L.A. Confidential (L.A. Quartet #3)

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L.A. Confidential is an epic crime novel that stands as a steel-edged time capsule--Los Angeles in the 1950s, a remarkable era defined in dark shadings.

A horrific mass murder invades the lives of victims and victimizers on both sides of...
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L.A. Confidential (L.A. Quartet #3)

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L.A. Confidential is an epic crime novel that stands as a steel-edged time capsule--Los Angeles in the 1950s, a remarkable era defined in dark shadings.

A horrific mass murder invades the lives of victims and victimizers on both sides of the law--three cops treading quicksand in the middle.

Detective Ed Exley wants glory. Haunted by his father's success as a policeman, he will pay any price, break any law to eclipse him.

Detective Bud White watched his own father murder his mother--he is now bent on random vengeance, a time bomb with a badge.

Celebrity cop Jack Vincennes shakes down movie stars for a scandal magazine. An old secret possesses him--he'll do anything to keep it buried.

Three cops in a spiral, a nightmare that tests loyalty and courage, a nightmare that offers no mercy, allows for no survivors. Here is James Ellroy's masterpiece. . . darkness to haunt you in shades of red, gray, and black.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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. (June)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780892964246
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/1/1990
  • Series: L.A. Quartet , #3

Meet the Author

James Ellroy's most recent novel, American Tabloid, was Time magazine's Novel of the Year in 1995, and his memoir, My Dark Places, was a New York Times Notable Book for 1996.

David Strathairn has appeared in the films L.A. Confidential, The River Wild, The Firm, and City of Hope.  His theater work includes Three Sisters, Hapgood, and A Lie of the Mind.

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Interviews & Essays

Good Dog: James's Ellroy's Bark Is Worse than His Bite
From the May-June 2001 issue of Book magazine.

Wearing a beige cardigan and sporting round spectacles, James Ellroy looks about as dangerous as a college history professor. His spartan office (no computer or typewriter; he writes in longhand with a number two pencil) is in a Tudor-style home in an upscale suburb of Kansas City, Kansas, a long way from the Los Angeles jail cells he often inhabited during his teen years and early twenties. Ellroy, the author of L.A. Confidential and fourteen other books, is happily married, relaxed and calm. For a moment, it seems as if the self-professed "Demon Dog of American Literature" has been housebroken.

But when he leans forward, his brown eyes sighting in like the business end of a double-barreled shotgun, his six-foot-plus frame crowding in close to make a point, it's clear that anyone who doesn't want to get wounded better stay out of the line of fire.

Ellroy often punctuates his conversations with sound effects that are as sharp as the violence in his books. "Boom!" he says, tearing into a dissertation on his new novel, The Cold Six Thousand. "First two sentences of the book: 'They sent him to Dallas to kill a nigger pimp named Wendell Durfee. He wasn't sure he could do it.' What have you got? You've got a horrible situation. You've got a young man of great ambivalence, you've got 'nigger' in the first sentence. That's a warning: You don't like it? You want PC? Get yourself another book, 'cause you ain't gonna find it here."

That's more like it. That's "The Dog" (as his close friends call him) that longtime fans and readers know. Ellroy, fifty-two, is famous for his readings and appearances, where he's been known to call his readers and fans perverts and panty sniffers. His onstage high jinks have ranged from howling out loud to simulating masturbation. In the past, worries about offending potential readers were dismissed with offhanded and profane remarks. And his telephone answering machine greeted people by announcing him as the "Demon Dog of Crime Fiction." Eventually, the greeting was modified to the "Demon Dog of American Literature." These days, it's simply, "This is James Ellroy. Leave a message after the tone."

Perhaps with literary legacies in mind, Ellroy seems to be more reticent about his larger-than-life public persona. He has been purposefully separating himself from the constraints of genre fiction, stating that he is trying to destroy genre strictures and that he'll never write another book that can be categorized as crime fiction. "If you have to subdivide me as a novelist," he says, "I would say I'm a historical novelist."

Ellroy's own history reads like something out of one his novels: His mother, whom he despised, was murdered when he was only ten years old; he spent years popping drugs, living on the streets, and committing petty crimes; and finally he cleaned himself up, turning to writing as he supported himself caddying at posh L.A. country clubs.

Ellroy detailed those years and the search for his mother's killer in his candid 1996 memoir, My Dark Places. Since he debuted with Brown's Requiem in 1981, praise about the writer has come fast and furious. His early work was influenced by Dashiell Hammett and Joseph Wambaugh, and though he adopted the noir style, he blended in the social history of L.A. He calls himself a Brahms to Don DeLillo's Beethoven. Others might compare his staccato sentences and no-frills style of writing to the down-and-dirty style of Kansas City jazz. (Ellroy, who has been married to writer Helen Knode for nine years, claimed Kansas City as his new hometown after a visit to meet his future mother-in-law.)

