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L. A. Confidential by James Ellroy

L. A. Confidential (1990)

by James Ellroy

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: L.A. Quartet (3)

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2,904323,263 (4.11)87
Three troubled cops-- Ed Exley, desperately seeking glory; vengeful Bud White, a witness to his mother's murder by his father; and Jack Vincennes, a shakedown artist with a dark secret-- tread a fine line between right and wrong in 1950s Los Angeles.



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» See also 87 mentions

English (27)  Italian (2)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (32)
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
A set of twists and turns through the landscape of the underworld of L.A. This is another fine novel in James Ellroy's L.A Quartet and is different enough from the movie (which I viewed previously) to entice and bring the reader along for the wild ride. The plot is unpredictable and the characters are somewhat stoic in their bearing, possessing the attributes that are generally known in crime fiction. Nevertheless, there is much to like here and I felt fully engaged for the duration of the novel.

4 stars. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Sep 30, 2019 |
A horrific crime at a late-night cafe unexpectedly brings together very different police officers whose individual burdens to bear may help as much as they hinder.

Picking up where The Big Nowhere left off, L.A. Confidential looks at corruption within the LAPD during the 1950s. Once again, there are three separate protagonists (this time Ed Exley, Bud White, and Jack Vincennes) and a multitude of subplots. It takes a bit, but Ellroy does tie everything in together nicely. The first 50 pages or so were a little slow going, but after that I was completely hooked and read the majority of the 500-page novel in a single day after work.

Before reading this series, I had seen the film based on this title; I thought that might prevent me from enjoying this book as much because I would already know where it was going. However, the book is much more complicated in both plot and character development, so there was plenty here, even for those who have already seen the movie.

Although not quite as bad as the previous two titles, the description of the murders can be a bit gruesome at times. Further, Ellroy highlights a bygone era not with nostalgia for "the good old days," but by showing the racism and other problems. However, it is easily (and understandably) off-putting for some readers to hear the various epithets and so forth. For that reason in particular, this book won't be for everyone. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Jul 24, 2019 |
Bloody, brutal, brilliant noir epic about three cops dealing with the aftermath of a violent massacre set in corrupt 1950s Los Angeles. ( )
  trile1000 | Jul 1, 2018 |
[L. A. Confidential] is the third of a quartet of novels written by James Ellroy that depict the Los Angeles Police Department at war with itself, with the justice system, and with the community it is supposed to be protecting from thugs, murderers, mobsters, drug pushers, porno merchants and the likes. Variations on corruption and mayhem populate page after page.

Here's a sample: A prologue presents Buzz Meeks, a former policeman, hauling almost $100 grand and a suitcase of heroin he stole from mobsters Mickey Cohen and Jack Dragna. Holed up in an abandoned motel in the San Berdoo foothills, he's warily eying a group of Hispanics in the open courtyard. Then...

Meeks saw two white men...They didn't look like cops or Cohen goons. Meeks stepped outside, his 10-gauge right behind him...A finger on the trigger; a make on the skinny guy; Mal Lunceford, a Hollywood Station harness bull—he used to ogle the carhops at Scrivener's Drive-in, pull out his chest to show off his pistol medals. The fat man, closer, said, "We got that airplane waiting."
  Meeks swung the shotgun around, triggered a spread. Fat Man caught buckshot and flew, covering Lunceford—knocking him backward. The wetbacks tore helter-skelter; Meeks ran into the room, heard the back window breaking, yanked the mattress. Sitting ducks: two men, three triple-aught rounds close in.
  The two blew up; glass and blood covered three more men inching along the wall…

The motel room he's in is burning now, and shooters keep coming.

Then, behind him, "Hello, lad." Dudley Smith stepped through flames, dressed in a fire department greatcoat. Meeks saw his suitcase—ninety-four grand, dope—over by the mattress. "Dud, you came prepared."
  "Like the Boy Scouts, lad. And have you a valediction?"
  Suicide: heisting a deal Dudley S. watchdogged. Meeks raised his guns; Smith shot first. Meeks died—thinking the El Serrano Motel looked just like the Alamo.

