The Barnes & Noble Review
James Ellroy's aptly named American Tabloid was a
gaudy, audacious account of crime, scandal, and politics that ended in Dallas on November 22, 1963, seconds before the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The Cold Six Thousand begins just minutes later and takes us on a wild, surreal ride through the period of violence, trauma, and civil unrest that followed in the wake of Kennedy's death. Like its predecessor, The Cold Six Thousand is an astonishing book,
the largest, most ambitious work to date by our greatest living crime writer.
The story begins when Las Vegas policeman Wayne Tedrow Jr. arrives in Dallas. Kennedy is dead, Oswald is in custody, and turmoil reigns. Wayne arrives bearing $6,000 in bounty money, his fee for the projected execution of fugitive criminal Wendell Durfee. Against a
backdrop of escalating chaos, Wayne succeeds in locating Durfee and then permits him to escape, a decision that will haunt him in the years to come. At the same time, he finds himself caught up in the brutal aftermath of the Kennedy killing. In an act of synchronicity that will alter his life, Wayne falls under the influence of two of the assassination's principal conspirators, Pete Bondurant and Ward J. Littell.
Bondurant, a former employee of Howard Hughes, is a pimp, drug dealer, hit man, and extortionist. Littell is a former FBI agent who now works for Jimmy Hoffa and assorted members of the Mob. He is a man driven by massive contradictions and by his increasing desire for personal redemption. Ellroy follows Wayne, Littell, and Bondurant as they make their
way -- sometimes in concert, sometimes individually, -- through the twisted history of the 1960s. The sprawling narrative ranges from Dallas to Cuba, from Washington to the Klan-dominated South, from Las Vegas to Vietnam. Along the way, Ellroy illuminates the arcane world of organized crime, the inner workings of the Southeast Asia heroin trade, and the virulent racism that characterized the era. He also examines, in speculative but plausible fashion, the forces he believes responsible for the back-to-back assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.
The Cold Six Thousand is told in Ellroy's patented staccato style, a style that delivers huge amounts of information without pausing for breath or wasting a word. With almost effortless authority, Ellroy merges his convoluted fictional scenario with the actual material of modern history. In the process he creates a memorable gallery of real and imagined characters, including such grotesque, stranger-than-fiction figures as the demented, drug-addicted Howard Hughes and the rabid, racist, dictatorial schemer J. Edgar Hoover. The result is an authentically nightmarish vision that transcends the limits of traditional crime fiction, offering us a portrait of our recent past that is disturbing, compelling, convincing, and absolutely
impossible to put aside. (Bill Sheehan)
Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, has been published by Subterranean Press (www.subterraneanpress.com).
[A] mesmerizing nightmare of gangdom's power and glory....With riveting style and substance, Cold Six is Ellroy's biggest score.
This is the finest novel of its kind to come out in 2001 and, if there is any order in the universe, it will run off with all the cookies. Ellroy's breathtaking styleCharles Bukowski-meets-Oliver Stone-perfectly complements his last three novels (all of which fictionalize recent American history). His latest bold and masterful book follows a group of men who manipulate (and are manipulated by) political and social events from the day JFK is assassinated in Dallas through the assassination of his brother, Robert Kennedy. The intricate plot ties together not only both assassinations, but the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, organized crime, you name it. The main characters are Wayne Tedrow Jr., a Vegas cop whose daddy is a publisher of right-wing tracts; Pete Bondurant, ex-CIA gadfly and brilliant mastermind; and Ward Littell, ex-FBI agent and lawyer for both the mob and Howard Hughes. Stringing together all these historical events is an audacious undertaking, even if the history itself is not always true. When you read Ellroy's book, you become hypnotized by his compelling, staccato sentences; you enter completely into another world, where language owns reality and where the novel's reality owns you.
