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L.A. Confidential Paperback – Bargain Price, September 1, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

From Publishers Weekly

Ellroy's ninth novel, set in 1950s Los Angeles, kicks off with a shoot-out between a rogue ex-cop and a band of gangsters fronted by a crooked police lieutenant. Close on the heels of this scene comes a jarring Christmas Day precinct house riot, in which drunk and rampaging cops viciously beat up a group of jailed Mexican hoodlums. But, as readers will quickly learn, these sudden sprees of violence, laced with evidence of police corruption, are only teasers for the grisly events and pathos that follow this intricate police procedural. Picking up where The Black Dahlia and The Big Nowhere left off, the book tracks the intertwining paths of the three flawed and ambitious cops who emerge from the "Bloody Christmas" affair. Dope peddling, prostitution, and other risky business are revealed as the tightly wound plot untangles. Ellroy's disdain for Hollywood tinsel is evident at every turn; even the most noble of the characters here are relentlessly sleazy. But their grueling, sometimes maniacal schemes make a compelling read for the stout of heart.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (September 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446674249
  • ASIN: B002NSLN8A
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (190 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,066,235 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

74 of 78 people found the following review helpful By John Owen on December 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
LA Confidential has been rightly hailed as a masterpiece of American fiction, not just of American crime fiction. But you need to do your homework first, as this is actually the third book in Ellroy's L.A. Quartet. The set includes, "The Black Dahlia," "The Big Nowhere," "LAC," and "White Jazz." By the end of White Jazz, the driving plot and Ellroy's maturity as a writer have honed an already sparse style to something just short of hebeprenic monosyllabic stuttering. Perversely, though, rather than becoming almost funny (like Hemingway could get (The rain fell down. It fell on the trees. The trees got wet. I was drunk, in the rain.)), the spare language actually gets out of the way of the forceful and gripping dialogue and action.
I strongly recommed that you read these four books in order, as the story arc unfolds over that much time. Cruical characters such as "Buzz" Meeks (who was criminally shortchanged in the film version) and Dudley Smith appear in two, three, or four of the books, all of which makes LA Con, the best of the uniformly excellent four, even better in context.
It may be a lot of work to do, several thousand pages, but true fans of American fiction could do much worse.
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57 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Jonah Cohen on November 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
I had seen the superb movie (several times) before reading this book, and wondered how the two would compare. Ellroy's novel is also superb, and in some ways the movie reads direcrtly from it (much dialogue lifted verbatim) but there are large differences.
Fit into a couple hours and what feels like a year's worth of time, the movie is more concise. The book is far more sprawling, taking place over almost a decade --- and it connects to both the prequel (The Big Nowhere, excellent) and sequel (White Jazz, also excellent). The screenwriters actually did a fine job capturing the essence of the book while truncating the plot.
The book is, of course, 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 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. And Jack Vincenes isn't quite the super-slick hepcat that Kevin Spacey memorably embodied. Bud White is far less restrained than Russell Crowe made him look. 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 50's slang (though not quite as polished or stylized as in White Jazz). While the movie was chock-full of badness, it didn't come close to the book. For those unfamiliar with the author: let's put it mildly and say he doesn't have a good opinion of human nature. No nice guys here.
If you like down and dirty crime fiction or film noir at all, this is the book for you. Personally, I'd recommend reading The Big Nowhere first, and then White Jazz, for a terrific trio of ungoodness.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By William A. Marsh on December 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
If you start reading this book better strap yourself in for the ride of your life. If you like L.A. in the '50s with crooked cops, beautiful hookers that look like movie stars ( thanks to a plastic surgeon) stupid criminals and a rather eclectic assortment of walk ons, you'll love this story.
The three main cops are polar opposites in many areas except for the ability to run amok of the rules and regulations of the LAPD when to do so furthers thier case or career. Interesting side plot with Exley's father and the cadre of hangers-on building theme parks and interstate highways mixed with slasher porno and a few tender moments.
I'm not a huge fan of the crime genre, but the reviews led me to this while hunting for a book for airplane reading. It's tough to put down, but even tougher to pick back up if you've not read for a day a two. Elroy seems to think the reader will read non-stop or has an incredible memory. Many times I had to go back and check earlier parts of the story to make it all fit. It does take sometime to get the style of his prose so it makes sense.
My suspiscion is since I don't read many books in this genre my picky complaints are those of a novice in this area. I believe this would be a much rewarding experience if read another time.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By T.P.Roddy on June 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
I don't even know how to begin this review so I'm just going to wing it. I'm basically blown away and all's I can ask myself is how in the world does anyone come up with this story, which is several stories all wrapped within eachother. I had read 'Dahlia' which I loved, then 'Nowhere' which impressed me even more. Now 'Confidential' has left me in deep thought about the characters and the art of Mr. Ellroy's storytelling. I saw the movie several times before reading this (or any of Ellroy's work) and loved it. But the movie and the book are very different. If you're considering reading this book but saw the movie and figure you know the story already, you don't, so read it. If you've heard that it's essential to read his quartet in order (this being the third out of the four) but don't feel like reading the other two first, then don't, but read this book. If you're a do-gooder, born-again, living as a nun,,, well, you might not want to read this (only because you may feel dirty and immoral for liking it). But everybody else should get a copy because its THAT GOOD. Oh it's long, it's complex, it has more characters than the bible (which, by the way, should be read only after reading this as a priority first) and you'll need to pay close attention to everybody and everything, but it is most definitly worth it. "White Jazz' (the fourth and final) here I come. Thanks Mr. E!
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