- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 6 hours and 19 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
- Audible.com Release Date: July 9, 2013
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00DGBYBQE
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Hollywood Nocturnes: Mysterious Press - HighBridge Audio Classics Audiobook – Unabridged
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Not surprisingly, the stories vary a bit in quality:
The first two (covering about 150 pages) are a fictionalized account of the real accordionist Dick Contino's life in Hollywood during the 1950s. I didn't think these two were that great; Contino doesn't seem to be that interesting to me & I found the story completely unbelievable.
The third story, "High Darktown," is about the plan for a train robbery at the end of World War II. It was readable, but not Ellroy's best.
"Dial Axminster 6-400" is about two cops who are assigned to transport a prisoner - and find themselves in a web of lies. This probably was my favorite story in the book; it's vintage Ellroy: an intricate plot, heartless characters, and enough action to keep you glued to the page.
"Since I Don't Have You" is about a man hired at the same time by Howard Hughes and gangster Mickey Cohen to find the same woman. It's entertaining, but completely unbelievable.
"Gravy Train" is about a man assigned to "baby-sit" a dog in a Beverly Hills mansion. It's the only story set in the recent past and Ellroy's weakest effort of the book.
"Torch Number" is about a lowlife who wants to find a singer he had an affair with, while he helps intern Japanese-Americans in World War II. I thought that this one worked well.
Ellroy is not for everyone. He is very politically incorrect and his characters can be ruthless and stupid. Don't expect to find too many "feel-good" stories in this volume. At best, you will walk away with a feeling that the world isn't a complete disaster.
In short, I recommend Hollywood Nocturnes to hardboiled mystery fans; if that's you, you won't be let down.
Ellroy has done this same story so many times that there is now quite a range to the theme and variations, not all of which are top-notch: _Brown's Requiem_ (pretty good) to _LA Confidential_ (almost brilliant save his over-the-top libel of Disney) to _A Cold Six Thousand_ (so unreadable that it comes across as passive aggressive hostility toward the reader, like he's giving you the finger for having the temerity to buy his books).
Unfortunately the stories in _Hollywood Nocturne_ are close in spirit to _A Cold Six Thousand_. They are written in his typical lovely style and not the `See Dick snort coke' style of _A Cold Six Thousand_. But the plots of the stories are so egregiously ridiculous that it's hard not to laugh out loud. `The Dick Contino Blues' starts out strong but then it degenerates into a faked kidnaping plot gone wrong. Since the story is peppered with talk about serial killer on the loose in Hollywood, you'd have to be willfully naive to not be able to guess who's really going to do the kidnaping.
The self-parody hits its peak in `Gravy Train', a story about a guy (on probation of course) who is responsible for taking care of a white bull terrier that has inherited the fortune from a businessman who made millions (illegally of course) and given it all to his pooch Basko. There's an accidental dognaping by some burglars who also train fighting dogs (of course). Here's how Basko's rescue is described:
>Two burly shvartzes were fitting black leather gloves fitted with razor blades to his paws; Basko was wearing a muzzle embroidered with swastikas. I padded back and got ready to kill; Basko sniffed the air and leaped at his closest defiler. A hot second for the gutting; Basko lashed out with his paws and disemboweled him clean. The other punk screamed; I ran up and bashed his face in with the butt of my roscoe. . . I grabbed Basko and hauled ass.
What are we to make of this? Is this clever postmodern irony? Does Ellroy prefer to stick to the pre-Civil Rights era so that deranged ethnic stereotyping is somehow `authentic'? [ "burly shvartzes. . . embroidered with swastikas. . . " The aforementioned eyeballs go cross-eyed.] Is he making fun of us for reading him? Or is he just strung out on something?
Your guess is as good as mine.
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James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. His novels are set in California but he now lives in Connecticut.Read more