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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, 2 Aug. 2005
This review is from: American Tabloid (Paperback)
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.
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Initial post: 19 Oct 2009 13:50:59 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 19 Oct 2009 13:52:54 BDT]

Posted on 19 Oct 2009 13:52:47 BDT
Hi there - the BBC World Book Club is soon to be hosting Mr Ellroy for him to discuss American Tabloid. We need people like you to ask him questions! Is there anything about the book you'd like to ask him? Please email with anything you'd like to ask.

Ruth McDermott - Broadcast Assistant, World Book Club, BBC World Service
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