We are behind, and below, the scenes of JFK's presidential election, the Bay of Pigs, the assassination - in the underworld that connects Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, DC....
Where the CIA, the Mob, J. Edgar Hoover, Howard Hughes, Jimmy Hoffa, Cuban political exiles, and various loose cannons conspire in a covert anarchy....
Where the right drugs, the right amount of cash, the right murder, buys a moment of a man's loyalty....
Where three renegade law-enforcement officers - a former L.A. cop and two FBI agents - are shaping events with the virulence of their greed and hatred, riding full-blast shotgun into history....
James Ellroy's trademark nothing-spared rendering of reality, blistering language, and relentless narrative pace are here in electrifying abundance, put to work in a novel as shocking and daring as anything he's written: a secret history that zeroes in on a time still shrouded in secrets and blows it wide open.
©1995 James Ellroy (P)2015 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved
One of my favorite books.
In my experience, I've found that you either love James Ellroy, or you detest him. He is mostly known for his sharp short prose that bounces like a dropped butchers knife on the kitchen floor.
Thanks to Oliver Stone's film JFK, it seemed that everyone and their brother was doing something on JFK's assassination in the early 1990's. New conspiracy theories were coming out like gossip in the theeatre pool; New evidence seemed to be coming out, and I'm sure that Geraldo Rivera did something on him too at some point. I remember when Quantum Leap (one of my favorite shows during that time) even did something on it. The whole topic, while interesting, became over-saturated.
But then, in 1995, James Ellroy came out with something spectacular. A fictionalized account that that spans five years, leading up to the Kennedy Assassination is better than some of the teeth gripping conspiracies that are floating around. Ellroy doesn't go off and say that "this is actually how it was done" (we'll never know that), but his story is so fleshed out and detailed, that it all seems so plausible.
In normal Ellroy style, his characters are flawed. And he, in a style that was perfected in his 1990 novel LA Confidential, he is able to span months at a time by letting us read Headlines, or Confidential Documents or Audio Transcripts that help fill in the spaces without "talking about them". It's brilliant. Because there are times that you almost feel like you're not reading a book, as much as an investigator who has either been privy to secret documents, or have broken into someones office to peek at them.
Ellroy's world is a dark one. His is a guy who will never be seen writing YA or a picture book. And it's only been in recent years that I've seen a promotional photo of him where he's seen smiling. Which is a little off setting, because -- if you've read his work -- you think that the guy must never smile. But regardless of his dark nature, there's always something intriguing about his work. And American Tabloid is a true winner.
How I like to explain the book to others is: American Tabloid is the mob movie that made the Godfather look like a fairy tale. Now they just have to make the movie.
If I had one complaint about the Unabridged Audiobook is that: I was excited to get my hands on this unabridged recording for sometime. I had a copy of the Unabridged version that was done by Books-On-Tape years ago (narrated, I believe, by Dick Hill). Christopher Lane does a fantastic job in his delivery, and even with creating the personas of the characters he's develops. My only beef is that there are moments where it seems like the producer had seamed in points that needed to be re-recorded with Dick Hill's narration. It didn't take away from my enjoyment of the audiobook, but it was noticeable to me. Like a little bit of apple skin stuck between my teeth.
But other than that, fantastic all around.
This is one of Ellroy's best novels, and an essential for anyone who enjoys hardboiled, historical or true crime. The interweaving of historical facts and persons with fictional plotlines and persons is dazzling. The '60s are as fascinatingly depicted as they have ever been.
The use of terse, poetic and often offensive language such as racist terms is par for the course for Ellroy, but despite ultimately being intended to underline the flaws of society at this oft-fondly recalled time in U.S. history, it may be shocking to someone who hasn't read Ellroy before.
The Audiobook is near perfect, but the narrator's voices and accents sometimes blend together. It seems like he was hired largely on the ability to affect the Kennedy accent and does so very well, but that voice at times bleeds into other characters and it can be puzzling. Characters who hail from vaguely similar places sound the same. Mob figures and Cubans, for example, all sound the same. J Edgar Hoover sounds like a bad Kennedy impression most of the time. Also, there are some overdubs for random lines that were clearly recorded at a different time, as they are much louder than the rest of the book and basically drop all attempt at accents and voices. Annoying, but not often enough to be a big deal. Overall a great listen, despite these flaws, and a fair unabridged treatment of a must-read.