Randy Michael Signor
Clipped, stylized, hard-nosed and repetitive, this novel cuts like a dark, 24-hour Beat poem and sounds like Jack Webb on crack. Ellroy's latest noir tale is full of his trademark violence, sex and rough language. Readers follow five years in the life of Las Vegas police officer Wayne Tedrow Jr., who begins the novel making a trip to Dallas to kill a pimp for $6,000. From there, Tedrow is inadvertently mixed up with practically every cultural and political event and figure of the 1960s: Vietnam, Cuba, the Kennedy assassinations, Oswald, Ruby, Sirhan Sirhan, James Earl Ray, Sonny Liston, mobster Carlos Marcellos, Martin Luther King Jr. and J. Edgar Hoover. Craig Wasson does an excellent job of translating the written page into a day-length rap of short phrases, peppering listeners with rapid cuts and jabs until they are exhausted yet exhilarated. (May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Ellroy's latest novel looks at the dark side of American life during the 1960s, focusing on a Las Vegas police officer, Wayne Tedrow Jr., and his inadvertent role in the cover-up of John F. Kennedy's assassination. The narrative spans a five-year period and traces Tedrow's dealings with the Mafia, the Ku Klux Klan, and various political and cultural icons of that time period. Ellroy's fast-paced tale takes the reader on a breathtaking ride through the underbelly of America. It is readable yet complex in its character development and critical examination of U.S. public policy. Like most of Ellroy's works among them L.A. Confidential and The Crime Wave it is graphic in its description of violence and should be reserved for a mature audience. Recommended for public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/01.] Thomas Auger, Georgia Inst. of Technology, Atlanta Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Picking up roughly where American Tabloid left off, Ellroy's big, ambitious new novel, bristling with violence, rockets through the 1960s naming names and weaving a terrifyingly believable tale of linked conspiracies in the three assassinations that shook America to the core. This is Plymouth Rock turned over after three centuries to expose the creatures wriggling in the dark beneath the surface of the American Dream. Ellroy begins with JFK's murder and cover-up, which inadvertently involve Wayne Tendrow, a Las Vegas cop with a wobbly moral compass and a love/hate relationship with his wealthy, controlling, right-wing, racist father. Wayne encounters two characters reappearing from American Tabloid: Ward Littell, ex–FBI agent, lawyer to the mob and to Howard Hughes, is a disillusioned closet liberal described as "lugging a Jesus Cross in his sewer"; Pete Bondurant, ex-CIA and current mob enforcer, is rabidly anti-Communist and anti-Castro. Through the perspectives and actions of these three men, the story tracks the complex convergence of interests among organized crime, the right-wing establishment, the KKK, and elements of the CIA and FBI that led to the three assassinations. Intertwined subplots describe Howard Hughes's takeover of Vegas hotels and casinos, CIA trafficking in heroin during the Vietnam War, Cuban gunrunning, and covert FBI manipulation of the civil-rights movement. The large cast includes a wonderfully arch and sinister J. Edgar Hoover, Jack Ruby, Guy Banister, Sal Mineo, Bayard Rustin, Sonny Liston, James Earl Ray, Sirhan Sirhan, and several mobsters, real and imagined. Ellroy's style and pace are blistering as always, although it must be said that the unrelenting and occasionally gratuitous violence at the periphery of his main story sometimes undercuts the larger horrors he describes. A chilling tapestry of fact and fiction, an exhilarating read, and an informed, deeply disturbing speculation regarding the ties between criminals and America's shadow government.
From the Publisher
“Ellroy rips into American culture like a chainsaw in an abbatoir. . . . Pick it up if you dare; put it down if you can.” –Time
“A wild ride. . . . An American political underbelly teeming with conspiracy and crime. . . . So hard-boiled you could chip a tooth on it.” –The New York Times Book Review
“A ripping read....the book is pure testosterone.” –The Plain Dealer
“A great and terrible book about a great and terrible time in America.” –The Village Voice
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1Copyright 2002 by James Ellroy
November 22-25, 1963
Wayne Tedrow Jr.
They sent him to Dallas to kill a nigger pimp named Wendell Durfee. He wasn't sure he could do it.
