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by James Ellroy

Pub Date: June 15th, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-593-31934-5
Publisher: Knopf

A noirish romp through the sewage of 1950s Hollywood sleaze.

This entertainingly hop-headed narrative seems to occupy a tangled place in the author’s often cross-connected oeuvre. It isn’t the anticipated third volume in his historically epic Second L.A. Quartet, the prequel series to the L.A. Quartet, which provided his popular breakthrough—particularly after L.A. Confidential (1990) inspired such a well-received movie. Instead, it expands on the material the author explored in his novella Shakedown (2012), the confessions from purgatory of a crooked cop–turned–extortionist private investigator. Those coming to this fresh will find the author operating at maximum efficiency, mainlining a primo blend of over-the-top alliteration and down-in-the-gutter scandal. The book takes the form of the post-mortem confession of Hollywood scenester Freddy Otash, narrating from what he calls “pervert purgatory” as “the hellhound who held Hollywood captive.” It was an era when scandal sheets moralized against homosexuals and communist sympathizers and where Freddy lives by a simple credo: “I’ll do anything short of murder. I’ll work for anyone but the Reds.” A good case can be made that he has violated both. His escapades find him involved with discovering the murderer of a woman who had recently been both JFK’s seductress and a proposed participant in a threesome intended to underscore Rock Hudson’s sexual bona fides. Yet any mystery, or any plot, actually, simply serves as a peg on which the author hangs the supposedly dirty laundry of his cast of dozens—Duke Wayne, Jimmy Dean (and the entire cast and crew of Rebel Without a Cause), Liberace, Elizabeth Taylor, “Bad Boy Bob Mitchum,” and “Mattress Jack” Kennedy. It’s a delirious thrill ride through the tabloid underbelly of Tinseltown, though it runs out of gas before providing much of a climax.

Relentlessly rabid, for those with a taste for the seamier.