- Hardcover: 608 pages
- Publisher: Knopf (4 June 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307957004
- ISBN-13: 978-0307957009
- Product Dimensions: 16.6 x 4.1 x 23.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,62,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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This Storm: A novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Import
Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
|Hardcover, Deckle Edge, Import||
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Praise for James Ellroy:
“One of the great American writers of our time.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Ask me to name the best living novelist who’s fierce, brave, funny, scatological, beautiful, convoluted, and paranoid . . . and it becomes simple: James Ellroy. If insanity illuminated by highly dangerous strokes of literary lightning is your thing, then Ellroy’s your man.”
“James Ellroy is the American Dostoevsky.”
—Joyce Carol Oates
About the Author
JAMES ELLROY was born in Los Angeles in 1948. He is the author of the Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy: American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and Blood's A Rover, and the L.A. Quartet novels: The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L. A. Confidential, and White Jazz. He lives in Colorado.See all Product description
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But I've given it 150 pages (out of a whopping 577), and I can barely force myself to keep reading. The issue isn't Ellroy's writing, which is very terse ad staccato, and not really my thing, but the fact that I have yet to encounter a single sympathetic character in the entire book. They're all corrupt and self-serving, and there are so many that Ellroy supplies a Dramatis Personae at the end to help readers keep them all straight. That's a lot of corruption.
It's hard to provide any kind of synopsis because the story is very episodic, and there are so many threads to the plot, including dirty LA cops and politicians, Mexican state police, Chinese proprietors of opium dens, Japanese gangsters, real or imagined, and various real-life characters like William Parker, Fletcher Bowron and Orson Welles. Plus hangers-on.
If you're already an Ellroy fan, perhaps you'll enjoy this, but it was decidedly not my taste, and I didn't see the point of devoting more time to it than I already had. I'm disappointed. I'd wanted to like it more.
I was okay with the seediness. Just know that there are no heroes in this book. Every last character is involved in something unsavory: rounding up Japanese for internment camps, prostitution, drugs, dirty money, etc. There are scandalous little asides to the sexual behaviors of movies stars of the time and even more scandalous bits about law enforcement and politicians.
Everyone is dirty.
This further challenged me when it came to caring about any of them. It didn't help that every last one of them was imbued with the casual racism that was prevalent during them time.
While I think the author did a masterful job of presenting a dark and dirty LA in one of the darkest and dirtiest times in the world's history, it doesn't make for pleasurable reading.
It is, however, a masterful representation of a time and place best left in the past.
Heavy rains unearth a body in Griffith Park; the body is somehow connected to a train robbery in which stacks of gold were lifted from the U.S. Mint. Meanwhile, three men are killed in a dope/sex den below downtown L.A. The den is owned by a race hustler named Martin Luther Mimms. While this is all going on Dudley is in Mexico, sporting an Army commission and busily moving heroin and slaves to L.A. Joan Conville has kept a diary and she assures us that all of these things are of a piece. Kay Lake, another diarist, assures us that Joan is correct. The principal narrative thrust of the novel is to solve the individual crimes and see how they are connected.
This is all very Chandleresque, of course. Ellroy has criticized RC for his sloppy plotting but he has continually pointed out the Chandlerian insight that all of the crime in society (from big business, big government, the police, et al.) is connected. Chandler also argued that the crime is the flip side of aggressive capitalism and the sharp dollar and Ellroy has reinforced that point, again and again and he even seems to celebrate it at the end of THIS STORM, seeing the criminal activity as somehow rambunctious, rowdy, riotous and distinctly American.
The clip prose has now been refined to a very sophisticated instrument and JE wields it with commanding skill. It appears to have become more lucid even as it tightens and modulates. In other words, THIS STORM is a little easier to follow than some of the earlier work and the hipster narrative is complemented by large chunks from Kay Lake's diary, which is written in 'straight' prose and simple to follow. JE has promised more from KL's diary in future novels.
I was impressed (no, let's be honest, I was dazzled) by JE's knowledge of forensic detail and technique, appropriate to 1942 knowledge and technology. This masterpiece commands the heights of semi-historical fiction and docudrama but also the heights of procedural narrative. The language will perturb the contemporary politically-correct. Actually, they will be likely to throw the book against the wall before burning it, but that language is fearless and accurate, given the sensibilities of those who use it. These are, after all, bad men doing bad things.
The one thing that I missed is theme. L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, e.g., begins with an epigraph from Steve Erickson: "A glory that costs everything and means nothing---" That (and the image of a fractured Bud White surviving among the wreckage) haunts us for a lifetime. The same theme is alive and well in THIS STORM but it is not made as explicit and it is not embodied within the characters quite as forcefully since some of the major characters who could exemplify it are (sorry, everyone) killed off in this novel. That makes the book feel a little more transitional than final and definitive, but that is always the challenge in writing a series in which we know, in advance, that the book under study has to be transitional. Indeed, all of the entries are transitional since the new L.A. Quartet is a prequel to its original. Thus, JE seeks to perfect the memory of a series of moments and he finds his instrument here in the hands of Kay Lake, playing the Reminiscenza sonata. This is not so much 'theme' as frozen feeling but it is no less powerful. To paraphrase Wordsworth, this is emotion recollected in a lonely, terrifying but still, somehow exuberant tranquility.
Bottom line: THIS STORM (the title taken from a line in a poem by Auden) is a don't miss. JE is at the top of his game, a game that no one else can even dream of playing without plunging into parody.
But, here's the thing, the fans and followers of Mr Ellroy's books will find his latest to be an "Ellroy book". I've looked at several others - truthfully, not read then - and they seemed to proceed in much the same form and substance. So I'd say that if you're a fan of James Ellroy and find the connection with Los Angeles in WW2, you'll probably like this book. But be sure to read all the reviews here and at Goodreads before making up your mind.