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American Tabloid Hardcover – February 14, 1995

188 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Although it follows his L.A. Trilogy chronologically, Ellroy's visceral, tightly plotted new novel unfolds on a much wider stage, delivering a compelling and detailed view of the American underworld from the late 1950s to the assassination of JFK. Demythologizing the Camelot years, Ellroy (White Jazz) depicts a nexus of renegade government agencies, mobsters, industrial tycoons and Hollywood players fueling the rise and fall of the Kennedy administration. The story hinges on the entanglements of three 40-something government mercenaries who play major, behind-the-scenes roles in such events as the Bay of Pigs and the assassination of the president. Suave and sybaritic Kemper Boyd pimps for JFK while carrying out simultaneous undercover work for the CIA, FBI, Robert Kennedy and the Mob. Hulking, sadistic ex-L.A. cop Pete Bondurant, a hired killer for Jimmy Hoffa, digs dirt for a drug-addled Howard Hughes while training a cadre of bloodthirsty, anti-Castro Cuban exiles off the Florida Coast. Idealistic FBI wiretapper Ward Littel, following a series of disastrous anti-Mafia operations, becomes a Machiavellian mob lawyer. All three rub shoulders with an enormous cast of real-life characters, including clever, two-dimensional portraits of the Kennedy family, J. Edgar Hoover and Jack Ruby. Exercising his muscular, shorthand prose, Ellroy moves the narrative from break-in to lurid assignation to brutal hit job in a tightening gyre that culminates in the murder of the president. While not especially convincing as revisionist history, this is a cool and riveting evocation of a cultural epoch abounding in government surveillance, endemic corruption and yellow journalism. BOMC and QPB selections; author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Critics either adored or abhorred Ellroy's last crime novel, White Jazz, for its gritty subject matter and "word jazz" prose. American Tabloid, a fictional examination of the conspiracy-to-end-all-conspiracies-the assassination of JFK -will contain more of the same.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (February 14, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679403914
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679403913
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #259,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. He is the author of the acclaimed L.A. Qurtet - The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential and White Jazz, as well as the Underworld USA trilogy: American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand and Blood's a Rover. He is the author of one work of non-fiction, The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women. Ellroy lives in Los Angeles.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

101 of 108 people found the following review helpful By Reviewer X on August 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
I am not going to recap the book because after 110 reviews I am sure that has been done to death. I am just going to give you my opinion on this book I read about ten years ago.

When I was in college I picked up this book completely as a fluke. It looked interesting, I am big into history and the book jacket peaked my interest. From the first moment I started to read I couldn't put it down. I carried it to the kitchen five hours later while I threw together a sandwich and read while the bread toasted. I read all night and into the next day. I blew off my classes. I didn't do anything else but read. When I was done that afternoon I was not exhausted as one would think. I was exhilarated. This book is so well written, so complex, so dark, so funny, so much more than the average book I was physically excited.

Over the next few months my friends read it and each one read it with the same kind of fervor I did. People who hated to read loved this book.

READ IT! BUY IT! Do not hesitate. If you love a good book then you will completely flip out over this one! It is truly an amazing book and one of the best pieces of fiction ever. I cannot tell you strong enough how wonderful this treasure is for someone who loves to read. It is a perfectly written novel.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Richard Wells on July 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
Cops act like criminals, criminals act like cops, and the twain collides and melds over and over again. There are no good guys in "American Tabloid," just guys who are mired in various levels of corruption. Ankle deep, waist deep, and in over their heads. One of the lessons James Ellroy gives us is that once you've touched your toe to the muck it will eventually suck you down. Redemption may present itself, but Ellroy's characters are so far around the bend that even good things are done for all the wrong reasons. In an introduction Mr. Ellroy tells us he's going to create the new myth of the Camelot years - the dark myth - and he succeeds admirably.
In the tautest prose between covers we follow a handful of near and complete psychopaths as their lives intersect through John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign, and his 1000 day reign. Big shots and underlings alike. Their machinations are complex, and almost always involve extortion, but solutions are often simple - a beating for a lesson, a bullet to the head for the more recalcitrant. But why stop there when torture, and dismemberment are so fulfilling. The lead characters suffer, but except for one ex-Jesuit seminarian become FBI agent, become mob lawyer, the suffering is physical rather than existential, and it's so much easier to deal with a migraine than a crisis of conscience.
"American Tabloid," for all the horror contained therein, is one of the best books I've read in the past five years. It's right up there with Cormack McCarthy's "Border Trilogy," but where McCarthy can go sentimental, James Ellroy never lets up.
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49 of 56 people found the following review helpful By A. Hogan VINE VOICE on April 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
James Ellroy writes "hard boiled" fiction. If you hard boil an egg for about a week,perhaps. Ellroy inhabits a world all his own in crime literature. Having somehow survived a childhood from dantes seventh circle, he grew up to write these angry books where the bad guys are powerful white men{thinking of inherent power structures, he's quite correct}.American tabloid tells the story ,in all its vainglorious insanity, of that sweet time in Americana called "Camelot". This riveting novel actually is a meditation on power, who has it, and what it does. Betrayal{Bay of Pigs, Kennedy blowing off a CIA agent, everybody BUT the Kennedy's racking Marilyn Monoroe, J edgar Hoover, Joe Kennedy, Howard Hughes} all amke appearances leading to Dealy Plaza. s always, Ellroys descriptive powers are unmatched in describing viloence{the Cuban cab front company has some interesting moments}, and no one, no one, comes off as good in this. A profoundly disturbing book, a meditation on power, America, and who really runs things.One of our better writers in any genre has written another would be classic. Very very well done . Highest recommendation.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on May 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
"They were rogue cops and shakedown artists. They were wiretappers and soldiers of fortune and f****t lounge entertainers. Had one second of their lives deviated off course, American History would not exist as we know it. It's time to demythologize an era and build a new myth from the gutter to the stars. It's time to embrace bad men and the price they paid to secretly define their time. Here's to them.

--from the introduction

James Ellroy has never been afraid to explore the sordid. His heroes (anti heroes?) are amoral creeps (usually cops) who'd betray their own mothers in the pursuit of quick cash. There are three such men in American Tabloid, Ellroy's fictional take on the Kennedy assassination--Kemper Boyd (who serves the Kennedy brothers, the FBI and the CIA simultaneously), Ward Littell (a disillusioned G-man turned Mob lawyer), and Pete Bondurant (a Howard Hughes bag man who becomes a linchpin in the ill fated Bay of Pigs operation). Three men, blinded by greed, patriotism, ambition and hate. Three men that history knows nothing about, but whose actions ultimately lead to the brutal murder of John F. Kennedy.

At the request of J. Edgar Hoover, Kemper Boyd ingratiates himself with the Kennedy brothers, first serving on the McClellan committee, then in the Kennedy administration. While serving in this capacity, Boyd finds time to align himself with the CIA, the Mafia, drug runners and anti-Castro refugees. Boyd lives in a world where no one is pure, deceit is commonplace and strange bedfellows are the rule. At first, he easily negotiates the complexities of this world. Eventually, however, things fall apart, and an American president dies as a result.

This book will shock, horrify, entertain and amuse.
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