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3.9 out of 5 stars
LA Confidential: Classic Noir
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 20 November 1998
Definitely a masterpiece. Superlatives become a bit useless when you're this affected by a book. I had weird dreams whilst reading it and every now and then particularly nasty scenes still pop into my head. All in all it's not a particularly 'nice' book - but the style, rhythm and language are so well delivered that I found it impossible to stop reading, once I'd got used to the slang (an arcane mixture of 50's Americana and cop-speak e.g. cooze, statch rapo) The slang examples give you a taste of the subject matter, I don't think the film really does - the whole novel is so much darker and intense. I find that statement quite surprising since when I saw the film I was staggered by how dense it was. The novel is just so much more.
A few statements:
Complex - understatement of the year! I thought the film was complex! The screenplay has stripped away vast tracts of criminal conspiracy. If they'd been more faithful they would have had a 16 hour masterpiece, but I guess it would have been difficult to sell!! It's worth using a notepad to keep track of characters names and details. Every character has some role to play.
Punchy - no wasted dialogue, in fact no wasted adjectives or other grammatical niceties. A scene from the film that lasts ten minutes is dispatched in one page (chapter 20 I think). I re-read that chapter about ten times, showed it to my friends who had also seen the film. That single chapter is the best example of Ellroy's writing. He builds characters, motives and locations so well that every so often he can accelerate the action by stripping away everything until all that's left is the core action. And, man the action is good!
Dark - there are no such thing as goodies and baddies for Ellroy. The good guys are often particularly nasty. Some bad guys have legimate reasons for acting as such. The only common demoninator is that nearly everyone is corrupt. For this reason I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book to anyone unless I knew they'd like it. Sounds a bit paradoxical I know. This is a nasty book in places but when you consider that Ellroy's mother was murdered when he was very young you start to realise he may trying to exorcise his own personal demons.
So if you're a big fan of noir, like Millenium, Seven, the Big Heat and other such like then I think you'll like it.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 3 April 2001
If you've seen the film, the book tops it. If you haven't seen the film, then read the book and then watch the film. Anyone with any interest in crime fiction, or fiction, or just in life, should read this book.
Ellroy is fascinated by the intrigues of fifties LA, crooked politicians, celebs with secrets, cops with agendas, what happens in hotel rooms you rent by the hour.
Despite all this grime, there's a human heart beneath it. Exley, Vincennes and Bud White all have some redeeming features in their flawed characters and the prose is so pacey and heavy with atmosphere that two changes of shirt are required whilst reading the book.
Although this is one of a series, it stands alone and it also stands head and shoulders above any other piece of crime fiction in the last sixty years.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 23 February 2004
I bought this book to read for a university module on the Detective Story. It wouldn't normally be 'my thing', although I'd seen the film, and enjoyed it. At first, my doubts seemed to be confirmed: this thing reads like a screnplay, I thought to myself. Elroy's style is spartan, bordering on anaemic; there's an awful lot can be revealed in a couple of pages - and a lot often is. I got confused. But soon enough I settled in, and found this to be an immensely enjoyable (if somewhat sprawling) and intriguing tale. Elroy's spare style ultimately works in the book's favour: his staccato sentences conjure up the laconic private investigators and dark alleyways of classic Film Noir; scenes are revealed to the reader in filmic shots and jump cuts. This is the detective novel in widescreen. Well recommended
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 28 November 1999
This was my introduction to Ellroy, and crime writing in general. I was encouraged to read the book as a result of watching the film, and was more than rewarded, as the scope of the book far surpasses the film. Nothing is wasted, after the first read the novel seems amazingly complex, yet nothing is unnecessary, this is a tightly written book. It survives and improves on re-reading, as further links between characters and events are discovered. The characterisation is enough to keep you interested, they are beautifully rendered and provoke strong emotion in the reader, you actually care about them. While graphic at times and quite dark, the novel does not depress, it is realistic. Ellroy portrays his LA world in such depth that I was strongly encouraged to read more of his work, and was similarly encouraged by The Black Dahlia, and now intend to work through pre-LA Confidential Dudley Smith work.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 31 December 2004
It is highly recommended that you get acquainted with Ellroy's world by reading The Black Dahlia and/or The Big Nowhere before LA Confidential-not least so to pay respect to one of his best characters, Buzz Meeks, who appears very briefly in LA Confidential. It is a heavily subjective world in which you get the impression that the city, the time of the early 50's and LA's inhabitants are mostly fodder for Ellroy's omnivorous personal mission. So, for me, it's not strictly just about newspapers, showbiz or policemen but rather is more like tearing a (personal?) set of myths and suppositions apart to expose what motivates and festers inside. Wonderful. Maybe one day I'll read his bio.
Sometimes it IS like reading a phone directory, so many names are incessantly tossed your way, some useful, some distracting, badgering. I like this (and found it useful to dogear many pages where I felt this was happening, for future reference!) but some may not... and found I struggled to reach the end. But it resonates long after that, and rather nicely too. Not a bad film effort either.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 30 October 2014
Ellroy's stories are convoluted and often difficult to follow (hence 4 stars rather than 5), however they are gripping and hard to put down. They convey the interaction between cops and criminals (and indeed cops and cops) in 1950's LA, in a dark and atmospheric way - but they still have some lighter spots. A great read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 February 2015
If you are are stickler for good grammar then this may not be to your taste. It has the feel of a screenplay rather than a novel - a few phrases (not proper sentences) at the start of a chapter set the scene and then you are into the action.