The Casino Operators Council flew him. They supplied first-class fare. They tapped their slush fund. They greased him. They fed him six cold.
Nobody said it:
Kill that coon. Do it good. Take our hit fee.
The flight ran smooth. A stew served drinks. She saw his gun. She played up. She asked dumb questions.
He said he worked Vegas PD. He ran the intel squad. He built files and logged information.
She loved it. She swooned.
"Hon, what you doin' in Dallas?"
He told her.
A Negro shivved a twenty-one dealer. The dealer lost an eye. The Negro booked to Big D. She loved it. She brought him highballs. He omitted details.
The dealer provoked the attack. The council issued the contract-death for ADW Two.
The preflight pep talk. Lieutenant Buddy Fritsch:
"I don't have to tell you what we expect, son. And I don't have to add that your father expects it, too."
The stew played geisha girl. The stew fluffed her beehive.
"What's your name?"
She whooped. "You just have to be Junior!"
He looked through her. He doodled. He yawned.
She fawned. She just loooooved his daddy. He flew with her oodles. She knew he was a Mormon wheel. She'd looove to know more.
Wayne laid out Wayne Senior.
He ran a kitchen-help union. He rigged low pay. He had coin. He had pull. He pushed right-wing tracts. He hobnobbed with fat cats. He knew J. Edgar Hoover.
The pilot hit the intercom. Dallas-ontime.
The stew fluffed her hair. "I'll bet you're staying at the Adolphus."
Wayne cinched his seat belt. "What makes you say that?"
"Well, your daddy told me he always stays there."
"I'm staying there. Nobody consulted me, but that's where they've got me booked."
The stew hunkered down. Her skirt slid. Her garter belt gapped.
"Your daddy told me they've got a nice little restaurant right there in the hotel, and, well . . ."
The plane hit rough air. Wayne caught it low. He broke a sweat. He shut his eyes. He saw Wendell Durfee.
The stew touched him. Wayne opened his eyes.
He saw her hickeys. He saw her bad teeth. He smelled her shampoo.
"You were looking a little scared there, Wayne Junior."
"Junior" tore it.
"Leave me alone. I'm not what you want, and I don't cheat on my wife."
They touched down. Wayne got off first. Wayne stamped blood back into his legs.
He walked to the terminal. Schoolgirls blocked the gate. One girl cried. One girl fucked with prayer beads.
He stepped around them. He followed baggage signs. People walked past him. They looked sucker-punched.
Red eyes. Boo-hoo. Women with Kleenex.
Wayne stopped at baggage claim. Kids whizzed by. They shot cap pistols. They laughed.
A man walked up-Joe Redneck-tall and fat. He wore a Stetson. He wore big boots. He wore a mother-of-pearl .45.
"If you're Sergeant Tedrow, I'm Officer Maynard D. Moore of the Dallas Police Department."
They shook hands. Moore chewed tobacco. Moore wore cheap cologne. A woman walked by-boo-hoo-hoo-one big red nose.
Wayne said, "What's wrong?"
Moore smiled. "Some kook shot the President."
Most shops closed early. State flags flew low. Some folks flew rebel flags upright.
Moore drove Wayne in. Moore had a plan: Run by the hotel/get you set in/find us that jigaboo.
John F. Kennedy-dead.
His wife's crush. His stepmom's fixation. JFK got Janice wet. Janice told Wayne Senior. Janice paid. Janice limped. Janice showed off the welts on her thighs.
Dead was dead. He couldn't grab it. He fumbled the rebounds.
Moore chewed Red Man. Moore shot juice out his window. Gunshots overlapped. Joyous shit in the boonies.
Moore said, "Some people ain't so sad."
Wayne shrugged. They passed a billboard-JFK and the UN.
"You sure ain't sayin' much. I got to say that so far, you ain't the most lively extradition partner I ever had."
A gun went off. Close. Wayne grabbed his holster.
"Whoo! You got a case of the yips, boy!"
Wayne futzed with his necktie. "I just want to get this over with."
