Sonny Liston cameos in this book, and like him the novel is heavyweight, brooding, complex and admirable as much for its flaws as its accomplishments. From time to time the writing style leaves you punch-drunk, Ellroy develops the technique he has used in the past of short clipped sentences, but takes them to a new level. There is barely a sentence in the book which is over eight words.
But every word is made to count and once you get the rhythm, hear the words in your head, what seemed odd and contrary suddenly becomes the most terrifying children's story you have ever read. That's what the technique of pargraphs like "Pete saw big D. Jack's head went Kablooey. Jackie dived for scraps" becomes in the end; the rhythm of children's storytelling set to work on the powers of history and the workings of driven men.
If there is any criticism to be made of the book it is that it lacks the central engaging force of Kemper Boyd that made American Tabloid so great. But, on the flipside of that, we see that Pete and Ward have moved on, developed. They are no longer relishing the playing of games, the weaving of history. They are caught up in it, unable to get out.
Ellroy sets a new morality in the book - Pete kills innocents to cover up JFK's murder (conventionally a bad thing), Pete kills mobsters to protect his friend's girlfriend from being killed (good or bad ? they're both murders, after all)
I hope to God he's already writing the third one. Read Tabloid first, then read it again, then read this.