The various plots and sub-plots are quite convoluted and take a while to get going and when a serial killer is thrown in at the end it just pushes credibility too far. Also towards the end you get the standard cliche of the main characters sitting round and explaining the entire plot to each other as clearly the audience is too dumb to follow things for themselves.

Overall the film was much better.
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First a couple of things: you may have seen the movie, but the book is something else altogether - it is simply impossible to render L.A. Confidential in two hours. And you may or may not like Russell Crowe, but Bud White is a far more complex character than the flick's hero. Next, this is the third instalment in a set of four books, of which the first two are The Black Dahlia and The Big Nowhere. While each can be read independently, it would be a real shame to miss the first two novels.

There are two strands to Ellroy. There is noir, copycat Chandler or Hammett set in the 1940s and filled with all their turbid atmosphere: pastiche novels even if Ellroy on occasion exceeds the original masters. (I turned to The Black Dahlia after having run out of Chandler.) And there are the modern thrillers in the vein of American Tabloid, mixing politics and violence, electoral machination and conventional material such as serial killers. What is fascinating about L.A. Confidential is that it bridges both genres, that it begins as noir and ends up as modern Ellroy. The novel has been acclaimed as the author's most accomplished, and this is no surprise. This is a piece of incredible dexterity in which heroes start as villains and vice versa, and counting more plot turns than one can count within what remains a coherent story. Indeed one of its few constants is that one villain remains on the reader's wrong side: Dudley Smith - and the L.A. Quartet of which this novel forms a piece must be the only quartet in literature united by one villain. I am already on to reading White Jazz.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 September 2014
Bam Bam Bam.

Blunt, bloody rat-a-tat-tat crime noir with all the blood, gas, lipstick, hypo, sex, sweat, death, punch, kink and smoke you could possibly get, as three hell bent men try to solve the Night Owl murders under the heat and hot stink of L.A.s 1950's political\crime ridden underbelly. This book is worth every dime of your hard earned cash. Read it, you dirty rat

Bam Bam Bam.
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on 21 April 2014
A very pacy,strangely compelling, dark & complex detective story capturing a real feel for how it was in sunny L.A. in the late 1940s to the late 1950s.
It's written in an unusual style, you have to stick with it & you'll be glad you did...
The best way I can describe this style of writing is that if you can remember going out on a particularly wild & eventful Sat night with your mates & then try to tell people all about it, you miss out loads of possibly irrelevant detail & just cover the highlights using a lot of slang; this is the style its written in, also there's a lot of Police procedural slang used, you just have to kind of suss it out & use your imagination more.
In saying that I can see a lot of people not liking this style or able to follow it, thankfully i'm not one of them, this is a book I would def recommend, I liked it a lot.
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