Moore ran a red light. "In good time. I don't doubt that Mr. Durfee'll be sayin' hi to our fallen hero before too long."
Wayne rolled up his window. Wayne trapped in Moore's cologne.
Moore said, "I been to Lost Wages quite a few times. In fact, I owe a big marker at the Dunes this very moment."
Wayne shrugged. They passed a bus bench. A colored girl sobbed.
"I heard of your daddy, too. I heard he's quite the boy in Nevada."
A truck ran a red. The driver waved a beer and revolver.
"Lots of people know my father. They all tell me they know him, and it gets old pretty quick."
Moore smiled. "Hey, I think I detect a pulse there."
Motorcade confetti. A window sign: Big D loves Jack & Jackie.
"I heard about you, too. I heard you got leanings your daddy don't much care for."
"Let's try nigger lover. Let's try you chauffeur Sonny Liston around when he comes to Vegas, 'cause the PD's afraid he'll get himself in trouble with liquor and white women, and you like him, but you don't like the nice Italian folks who keep your little town clean."
The car hit a pothole. Wayne hit the dash.
Moore stared at Wayne. Wayne stared back. They held the stare. Moore ran a red. Wayne blinked first.
Moore winked. "We're gonna have big fun this weekend."
The lobby was swank. The carpets ran thick. Men snagged their boot heels.
People pointed outside-look look look-the motorcade passed the hotel. JFK drove by. JFK waved. JFK bought it close by.
People talked. Strangers braced strangers. The men wore western suits. The women dressed faux-Jackie.
Check-ins swamped the desk. Moore ad-libbed. Moore walked Wayne to the bar.
SRO-big barside numbers.
A TV sat on a table. A barman goosed the sound. Moore shoved up to a phone booth. Wayne scoped the TV out.
Folks jabbered. The men wore hats. Everyone wore boots and high heels. Wayne stood on his toes. Wayne popped over hat brims.
The picture jumped and settled in. Sound static and confusion. Cops. A thin punk. Words: "Oswald"/"weapon"/"Red sympath-"
A guy waved a rifle. Newsmen pressed in. A camera panned. There's the punk. He's showing fear and contusions.
The noise was bad. The smoke was thick. Wayne lost his legs.
A man raised a toast. "Oughta give Oswald a-"
Wayne stood down. A woman jostled him-wet cheeks and runny mascara.
Wayne walked to the phone booth. Moore had the door cracked.
He said, "Guy, listen now."
He said, "Wet-nursing some kid on some bullshit extradition-"
"Bullshit" tore it.
Wayne jabbed Moore. Moore swung around. His pant legs hiked up.
Fuck-knives in his boot tops. Brass knucks in one sock.
Wayne said, "Wendell Durfee, remember?"
Moore stood up. Moore got magnetized. Wayne tracked his eyes.
He caught the TV. He caught a caption. He caught a still shot: "Slain Officer J. D. Tippit."
Moore stared. Moore trembled. Moore shook.
Wayne said, "Wendell Durf-"
Moore shoved him. Moore ran outside.
- - -
The council booked him a biggg suite. A bellboy supplied history. JFK loved the suite. JFK fucked women there. Ava Gardner blew him on the terrace.
Two sitting rooms. Two bedrooms. Three TVs. Slush funds. Six cold. Kill that nigger, boy.
Wayne toured the suite. History lives. JFK loved Dallas quail.
He turned the TVs on. He tuned in three channels. He caught the show three ways. He walked between sets. He nailed the story.
The punk was Lee Harvey Oswald. The punk shot JFK and Tippit. Tippit worked Dallas PD. DPD was tight-knit. Moore probably knew him.
Oswald was pro-Red. Oswald loved Fidel. Oswald worked at a schoolbook plant. Oswald clipped the Prez on his lunch break.
DPD had him. Their HQ teemed. Cops. Reporters. Camera hogs all.
Wayne flopped on a couch. Wayne shut his eyes. Wayne saw Wendell Durfee. Wayne opened his eyes. Wayne saw Lee Oswald.
