- Paperback: 512 pages
- Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Media Tie In edition (Sept. 1 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780446674249
- ISBN-13: 978-0446674249
- ASIN: 0446674249
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 3.8 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 440 g
- Average Customer Review: 70 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #76,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
L.A. Confidential Paperback – Sep 1 1997
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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 hisand 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.
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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.
The book covers three main characters, as most of Ellroy's work does: Officer Wendell "Bud" White", a strongarm cop with a dark past that he uses to fuel his work; Sergent Jack Vincennes, a narc cop who is in love with his Hollywood connections and hides secrets of his own, trying to bury them as the crusading "Big V", and Sergent Edmund J. Exley, a war hero with a celebrated cop family who is driven by his sense of justice and the desire to live up to his father's expectations.
These three occupy the larger canvas of LA in the 50's. The story starts with background on the three and the situation in LA, and moves on to the Nite Owl murders, a brutal slaying of innocents who's solution will eventually drive these men to first work against each other, and then together as the story becomes more entagled in the seedy LA underworld. Each man is noble on a basic level, but has past demons that occasionally threaten to drag them down. The story in wrentching, as are all of Ellroy's "LA Quartet" novel, and fits in nicely with the previous novel "The Big Nowhere", and the next bok "White Jazz".
In "LA Confidential" Ellroy never lets up for a moment. The action is driven along by his breakneck writing style, and his staccato style shows it's first signs in the head of Jack Vincennes. The book is a marriage of tight plotting, facinating characters, and the dark background of LA. It is a triumph for James Ellroy.
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