- Hardcover: 576 pages
- Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (February 14, 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679403914
- ISBN-13: 978-0679403913
- Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.8 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 190 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,003,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
American Tabloid Hardcover – February 14, 1995
|New from||Used from|
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
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.
Try the Kindle edition and experience these great reading features:
Read reviews that mention
Showing 1-3 of 190 reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
So why just four stars? First, Ellroy is weak in crafting the voices of his characters. They may be southern or northern, educated or not, of Irish or Italiian or Cuban background, but they all basically talk the same. Near the beginning he tries to explain this by saying that two of the characters (one from Quebec and the other from Alabama) had worked hard to eliminate their childhood accents, but this comes across as pleading by Ellroy for us to forgive his inability to give them believable voices. In scenes where several of these characters are talking with each other, it can be hard to tell who is saying what. A line like "I hear you are working for Hoover now" could come from the mouth of any of them, directed to any of the others.
Second, Ellroy rushed the end of the book. He knew he wanted to get to Dallas, November 1963, and it feels like at some point (mid-1961 in the narrative) he felt pressed for time. He speeds up the story, skips details, character motivations become less believable, plot holes are left open. The story's final conceit, that Jack Kennedy was killed as a way to stop Bobby Kennedy's prosecution of the mob, doesn't really work given what has been established about the Kennedy family by that point (especially the fact that much of the Kennedy family's own money, in this story, comes from financing mob activities).
Finally, and this is a minor point, with the exception of a brief bit about Marilyn Monroe, the story is almost relentlessly dark. The book would have benefitted from more humor, interludes to give the reader a break from the darkness and desperation. We all know where the story is going to end; I wish Ellroy had given us something that's *not* miserable along the way.
You don't so much as identify with these characters, as you do identify against them and root for their demise. The only sympathetic character is Lenny the homosexual lounge act and mob/upper-crust hang around, and that's stretching it, since he's a lowlife, too. You might need a shower or two after reading this thing.
James Ellroy's AMERICAN TABLOID is very clever, perhaps too clever for its own good. Parts are intriguing might-have-been history; parts are ridiculously false; parts are out-and-out absurd.
And yet, the book entertains, fascinates, and resonates.
In portraying America in the Kennedy years, Ellroy chainsaws one of our sacred cows; it's almost as if Seymour Hersch decided to write gleeful trash for "The Enquirer." And yet there are enough anchors in accepted American history to keep the book (almost?) believable.
This is not to say that Ellroy has not deviated from established fact; while it's quite funny to assert that the JFK/Marilyn Monroe affair was just a spur-of-the-moment prank on the part of a disgruntled CIA op with a sense of irony, it certainly deviates from reliable scholarship. Such devices are not neccesarily bad; however, like a precocious kid chiding his mom for crying during a film, they tend to remind the reader that the book in hand is, after all, nothing more than an entertaining story.
And yet, as such, there is much to like. Ellroy's lightning-fast style is at its best here, the clipped sentences just brusque enough to paint the picture. Too, interesting characters inhabit the multi-layered plot; perhaps most interesting is the "Death Wish"-like transformation of wimp FBI agent Ward Littell into a stone-cold mob lawyer. Historical personages such as JFK, RFK, Hoffa, Hoover, Jack Ruby, and especially Howard Hughes are well-sketched; even if this isn't reality, it's the way many of us would LIKE to picture them.
Which brings to mind a might-have-been of my own: the obvious omissions. Besides blowing off Monroe, Ellroy also avoids any mention of Judith Campbell Exner, the death of JFK's infant son, and Lee Harvey Oswald (I was dying to find out how Ellroy intended to portray HIM); too, there are no enduring portraits of LBJ, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or the Cuban Missile Crisis. These are things you might expect the author to have woven into the intricate plot, ESPECIALLY in a book called "American Tabloid."
And, as other reviews have mentioned, the ending falls D.O.A. flat.
Yet somehow, AMERICAN TABLOID overcomes these flaws, carves out rules of its own, and holds the reader's attention from first page to (disappointing) last, proving positively that Ellroy is not just a crackerjack crime writer; he has artistic fingers on the pulse of the mainstream as well.