9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stone-Cold Classic
The first of the Underworld USA trilogy and my own personal favourite Ellroy novel. Not only classic crime/thriller writing, this is a work demanding serious consideration as 'The Great American Novel'. Intense, violent and cynical, Ellroy's canvas expands beyond LA to the whole of the USA and beyond. His fevered reimaginings of our collective past burn with rage and...
Published on 2 Sep 2004 by Mr. Warren M. Fisher
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to understand
It's probably my fault, but I found Ellroy very difficult to read and understand. It's a shame really because American Tabloid is the sort of genre I really like - fiction based on fact. But I'm afraid I suffered too long and had to pack it in. It is very strong American 'dude speak' I wish I could get a similar book (gangster/Kennedys/Hoover/Union bosses/show biz) that I...
Published 9 months ago by W. R. Robinson
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stone-Cold Classic,
The first of the Underworld USA trilogy and my own personal favourite Ellroy novel. Not only classic crime/thriller writing, this is a work demanding serious consideration as 'The Great American Novel'. Intense, violent and cynical, Ellroy's canvas expands beyond LA to the whole of the USA and beyond. His fevered reimaginings of our collective past burn with rage and cynical wit. Corruption and betrayal are the daily currency of the nation's leaders and their henchmen, of the rich and powerful, with anyone still clinging to a shred of idealism crushed by their vaunting ambition and greed.
Immensely readable, as gripping as any thriller, but this burns with an feverish passion and intelligence suggesting more. Beneath the darkness and nihilism, one senses Ellroy's own romantic yearning, but he knows this is nothing in the face of ruthlessly amoral determination. Spellbinding and wrenching, this is a stone-cold classic.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Modern Classic,
If ytou have any interest at all in crime writing or the America of the 1950's and 60's you have to read this book. I read the Black Dahlia several years ago and enjoyed it, but it was, in my opinion, nothing compared to this. I truly believe this to be amnong the very best (if not THE best)fiction I have read. And I have read a couple of books a month for many years. A superbly dark, shocking, intriguing novel. The manner in which the author binds together real historical characters with fictional ones, real documented events with invented, and real relationships and conversations with new is truly stunning
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fabulous introduction,
like my above title states i found American Tabloid a fabulous way to introduce myself to the literary world of James Ellroy.The manner in which he portrays such a fascinatingly intense era brimming with high drama and using all the main players that made up the USA at that time made for very compelling reading indeed.I now have The Cold Six Thousand at the ready and i anticipate another couple of weeks of reading into the small hours if AT is anything to go by(the fact that it is indicated to be even better has me positively salivating)
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars much to admire in this extraordinary book but little to like,
Reading this book is a little like enduring some particular -if temporary - form of mental illness. It is trip inside the lives of a variety of characters -both real and imagined-who are connected by strings of violence and puddles of loathing. There is an almost total absence of those virtues that feature so highly in the mythology of America - truth, honour, fair play and personal integrity. Even within the writer himself you sense the same darkness and the same anger that drives so many of the characters of this novel. Ellroy also takes us deep inside Washington and provides an arena for the politicians to reveal themselves - naked and disgraced - as the real gangsters, the real torcholders of self serving viciousness, double dealing and the American Way. There is something dark-really dark- in James Ellroys writing and in the man himself. There is little to lift us and give us hope for the species. You are left feeling that lunch with James Ellroy might turn out to be a heavy meal. Ultimately, however, this book is a great triumph because it leaves you certain that even if all as it is described is not entirely all as it happened it does not matter. For those parts that might not be entirely true convince as being absolutely real! What is revealed in this book is neither lovely nor good but it emerges from any careful reading triumphant because of the power and the quality of the writing which left me believing absolutely that these characters and the edgy affluent and violent events they moved through ultimately consumed them and corrupted them completely. This was no golden age - this was no Camelot and these were not chivarous men. Thankfully we now live in better more accountable times - don't we? This remains for me an extraordinary well written book teeling a story that may or may not contain any historical accuracy but it is a book which wonderfully evokes a time and place more successfully than we could really expect. A wonderful book and -in my view- the finest work -so far - of the finest crime writer working in America to-day and a crime writer only rivalled by the great Jim Thomson as the finest of the century. READ THIS BOOK
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HISTORY WITH BODILY FLUIDS - AND NOIR STYLE!,
This review is from: American Tabloid (Mass Market Paperback)
History has always been written by the victors - and they have the tendency to iron-out all its bloody details and hide all their dirty secrets. This a TRUE CLASSIC: imagine a history book that reads like a tabloid. Every story up close and personal, complete with every gory detail described. IN CINEMASCOPE & TECHNICOLOR.
The dirty making of the Kennedy fortune. Hoover as a hypochondriac cross-dressing extortionist. Everybody wiretapping everybody. The Camelot President clocked at 6 minutes. The Mob rigs the election for said President; invades Cuba with clansmen and Castro's exiles in blood-lust frenzy; gets burned - and gets even the only way it knows how. And in the middle of it all, two FBI agents trapped in a downwards spiral of serving multiple masters.
JAMES ELLROY does not pretend to write the dark side: he has barely escaped it himself and knows all its intoxicating scents and shadows. Read for the plausible details of history's margins. Enjoy the staccato prose of natural wit, verbatim FBI communication files and 50's Tabloid lingo.
29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They'll be talking about this book 500 years from now,
Let's get one thing straight. This book is bigger than your house. Taller, wider, deeper and more powerful than anything you have beheld up to now, it takes the myth that was once 'nice' John F Kennedy, fleeces it, rips the guts out of it and blasts the remains into the gutter from where it started.
