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Crime Wave: Reportage and Fiction from the Underside of L.A. Paperback – January 26, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

You wouldn't expect slick GQ to perform the greatest magazine service to hard-boiled crime writing since the heyday of Black Mask, but the evidence is before your eyes: Crime Wave, James Ellroy's collected GQ works circa 1993-99.

Though Crime Wave contains two stories in the exhilaratingly sleazy voice of the fictitious scandal rag Hush-Hush, and the novella-length "Hollywood Shakedown," a tale of sex, drugs, and murder starring '50s crooner-accordionist Dick Contino, the book is predominantly nonfiction. There's one flavorful piece, "Bad Boys in Tinseltown," about the day in 1967 when Ellroy--then a speed freak who broke into fancy houses to steal stuff and sniff women's underwear--read an article by Curtis Hanson raving about Bonnie and Clyde and was inspired. Then Ellroy flashes forward to 1996, when he visits Hanson as he directs the triumphant film version of L.A. Confidential.

GQ talked Ellroy into writing about the event that made him a maniac, and then an obsessive writer: his dissolute mother's unsolved murder in 1958, when he was 10. His investigation of her death began with the chilling GQ article "My Mother's Killer," which grew into the book My Dark Places. (If you haven't heard Ellroy read it on audiotape, you haven't shivered.) His investigation of another woman's murder, "Body Dumps," is in some ways better, because there's a suspect to eviscerate in prose. "Sex, Glitz, and Greed," written about O.J. during the trial, is an odd fit in this collection, but when Ellroy is on his own turf--L.A.'s seamy, undead past--nobody can touch him. --Tim Appelo

From Publishers Weekly

Ellroy's obsessionsATinseltown tabloid sleaze and his mother's murderAhave fueled his writing and provided readers with countless indelible images, reams of trademark stuttergun prose and at least two killer books, L.A. Confidential and My Dark Places. This collection of 11 pieces of fiction and reportage, all previously published in GQ magazine, isn't essential Ellroy, but newcomers contemplating a tentative first dip might find it a fine place to start. The powerfully frank "My Mother's Killer" evolved into My Dark Places, and "Body Dumps" and "Glamour Jungle" both explore LAPD investigations into crimes similar to the death of Ellroy's mother in 1958, when he was 10. Two tales feature the investigative reporting of Hush-Hush magazine, always dedicated to digging the dirt and awesomely addicted to alliteration. Real-life accordionist Dick Contino has several capers of his own and gets to ingest illegal drugs, whack a few lowlifes and hang with Sammy Davis Jr. Ellroy also tackles O.J. Simpson's case, his own high school reunion and the making of the film L.A. Confidential. For some reason, his editor at GQ balked at letting the "Demon Dog of American Literature" loose on Bill and Monica. We surely missed out on a whole sackful of sleazy stuff there. Author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Crime/Black Lizard original ed edition (January 26, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037570471X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375704710
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #729,876 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

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Robert Wellen on April 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
James Ellroy, after only 3 books, has taken his place among my most favorite writers. Ellroy's collection of fiction and non-ficiton is a mixed bag, but mostly excellent. The best essay is "Let's Twist Again," a return to his junior high days. I expected something more elegiac and less upbeat, but the change of tone suits the peace. In fact, it is one of the best pieces I have ever read about those forgotten Jr. High years. Frankly, the weakest piece is the Sinatra crime story--TiJuana, Mon Amour. There was nothing much new it in it and the other long short stories, esp. the Dick Contino piece were better. Danny Getchell as a narrator is better in short bursts. There are more mediations on his mother's murder, but even if you have read "My Dark Places" they add a bit of perspective. I loved his piece on the LA Confidential movie/Curtis Hanson, the piece of the Sheriff's Homicide Department, and the OJ Simpson story. As an avowed OJ junkie, I love to read anything new on it. Perhaps not his strongest work, but certainly worth a read if you enjoy his work. Sadly, the introduction is written by the late Art Cooper of GQ, who many of us still miss.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
Ellroy's collected writings for GQ magazine from 1993�99 are collected in this hodgepodge of essays and three short stories. For those (like me) who've never read Ellory before and want to test the waters of his LA-centric writings, this seems to be as good a place as any. The first three essays are grouped under the theme "Unsolved". The first is about his own mother's murder in an LA suburb of El Monte in 1958 and was expanded into the book My Dark Places. The second recounts the unsolved murder of a woman in El Monte in 1973, and the third retells the death of a smalltime druggie actress in 1963.
Next come two "LA Confidential" era stories narrated by Hush-Hush editor Danny Getchell (the Danny Devito character in the film). These stories are virtual carbon copies in terms of subject matter (sex, murder, blackmail, crooked cops, degenerate celebrities) and style (period slang and alliteration galore). While I'll agree that Ellroy's prose is punchy and full of juice, he's over-dependent on alliteration. Once or twice a page is plenty, once or twice a paragraph is overkill.
Next is an essay about the life and times of a '50s teen idol accordion player named Dick Contino. This is a fairly interesting piece revealing the fleeting nature of celebrity and the patriotic fervor of the '50s. Ellroy tracked him down and then wrote a 57-page novella with him as the hero narrator. Unfortunately, "Hollywood Shakedown" is exactly like the two previous Hush-hush stories, which if you like that kind of thing is fine I suppose. Personally, I grew to find them tiresome and repetitive. Part of the problem is that all his characters speak the same clipped hard-boiled way in every story.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
Dig it dad: James Ellroy is at the top of the heap when it comes to writing crime fiction, because he's not afraid to look at the bottom of the barrel. CRIMEWAVE is another brutal look at Los Angeles in all of it's sordid glory in an era when there was a reason that foot patrolman were called beat cops. From the stark, icy descriptions of malevolent mayhem most of his readers will never see, to his diabolically derived detachment, the demon dog delivers a devastating package with every pulsating page...so put down the crack, jack and pick up your slacks. The demon dog wants to take you down to places that will leave you trembling with trepidation and delirious with desperation.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By "bunyan1993" on October 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
As with another reviewer I am a huge Ellroy fan. I have read everything he has written. To be completely honest I did not like many of the sections in this book. The two stories dealing with the Hush Hush editor were forced and too filled with aliteration. While it was obviously Ellroy's intent to write the stories as Gretchell would have done in his magazine, the style crippled Ellroy's talent. In short by tyring to write like an annoying parasite, Ellroy created two annoying stories.
That being said, if you are an Ellroy fan buy it, Ellroy writting is like a certain sex act, even when it's bad it's still very good. If you have not read Ellroy before, pass this one by and start the L.A. saga books and by purchasing "The Black Dhalia"
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By NeuroSplicer TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 19, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My copy of AMERICAN TABLOID was so worn I had to replace it. Huge fan since my university years. I have all of his books. Most are superb. Some are good. Some are wanting. This one is the WORST!

For a good writer (and Ellroy is an excellent one!) to put out a bad book is understandable. This one though is PURE FAN EXPLOITATION.

The same stories over and over, themes all too familiar from his earlier books. Absolutely NOTHING New! And the "jazz just ain't there". Stories that fizzle and die long before they are actually over. Gone are the scents, the tastes, the feel of life in the margins. Words only pretending to be cool, characters nobody cares about to love or hate or pity.

If you want to sample James Ellroy start with BLACK DAHLIA and work your way up to the COLD SIX THOUSAND.

I am still waiting for the sequel to the that one.
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