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L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
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L.A. Confidential (original 1990; edition 1997)

by James Ellroy

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2,577312,324 (4.1)75
Member:Chris_Grosvenor
Title:L.A. Confidential
Authors:James Ellroy
Info:Grand Central Publishing (1997), Paperback, 496 pages
Collections:Your library, Novels
Rating:**1/2
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L. A. Confidential by James Ellroy (1990)

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English (27)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  All (31)
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[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 |
This book is just incomprehensible. I saw the movie first, and it was much much better. ( )
  ramon4 | Nov 1, 2016 |
I read this book, not sure what I was getting into. All I knew about it is that this is the book that the movie of the same name is based on. Which I hadn't seen.

And I liked it, really I did. But between the length of the novel, the incredibly complex story with a mystery that kept changing (is it a porn thing, or a drug thing, or a mobster thing, or prostitute thing...) I found it hard to follow. Once I got the main characters figured out, initially, I found the change of perspectives difficult to follow, they were what made this book from a mess, into a solid novel. Each of the three characters, Bud White, Jack Vincennes, and Ed Exley, are all very different characters.

This book is dark, violent, and full of non PC language. Yes, its set in the 50's, when the division between races are very clear cut and a person does not cross that line or your career and character are in ruins. It is hard to read at times. Yes, its a work of fiction, but I have no doubt the sentiments in this book are true to the source. ( )
  TheDivineOomba | Oct 19, 2016 |
I had seen the superb movie many times (it's in my top five) before reading this book, and wondered how the two would compare. Ellroy's novel is also superb, and in some ways the movie reads directly from it (much of the dialogue is lifted verbatim) but there are huge differences.

Fit into a couple hours and what feels like a year's worth of time, the movie is much more concise. The book is far more sprawling, taking place over almost a decade, connecting to both the prequel ([b:The Big Nowhere|36058|The Big Nowhere (L.A. Quartet, #2)|James Ellroy|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348561244s/36058.jpg|972626], outstanding) and sequel ([b:White Jazz|101000|White Jazz (L.A. Quartet, #4)|James Ellroy|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328662450s/101000.jpg|1122011], which is up next). The screenwriters did a fine job capturing the essence of the book while truncating the plot.

The book is far more involved, with more seamy threads, the plot much more byzantine. I was having a tough time figuring out how the evil scheme tied together, but Ellroy does a surprisingly good job of tying it together in a short time at the end, so read closely and stick with it. The details and threads are there to allow an observant reader to tie it together.

The book's larger scope lets the three main characters get more face time and more depth. Not to slight Guy Pearce's fine performance, but Ed Exley is a whole new level of fascinating here. Jack Vincennes isn't the super-slick hepcat that Kevin Spacey memorably embodied. Bud White is far less restrained than Russell Crowe made him. The actors who played smaller roles in the movie (James Cromwell, Danny Devito, and David Straithairn) were dead on.

Ellroy's prose is a thing of beauty, with its raw expose of violence and corruption and 50s slang. While the movie was chock-full of badness, it didn't come close to the book. For those unfamiliar with the author: putting it mildly, he doesn't have a good opinion of human nature. No nice guys (or gals) here at all: everyone is broken and disturbed to some extent.

If you like down and dirty crime fiction or film noir at all, this is the book for you. The movie, too. ( )
  ssimon2000 | May 31, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James Ellroyprimary authorall editionscalculated
James Ellroymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Oliva, CarloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
A glory that costs everything and means nothing --
Steve Erickson
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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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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0446674249, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:19 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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.

(summary from another edition)

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