This is a 600 page novel with a world-famous ending, the assassination of JFK. So you think, why should I read it? Well, it will change your knowledge (or what you had been taught) about one of the most significant periods in American History, and it will tell you things you definitely didn't know about a whole string of household names : Jack Kennedy, kid brother Robert, their seriously bad-news father 'Irish Joe' Kennedy, J.Edgar Hoover, Howard Hughes, Jimmy Hoffa, Fidel Castro, Richard Nixon, Lyndon B Johnson, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner and a colourful list of 'made-guy' underworld gangsters such as Santo Trafficante, Carlos Marcello, Johnny Rosselli and Sam Giancana. One of the low-life gangsters featured is a certain Jack Ruby, and I think we all know what he is best known for. In fact this novel is so daringly matter-of-fact about the lives (and loves) of most of the above-named that it makes me wonder how it ever came to be published at all. And it's no over-statement to suggest that you could write a book about this book.
It is, at the end of the day, a novel, which is to say a work of fiction, but I for one wanted to believe that every element of it was true because it helped me to understand so much more than I had been 'educated' to believe in the newspapers and other media down the years. But essentially American Tabloid surrounds the inter-twining lives of three men : hit-man Pete Bondurant, and two federal agents Kemper Boyd and his once protégé Ward Littell. Boyd devotes his career and in turn his life to the Kennedy cause and is nearly ruined when they ultimately turn against him. Littell dedicates his life, and takes life-threatening risks in doing so, to help expose the corruption behind the Kennedy family and the Jimmy Hoffa union rackets - and again gets trodden on by those he thinks he is working for. These two men end up in very different positions and with inverted political attitudes as a result. Meanwhile Bondurant flits between hits for Hughes, Hoffa, the FBI and the CIA and at times rightly regards himself as a CIA agent. Drugs abound, indeed heroin seems to be the leading if not traditional currency for the CIA in its financing of plans to invade Cuba and oust the new leader Fidel Castro.
The time period covered is 22nd November 1958 to the same date in 1963 - the two-year run-up to the 1960 US Election and the 1000-day tenure of JFK as President until his assassination in Dallas. But if like me you've always wanted to know who shot him, why he was shot, and many other questions surrounding his brief presidency, then American Tabloid must surely be the most eye-opening source of information even if it must presumably have its inaccuracies. The writing style may not be to everyone's taste (although I quickly became accustomed to it), but if you're only half interested in What Really Happened to JFK (and the Bay of Pigs disaster), you really must read American Tabloid. It truly is a revelation.
And if you love this, the great news is that you can then read The Cold Six Thousand, which is as instant a sequel as you could ask for, as it begins on the day of the John F Kennedy assassination and leads up to the killing of baby brother Bobby. Be in no doubt - James Ellroy stands tall among all peers and is, in my considered view, one of the very best writers alive today.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "all the whores hustle, and all the hustlers whore" PJ Harvey,
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This review is from: American Tabloid (Paperback)
Welcome to the black heart of the real world.
If you read this book when you are too young you will think the world can't truly be this debased and may not understand.
If you have reached an age where the scales are falling from your eyes, and the compromises accrete, then Mr Ellroy is at hand, and ready to escort you.
This book is perfectly realised, flawless.
Ellroy sees to the heart of the matter and has the talent to make art out of it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The buzzing corruption of America's trip to the grassy knoll,
By A Customer
Ellroy pulls out all the stops, in this his most complete and brilliant work. No narrative device, no historical event or viscious rumour is left unused on this journey to America's soul.
Ranging from blood spilt on the beaches of Cuba to JFK's bed sheets, this book tells in a wide ranging breathtaking style the events that led to Dallas. The Mafia, Cuban Exile, Hoffa, Howrad Hughes, Bobby, Joe K snr. all revolve around the axis of an America, with too much time and money to spend.
Buy it, lend it or steal but read this book.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncompromising, but moves beyond just being a crime novel,
Sacriligeous I know, but is this actually a better novel than LA Confidential? The characters aren't perhaps as engaging - none have Bud White's gentleness and rage mixture, but boy does Ellroy put them through the wringer.
The key word in the book belongs to Kemper Boyd 'compartmentalisation' - the lead character Kemper ends up working for the FBI, the CIA, Jack Kennedy, the mob, the Cuban resistance force and most of all himself- constantly juggling competing interests.
Big Peter Bondurant, wrists so thick he can snap handcuffs starts out as a deeply unpleasant character, the rough to Kemper's smooth, but is the character who undergoes most transition. Littell Ward, attorney who hero worships Kemper and Bobby Kennedy begins as a wet, idealistic man who becomes something altogether more dark and powerful.
The book is basically a rewrite of American history, compelling and believable. Ellroy says to himself, what if three men were responsible for some of the biggest drama in American history ? And what's more, that they didn't do it out of any grand design, but just as solutions to holes they had dug themselves into.
It definitely needs a second reading, whereupon the book comes alive. It would be tough to call between this and LA Confidential - but nobody with an interest in fiction need choose between, read both and decide for yourself...
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a ..blast,
I thought this was the best book I'd ever read until I read 'My Dark Places'. Having read them both again recently, 'American Tabloid' goes back numero uno. Its style, ambition, brutality and outright, downright audacity mean it's tops. Ellroy beginners beware, though. Start with Clandestine, move on to the LA Quartet, but leave 'White Jazz' penultimate. Ellroy is one mean mutha. And he writes like Satan.
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American Tabloid by James Ellroy (Paperback - 3 Jun 2010)