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
“He used to pimp and pull shakedowns. Now he rode shotgun to History.”
― James Ellroy, American Tabloid
Could I give this six stars? I'm almost serious. I've said in reviews of le Carré, that long, long after the temporary prince and princesses of pop literature (Yes, I'm looking at your Foer brothers, etc) are dead and their novels pulped for the next 21st-century style of Ikea furniture, people are going to still be reading James Ellroy.
Look, I'm only 1/3 into the Underworld USA trilogy, but I'm ready to announce that for me, at least, James Ellroy is America's John le Carré and the Underworld USA trilogy :: the Karla Trilogy, thus 'America Tabloid' :: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. It is seriously that good.
This book belongs right next to Mailer's Oswald's Tale and Harlot's Ghost, Don Delillo's Libra and Underworld, and Robert Littell's The Company. I mean, this dude knows how to write. I read a review the other day where they took 10 or so sentences from this book and the sentences were beautiful and hung by each word. One word taken out would destroy the whole meaning of the sentence. This guy isn't fancy dancing around with his prose. He is making every period, every verb count.
I'm glad, however, that I read Ellroy's LA Quartet first. That way I had a sense of context for Ellroy's approach to prose, violence, sex, paranoia, brutality, loyalty, hustle, hustlers, racism, money, power, police, crime, politics, corruption, greed, graft, the press, pulp, movies, history, etc. And he weaves it all beautifully. My guess is the Underworld USA trilogy is going to be more of a unified giant book broken into threes than his other series. The LA Quartet inhabited the same characters, same spots, same themes, but each stood fairly independent. I expect The Cold Six Thousand is going to build directly on this novel and Blood's a Rover will build again on Book 2.
Anyway, I have lots more I could say, but why. Go read it. It will leave you wanting to type all night and say nothing too. Ellroy will beat you, love you, turn on you, and leave you for dead.
The total fully-realized world of the CIA/FBI/Mob that Ellroy created, and trying to untangle it.
Ellroy's use of language is great. Maybe too great, as the book is more gory than what I'd usually pick.
Great voices, great cadence. There was something weird with the audio where it sounded like some parts had been recorded separately and spliced in -- a little distracting but otherwise very good.
I did not have an extreme reaction to this book, except it was very gory. I would definitely listen to another Ellroy book, though.
"There is scarcely any passion without struggle." Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
Named by Time magazine as 1995's Best Fiction, this novel is "packing." Written in a pugnacious style I haven't really read before, the book centers on 3 men: Kemper Boyd, a philandering FBI agent recruited by J. Edgar Hoover to infiltrate the Kennedy clan via Bobby's efforts to prosecute Jimmy Hoffa and his mob associates; Ward Littell, an obdurate alcoholic FBI agent who's on the outs with Hoover and ultimately becomes connected with organized crime in Chicago and Howard Hughes; and, Pete Bondurant, a bad-to-the-bone heavy lifter, former law enforcement officer, who works for Hughes, Hoffa and ultimately with the CIA.
The story takes place over 5 years from November 1958 through the day of Pres. Kennedy's assassination, covering shakedowns, collusions, heroin, the Bay of Pigs, numerous hits and a treasonous "contract." In addition to the H's (Hoover, Hughes and Hoffa), the novel is filled with FBI and CIA officials, anti-Castro rebels, the Hollywood crowd, CIA officials, Cuban commies and various mobsters from New York, Chicago and Miami.
Ellroy pulls no punches in this supercollider of a story from page 1 to the fateful finish.
The narrator did an excellent job with both the book's torrid pace and the various accents.
Brilliant historical fiction that is absolutely believable. Take the lead up to the most important, controversial, debated and all around terrible event of the 20th Century, and add Ellroy's storytelling at the top of his game and you get a knockout book. There have been numerous rumors of turning American Tabloid into a film and in the right hands it could be great. I can't wait to start "The Cold Six Thousand" next!
Amazing specimen of Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory literature that is so well crafted you can't tell if it is fact or fiction. Even better than Stephen King's 11-22-63. Narration is also excellent.
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