics and pre-Miranda rights police work, a combination that here makes most other crime novels seem naive. 40,000 first printing; BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Ellroy adeptly leads the reader into the murky, decadent world of Los Angeles in the late 1950s, as seen through the cynical eyes of David Klein, age 42, the commanding officer of the LAPD's vice division. Klein makes up his own rules as he goes along, rules that involve money, mayhem, and murder as necessary. Klein isn't the only one to follow such rules, which apparently are the "norm" for other members of the force as well. But Klein suffers the unthinkable when he becomes the scapegoat so that other officers can protect their own dirty laundry from the probing eyes of federal agents. White Jazz is the last volume of what is known as Ellroy's "L.A. quartet" of crime novels, which includes his previous L.A. Confidential (Mysterious Pr., 1990), The Big Nowhere (Mysterious Pr., 1988), and The Black Dahlia ( LJ 10/15/87). It's disturbing but riveting reading that Ellroy fans will especially enjoy.
-Marlene Lee, Drain Branch Lib., Ore.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
The bottom line? Ellroy deserves to rank not only among Chandler and Hammett for quality of his crime fiction, but, with White Jazz, among Nabokov and Faulkner for the style of his language. White Jazz mainlines the experiences of the protagonist straight into your nervous system, white hot and unfiltered. It takes some adjusting. For the first thirty pages or so, my head hurt. Then something clicked and I was utterly blown away. Perhaps the most visceral read I've ever experienced. And aside from the style, the story is a gripping descent into the dark side of human nature, as typified by the crime and police world of 50s La. This is really as good as crime fiction gets, and some of the best writing from any author of the 20th Century.
American Tabloid may be his most satisfying book in a lot of ways, but White Jazz is a work of art. Grim, disturbing art, to be sure, but I find that necessary at times.
Our hero or anti-hero, David Klein, is a crooked yet very intelligent, Lieutenant in the L.A.P.D.. He is also a bought and paid for, yet a reluctant strong-arm, for the mob. He has a law degree, some psychological problems too mainly centering on his beautiful sister who he is attracted to but as the story evolves, things change and you begin to root for him.
The story is tense and violent, Our hero has been thrown out as "bait" between the Feds, the L.A.P.D., corrupt politicians, and of course the mob with all of the above trying to keep their secrets safe. Subsequently the tension just builds and builds and you wonder how the hero is going to pull it off. The ending is believable and very 1950's.
The narrative alone is worth the read. In most detective fiction the narrative is written in first person but White jazz takes this a step further. It is written as if everything is happening instantaneously. At times during the actions scenes the narrative is stream of consciousness and as chaotic as the scenes themselves. During intense dialog sequences the lead character, David Klien, deconstructs the meanings and significances of the dialog as they are happening so you hear his thoughts and words almost concurrently.
Though the narrative maybe hard for some, I feel this book is a real contribution to the detective genre and literature itself.
present length by eliminating verbs, articles, adjectives, and most other parts of speech. The result is a breathless gallop through a darkly fascinating world of murder, incest, perversion, corruption, greed, and lust. And that's just for starters!
Reading WHITE JAZZ is like reading Anthony Burgess's CLOCKWORK ORANGE. The language is a mélange of English, LAPD crimestoppers' jargon, and 1950s pulptalk. Be prepared to deal with 187s, B&E, bootjacking, hinkiness, FIs, 459s, IAD, rebop, snarfing with soshes -- among other things.
What makes it all worthwhile is that Ellroy has a great story to tell, and he tells it well even if he invents his own language that only tangentially resembles English. Be prepared for harsh lights thrown into the darkest parts of the human soul. Be
prepared for almost universal corruption, varying only in degree. As you spiral into the depths with Ellroy, you can almost feel the walls converging and the floor dropping from under you.
This is a worthy conclusion to the author's Los Angeles Quartet. Be sure to read the novels in sequence for a sweeping panorama of 15 years of postwar degradation: THE BLACK DAHLIA, THE BIG NOWHERE, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, and -- not least of them -- WHITE JAZZ.
White jazz works both as a good old fashioned crime noir, and as a fascinating look into the darker recesses of the human soul. Brilliant stuff.
Most recent customer reviews
A big fan of Ellroy and crime fiction in general, White Jazz is the best out there. Lieutenant Dave Klein is the epitome of "anthero" and the thought of cops like him... Read morePublished on Nov. 25 2003 by Dan
I am a big Ellroy fan. I have read almost all of his works. L.A. Confidential and the Black Dahlia are probably his two best. So far, I think this is his worst book. Read morePublished on Jan. 3 2003 by Voodoo Chili
The final showdown that LA Confidential promised us comes together in this novel. Ed Exley and Dudley Smith finally go at it through a most unusual go between who doesn't know... Read morePublished on Dec 26 2002 by Amazon Customer
Creeps, crooks, perverts, drug fiends and freaks...welcome to the LAPD. If you've never read Ellroy before welcome to his world, a rather dark and disturbing place. Read morePublished on Nov. 26 2002 by Lachlan Mess
White Jazz: novel, long, odd.
James Ellroy: author. Turns out a good sentence. Knows his stuff. Tough. Uncompromising. Not afraid of risks.
Style: Unusual. Off-putting. Read more
Disappointing considering it's an Ellroy. If it were written by someone else, it would be a great book, but I hold him to a higher standard since I know he's capable of it. Read morePublished on March 24 2002 by RuthAlice
This is my second Ellroy's book, the first being "Black Dahlia". Stylistically this is a much more difficult story to follow due to his internal monologue in short... Read morePublished on July 26 2001 by stephen liem