Mysterious Book Report No. 381
by John Dwaine McKenna
The writer James Ellroy is a genius, and a living legend who follows no rules but his own. He cuts, slashes and burns the English language however he sees fit, then reassembles it at will in his own inimical style to bring forth what can only be called masterpieces of American literature. He writes fiction; he writes about crime, criminals and criminality, but transcends genre and creates iconic works that are universally admired, unique, and wholly original. He is irascible, unpredictable, utterly unpretentious . . . and what every serious wordsmith wishes to be when they grow up. So when he produces a new work, the whole world pays attention. Here’s his latest:
This Storm, (Knopf, $29.95, 590 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-95700-9) by James Ellroy, is the follow-up to 2014’s Perfidia, and picks up the narrative in January 1942. The city of Los Angeles, and the whole country, is reeling in shock from the unprovoked sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. In the City of Angels, local Japanese citizens are being rounded up and slammed in jail as widespread and violent anti-Japanese sentiment sweeps the nation, and the internments begin. That’s when a massive thunderstorm hits the city, causing floods, mudslides, and a body in a burnt wooden box to wash up in Griffith Park. The cops tag and bag it as routine evidence, but they’re wrong. It’s an early warning sign of chaos, and an indicator of the tectonic social shifts that are about to grip the city.
Told with a robust cast of characters who never seem to run out of schemes, malice or bad intentions, the twists, turns and treachery, as well as the debauchery, depravity and savagery is unending in this hard-boiled look at a country at war with the world, and a city at odds with itself.
From the author’s booknotes:
“THIS STORM is the second volume of the second L.A. Quartet. The first volume, PERFIDIA, covers December 6 through December 29, 1941. The L.A. Quartet: THE BLACK DAHLIA, THE BIG NOWHERE, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, and WHITE JAZZ—covers the years 1946 to 1958 in Los Angeles. The Underworld U.S.A. trilogy: AMERICAN TABLOID, THE COLD SIX THOUSAND and BLOOD’S A ROVER covers 1958-1972, on a national scale.”
It is a remarkable body of work by the man “Widely considered to be the greatest living crime novelist and a major literary figure . . .” In a just world he would already be a Nobel Laureate.
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