The tough, punchy style that is Ellroy's trademark has an interesting origin. Nat Soble, Ellroy's longtime friend and agent, was ready to deliver the manuscript of L.A. Confidential in 1989 when Soble got a call from an editor at Warner Books telling him it had to be cut by 30 percent -- sight unseen -- because the size would prohibit any profits, even in paperback. When Soble made a joking remark about cutting out all the small words (ands buts), Ellroy was struck by lightning. He took the manuscript home that night and returned with a leaner book and a brand-new style. "All of a sudden we had this incredible style that matched the violence of the book," Soble recalls. "And James has never looked back since. That editor, unbeknownst to her, really helped crystallize the style that started with L.A. Confidential."

But what crystallized the Demon Dog persona? Is it all an act, or is it a vestige of days spent guarding himself from more hurt? That's anyone's guess. But Bill Stoner, the former homicide detective from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Unsolved Office whom Ellroy enlisted to help with his memoir, says Ellroy's public persona is at odds with his real personality. "When I first met him, he was so cavalier about his mother's death and his relationship with her -- I wasn't sure I even wanted to work with the guy! I could just see him going up to some eighty-year-old woman and saying, 'Hey bitch, give it up!' As it turned out, he was as gracious as can be. Looking back, in retrospect, I can see he was in shock. And as the investigation went on, I slowly watched a man fall in love with his mother. We grew closer and closer, almost like brothers. He's one of the most generous and loving people I've ever met."

Kansas City next-door neighbor Lee Major thinks the Demon Dog is just shtick, that his friend Ellroy is "a pretty straitlaced type of guy." Soble sees it a little differently. "That is his persona," he says. "If there is anything that can be done to improve his book, he will do it. If there is anything that can be done to help sell his book, he will do it." Soble believes that Ellroy is like "the underdog trying to get greater acceptance from the reading public."

"It's an expression of natural exuberance," Ellroy says. "Since I know how to perform in front of audiences, and since I'm an accomplished public speaker, then I owe it to the people who came to see me, who came out on a cold winter night or a hot summer night to get their books signed, to give them a bit of a show. Doing this disingenuous number where you hem and haw and you play inarticulate, and you stumble over your words and you do everything in your power to appear meek and humble, just isn't me. I'd rather go in there and burn the audience down, give them something to go home with." (Dorman T. Shindler)

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2001

    Gritty and Complex

    The characters are three-dimensional and the engaging plot is gritty and complex. Ellroy's masterpiece of crime and corruption in 1950s L.A. is a must for crime fiction fans.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2000

    One of the BEST books I've read!

    I breezed through this book in a blur of a weekend, simply unable to put it down. Ellroy's words fly off the page and come at you like bullets. His noir, hard-as-nails style is hynotic. The plot is intricate, the characters well drawn, and the ending is satisfying. He does not insult the reader by assuming he or she cannot follow along labyrinth-like plotting. If you want light reading, forget it. But if you like twisting, turning mysteries and pulse-pounding suspense, BUY THIS BOOK!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2013

    One of the best

    One of the best books in this genre that I have read in years. Plot twists up until the end. Main and bit players in the book are unforgettable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2013

    The Nook version has some editing problems. e.g., "Calendar

    The Nook version has some editing problems. e.g., "Calendar 1957" has sections that repeat four or more times. I HOPE that there's no missing text.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2011

    Intense - Great Read!

    I have to admit, this is the first James Ellroy book I've read - and don't know why I haven't read his books prior to this one. It took me a while to get used to his style of writing, but written in any other style just wouldn't have worked to get the feel of what's going through the detectives' heads (I mean, you could actually feel the adreneline going through Bud's head)...how they are playing out the crime scenes individually then coming together with their own theories.....the book moves so fast there were parts I had to re-read. Ellroy does not sugarcoat anything he puts before the reader...gritty, raw and intense and what we had before us were very flawed men and in the end, it all comes together. I will be reading more of Ellway, that's for sure.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2008

    Shadowed - Like the L.A. Night

    Who's right and who's wrong? That's the question Ellroy begs readers to ask in LA Confidential. Is it Johnathan 'Jack' Vincenness, a vice cop who sells his soul one Hush-Hush punchline at a time? Wendell 'Bud' White with his moral crusade against women beaters? Or is it Edmund 'Ed' Exley, a rich kid trying to surpass his father in command and ambition? But justice is like the L.A. night Ellroy finely portrays - a dull gray with an occasional street light throwing light and shadow on both plot and its characters, who might be ugly, but not matter how hard you try, you can't stop yourself from riding along. (Blunt, hard prose takes a bit getting used to but fits the story well)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2001


    This book was incredible. It doesn't seem as long as it is, because it moves at a phenomenal pace. It is more layered than any book I know. The three main characters are completely different policemen, and never boring. I suggest reading it more than once.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2000

    Stylish '50's Crime Saga

    Ellroy's gritty and hard-hitting novel set in 1950's Los Angeles grips the reader in a vortex of violence and corruption. Reads like a whirlwind! Much better than the movie version.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2000

    reading is believing

    l.a.confindential does not feel like a 400+ page book. james ellroy style of writng puts you in the 50s with is descriptive characters and well drawn scenery. worth the buy!

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    Posted January 13, 2011

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