LAPD Lt. Dudley Smith is the principal antagonist in the novel. He's a veteran officer, well-regarded, oft-honored, well-connected on the force, in the community, and in the criminal world. He's calm, thorough, careful, ruthless, cruel, and murderous. Sure, just about every character is antagonistic to at least one other. Dudley's antagonisms, though, are special. Antagonisms do come and go as the story unfolds and as more and more links and secrets are uncovered. And cautiously shared. More antagonists:

• Edmund Exley infuriates most cops because a.) he's the son of legendary former detective Preston Exley, b.) he's a war hero, c.) he's openly ambitious, d.) he's a snitch, e.) he's a self-righteous prig. The Top Brass use him as a clean and polished front for the force.

• Wendell "Bud" White is a thug, a rookie cop whose seminal moment was watching his drunken father beat his mother to death. To him, the ends justify the means. After executing a bad guy, Bud fires a shot into the door through which he came and presses the gun into the corpse's hand. Why, he shot first! Such enterprise wins him the admiration of Dudley Smith.

• Jack Vincennes is a colorful, tacky narco squad detective who accepts payoffs to occasionally stage flashy, trumped up drug busts of Hollywood notables for the invasive camera of the publisher of a sleazy exposé mag. Nicknamed "Trashcan Jack," Vincennes is advisor on a popular TV cop show, thus is well-known among performers and behind-the-scenes techies.

• Sid Hudgens, the smarmy publisher of Hush-Hush (as in: "Hush-Hush, off the record, on the QT") seems to have a secret file on everyone. Ellroy scatters Sid's articles in the novel to summarize events and suggest directions the story might take. Vincennes is at pains to find and destroy the file Sid has on him.

• Ellis Loew is the Assistant D.A. Ambitious, he runs for D.A. and wins the election only after the incumbent is busted in a shabby motel room, passed out naked in bed with an underaged black girl. Hmmm...

• Pierce Patchett is an enigmatic, icy calm, self-assured, under-the-radar entrepreneur whose many ventures include investments, financing the occasion shady B-movie, drugs, pornography, and a bevy of high-priced hookers escorts, each surgically altered to resemble a celeb hottie—Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, Ava Gardner. The portal to Patchett's goods and services is Fleur-de-Lis ("Twenty-Four Hours a Day—Whatever You Desire").

• Raymond Dieterling is a stand-in for Walt Disney: a gifted impresario, creator of animated characters Moochie Mouse and Danny Duck, developer of Dream-a-Dreamland amusement park.

• Preston Exley owns a construction company that's building Dream-a-Dreamland and the Los Angeles area freeway system. In the 1930s, he was the LAPD detective who cracked the infamous Atherton case, a grisly series of child kidnappings and dismemberments. His son Ed is now on the force.

If you've seen the movie, you still should read the book. The novel had to be boiled down—distilled, if you will, the storyline truncated, characters eliminated, much of the shock and gore tidied up, the ending changed. Ellroy doesn't hold back: Theft. Kickbacks and payoffs. Beatings. Torture. Mutilation. Murder. Prostitution. Deviant sex. Pornography. Gambling. Heroin and other illegal drugs. Extortion. Perjury. Blackmail. You name it, Ellroy's got it in there. It's not your Agatha Christie.

Two thumbs up!
  weird_O | Jun 9, 2017 |
One of the very few good "recent" noir crime novels I have read. Complex in every way to read but by shifting gears to accommodate the writing style one could go along with what was an experience, not just a story. ( )
  rwt42 | Apr 23, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James Ellroyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Oliva, CarloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A glory that costs everything and means nothing --
Steve Erickson
Mary Doherty Ellroy
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An abandoned auto court in the San Berdoo foothills; Buzz Meeks checked in with ninety-four thousand dollars, eighteen pounds of high-grade heroin, a 10-gauge pump, a .38 special, a .45 automatic and a switchblade he bought off a pachuco at the border -- right before he spotted the car parked across the line: Mickey Cohen goons in an LAPD unmarked, Tijuana cops standing by to bootjack a piece of his goodies, dump his body in the San Ysidro River.
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Roem die alles kost en niets betekent. (Steve Erickson)
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