He killed the sound. He pulled his wallet pix.
There's his mother-back in Peru, Indiana.
She left Wayne Senior. Late '47. Wayne Senior hit her. He broke bones sometimes.
She asked Wayne who he loved most. He said, "My dad." She slapped him. She cried. She apologized.
The slap tore it. He went with Wayne Senior.
He called his mother-May '54-he called en route to the Army. She said, "Don't fight in silly wars." She said, "Don't hate like Wayne Senior."
He cut her off. Binding/permanent/4-ever.
There's his stepmom:
Wayne Senior ditched Wayne's mom. Wayne Senior wooed Janice. Wayne Senior brought Wayne along. Wayne was thirteen. Wayne was horny. Wayne dug on Janice.
Janice Lukens Tedrow made rooms tilt. She played indolent wife. She played scratch golf. She played A-club tennis.
Wayne Senior feared her spark. She watched Wayne grow up. She torched reciprocal. She left her doors open. She invited looks. Wayne Senior knew it. Wayne Senior didn't care.
There's his wife:
Lynette Sproul Tedrow. Perched in his lap. Grad night at Brigham Young.
He's shell-shocked. He got his chem degree-BYU/'59-summa cum laude. He craved action. He joined Vegas PD. Fuck summa cum laude.
He met Lynette in Little Rock. Fall '57. Central High desegregates. Rednecks. Colored kids. The Eighty-Second Airborne.
Some white boys prowl. Some white boys snatch a colored boy's sandwich. Lynette hands him hers. The white boys attack. Corporal Wayne Tedrow Jr. counters.
He beats them down. He spears one fuck. The fuck screams, "Mommy!"
Lynette hits on Wayne. She's seventeen. He's twenty-three. He's got some college.
They fucked on a golf course. Sprinklers doused them. He told Janice all.
She said, "You and Lynette peaked early. And you probably liked the fight as much as the sex."
Janice knew him. Janice had the home-court advantage.
Wayne looked out a window. TV crews roamed. News vans double-parked. He walked through the suite. He turned off the TVs. Three Oswalds vanished.
He pulled his file. All carbons: LVPD/Dallas County Sheriff's.
Durfee, Wendell (NMI). Male Negro/DOB 6-6-27/Clark County, Nevada. 6¢4?/155.
Pander beefs-3/44 up. "Well-known dice-game habitue." No busts outside Vegas and Dallas.
"Known to drive Cadillacs."
"Known to wear flamboyant attire."
"Known to have fathered 13 children out of wedlock."
"Known to pander Negro women, white women, male homosexuals & Mexican transvestites."
Twenty-two pimp busts. Fourteen convictions. Nine child-support liens. Five bail jumps.
Cop notes: Wendell's smart/Wendell's dumb/Wendell cut that cat at Binion's.
The cat was mobbed up. The cat shanked Wendell first. The council set policy. The LVPD enforced it.
"Known Dallas County Associates":
Marvin Duquesne Settle/male Negro/Texas State custody.
Fenton "Duke" Price/male Negro/Texas State custody.
Alfonzo John Jefferson/male Negro/4219 Wilmington Road, Dallas 8, Tex. "Gambling partner of Wendell Durfee."
County Probation: (Stat. 92.04 Tex. St. Code) 9/14/60-9/14/65. Employed: Dr Pepper Bottling Plant. Note: "Subject to make fine payments for term of probation, i.e.: every 3rd Friday (Dr Pepper payday) County Prob Off."
Donnell George Lundy/male Negro/Texas State custody.
Manuel "Bobo" Herrara/male Mexican/Texas State custody.
The phone rang. Wayne grabbed it.
"It's me, son. Your new best buddy."
Wayne grabbed his holster. "Where are you?"
"Right now I'm noplace worth bein'. But you meet me at eight o'clock."
"The Carousel Club. You be there, and we'll find us that burrhead."
Wayne hung up. Wayne got butterflies.
Wendell, I don't want to kill you.
From the Audio Cassette (Unabridged) edition.