The Books: “L.A. Confidential” (James Ellroy)

Daily Book Excerpt: Adult fiction:

LAConfidentialEllroy.jpgL.A. Confidential – by James Ellroy

God, I love James Ellroy. I love everything about him. I love his books, I love his persona – and he is a great great interview. He’s honest to the degree that sometimes you get nervous for him. He’s an open wound – which is funny because his writing is so rat-a-tat-tat. But the nuances he manages to suggest – the entire WORLD he gets into and creates … He’s consistently terrific, and I just love him.

Of course this book was made into a massively successful film – one of my favorite movies ever made, actually – and while the book is far more involved – way more going on – the movie is pretty faithful, not just to the plotline but to the FEEL of the book. Entire scenes of dialogue are lifted verbatim. Because why would you change it? It’s perfect already. He doesn’t do a lot of “he said” “she said” – Ellroy’s narrative brain works faster than that. He doesn’t sit back from the action – he’s in it, ba da bing ba da boom – here’s this, then this, and we move on, but now we’re back in … and we, as readers, are just lucky if we can keep up. (Speaking of the movie, here’s a piece I wrote on Bud White, and that first close-up in the film)

The book he wrote about his mother’s still-unsolved murder (excerpt here) is a must-read.

But so are all his others.

Here’s an excerpt involving Jack Vincennes. I could never write like this. It’s not my sensibility – my imagination does not express itself in this way … but what a pleasure it is … to read prose like this.

EXCERPT FROM L.A. Confidential – by James Ellroy

He hit the bash at full swing: Ellis Loew, a suite packed with Republican bigshots. Women in cocktail gowns; men in dark suits. The Big V chinos, a sport shirt sprayed with dog blood.

Jack flagged a waiter, grabbed a martini off his tray. Framed pictures on the wall caught his eye.

Political progress: Harvard Law Review, the ’53 election, a howler shot: Loew telling the press the Nite Owl killers confessed before they escaped. Jack laughed, sprayed gin, almost choked on his olive. Behind him: “You used to dress a bit more nicely.”

Jack turned around. “I used to be some kind of hotshot.”

“Do you have an excuse for your appearance?”

“Yeah, I killed two men today.”

“I see. Anything else?”

“Yeah, I shot them in the back, plugged a dog and took off before my superior officers showed up. And here’s a news flash: I’ve been drinking. Ellis, this is getting stale, so let’s get to it. Who do you want me to touch?”

“Jack, lower your voice.”

“What is it, boss? The Senate or the statehouse?”

“Jack, it’s not the time to discuss this.”

“Sure it is. Tell true. You’re gearing up for the ’60 election.”

Loew, on the QT. “All right, it’s the Senate. I did have some favors to ask, but your current condition precludes my asking them. We’ll talk when you’re in better shape.”

An audience now: the whole suite. “Come on, I’m dying to run bag for you. Who do I shake down first?”

Sergeant, lower your voice.

Raise that voice. “Cocksucker, I shit where you breathe. I put Bill McPherson in the tank for you, I cold-coked him and put him in bed with that colored girl, I fucking deserve to know who you want me to put the screws to next.”

Loew, a hoarse whisper. “Vincennes, you’re through.”

Jack tossed gin in his face. “God, I fucking hope so.”

This entry was posted in Books and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Books: “L.A. Confidential” (James Ellroy)

  1. Jeff says:

    It’s hard to put into words the level of excitement I had while reading this book. I was already a huge Ellroy fan, and thinking that he would probably never top “The Black Dahlia.” But with this one, he reached heights that are almost scary to contemplate. It’s not POSSIBLE to be this good, is it?

    I still try to read it at least once a year, and when I get to the section where all of the threads start to come together, it still gives me goose bumps.

    And you’re dead right – even though the movie cut chunks of the book out, and changed the details of some others (when I read it, I had cast Kyle MacLachlan as Ed Exley and Brian Dennehy as Dudley Smith), it was absolutely true to Ellroy’s spirit.

    Without a doubt, THE great noir novel of our generation.

  2. cvn says:

    Ellroy is the best. I’m bored with everything in my ipod so I’m listening to the book-on-tape of American Tabloid, still my favorite Ellroy novel. I was dying to read The Cold Six Thousand but for me it’s a noir Finnegans Wake – he rat-a-tat-tatted me into a corner. Plus he used to be married to Helen Knode, who I knew in grad school, so I got that going for me.

  3. I like Elroy too much. My web persona was derived from a formula in “White Jazz” for giving the police a false name. Back in the ’90s, I ecstatically wallowed in Elroy, much like a dog rolls in poo.

    Halfway through “Dick Contino’s Blues”, I realized I was over the edge and just quit cold turkey. Reading Elroy is like looking down into the abyss whatever is down there is staring right back.

  4. red says:

    Thanks for all your comments, guys – they are truly terrific.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.