Kirkus Reviews QR Code
WHITE JAZZ by James Ellroy


by James Ellroy

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1992
ISBN: 0375727361
Publisher: Knopf

L.A., 1958. Corrupt Lt. Dave Klein, rapidly into a morass of bribes, fixes, and murder, hunts a thief whose crime-family victims don't want him caught and agrees to dig dirt on a Howard Hughes starlet--all while struggling to duck the fallout from his latest killing. As controversy over the proposed stadium for the Dodgers in Chavez Ravine brings city politics to a boil, Dave gets the word from mobster Mickey Cohen to help Sanderline Johnson, a half-wit croupier picked up in a raid, out his ninth-floor window before he can testify. The official verdict is flipped-out suicide, but the murder squeezes Dave between his department patron, detective chief Ed Exley; his would-be patron, Capt. Dudley Smith, deep in the Organization's pocket; double-dealing D.A. Bob Gallaudet; and Welles Noonan, a politically-minded US attorney with blood in his eye. Meanwhile, Exley puts Dave in charge of a break-in to the home of mobster J. C. Kafesjian, who wants him off the case; and Dave falls in love with Glenda Bledsoe, the starlet whose contract Hollywood mogul Hughes wants to break--and vows to protect her from the man whose money he's taking to break her. As if all this weren't trouble enough, somebody (Exley? Gallaudet? Dud Smith?) frames Dave for a murder that's been captured on film. Finally, the mayhem is garnished with Ellroy's patented Extra Chunky prose, familiar to veterans of LA. Confidential, etc. (sample action scene: "Linoleum floor--maroon dots--dried blood. Chick on the bed, zipping his fly. Knucks/gun butt--quick--I bashed his face, hacked his nuts, cracked his arms. Bone jar up my arms--Chick balled himself tight." Dave thinks like this too). Ellroy's been cooking up these overseasoned ragouts too long to change his recipe now; if you don't already know him, a page or two will convince you whether he's genius or a poseur, or both.