Thursday, December 09, 2004

After the pale imitation James Ellroy that was California Girl, I felt the need for the real thing. Enter White Jazz. This book was... just... wow. I'm still overwhelmed. I was reading it between bands at the (amazing) show last night and even though it was after 2 a.m. when I got home I had to finish the last 30 pages before I could go to bed. I think there were entire chapters during which I didn't breathe simply because the action was so intense and fast moving. I loved the writing style; it's a stripped down first person, almost stream of consciousness that moves so quickly and is so dense and dark and heavy with lingo that it consumes all the reader's attention:

"Home, paperwork. Pissed at Junior - an erratic punk getting worse. Paperwork: Exley's Kafesjian report padded up fat. Lists next: potential Glenda tailers, potential pervert framees. Calls in: Meg - Jack Woods glommed our back rent. Pete B: do Mr. Hughes solid, I convinced him you're not a Hebe. Calls out: Ad Vice, Junior's pad, no luck - find him, ream his insubordinate heart. My tailer list, bum luck holding - no men to start tonight. My job by default - a publicity date meant contract breaker."

It's a little disconcerting at first, but it draws you in quickly and pulls you along at breakneck speed.

And the characters. Man, I love that none of Ellroy's characters are innocent. Each has depth and shading and you find yourself sympathetic and rooting for people who have done horrible things over people who do even worse things. Dave Klein, the character through whose eyes we see everything, is a mob enforcer, contract killer, brother, thief, lover, attorney, and a lieutenant in charge of the Ad Vice department of the LAPD. And he's the good guy!

It's essential to read L. A. Confidential before White Jazz because several of the same characters (Exley, Dudley Smith) are in both books and references are made to events that occurred in the previous one. Indeed, the currents and conflict from that book are carried over here, complicating what starts out as a story of a rather gruesome B&E into a wide reaching plot full of police corruption, political maneuvering, and brutal murders. This is noir at its darkest and most interesting.

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