Sunday, April 02, 2006

Book 6 1/2

"American Tabloid" by James Ellroy

Have you read any James Ellroy? No? Do you consider yourself a conno-sewer of writing? Then you jolly-well should have read some James Ellroy. He's the guy that wrote LA Confidential which, of course, the film was based on. His writing is (mostly) 50s-based gangster stories, usually set around LA and Hollywood, with a mix of real people and fictional characters. It's violent, fast-paced and quick-reading stuff with a minumum of syntactic fuss and a whole bunch of energy. In other words, it's cool, slick writing and enjoyable to boot.

"American Tabloid" looks at the events leading up to (brace yourself for some hard-core Wikipedia linking action...) the Bay Of Pigs invasion and it's effect on the assassination of JFK. Alongside a group of Ellroy-original bastards we have an examination of Bobby Kennedy's crusade against the Mafia and Hoover's FBI, Howard Hughes' quest to buy up Las Vegas and break the Kennedys and the CIA's attempts to get Castro. Throw in the Teamsters, Jimmy Hoffa and pro- and anti-Castro paramilitary groups and you have a tangled web of guns, drugs and violence.

I read this one quickly and it really got into my head. Ellroy's tone and turn of phrase are amazing. I don't know how much he edits and polishes, but the flow of the text is almost perfect. Also, I'm not normally one to notice character arcs (I'm usually too interested in the story itself) but watching the anti-heroes and post-heroes of Ellroys narrative respectively crumble and fail, then pick themselves up was enthralling. It is true that at times the convoluted plot was often confusing to follow (maybe I was tired when I was reading it sometimes), but overall - in case ye havenae worked it out - I loved this one.

Four Mob-connected CIA contractors out of five.


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