L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
OK, well, if you’re looking for a quick little detective romp that makes you feel good about policing in America you REALLY need to look elsewhere. I knew this would be dark going in but man, this book is really dark and pretty graphic. I had to take a few breaks while reading it because it was getting a bit overwhelming. It is also one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.
This story is way more twisty and involved than the movie. It makes sense, there is no way you could tell this story in two or so hours, so I’m glad they did that. Every time you think something is going to tie up and let you move on to the next thing you are wrong, that little detail pops up down the road. There were also several times I actually said, “No way!” or “Shiiiiiiiittttt….” and once , “Asshole!” out loud when a new twist popped up.
Ellroy is really amazing at writing character. You have a book full of incredibly shitty people, and you end up having a lot of sympathy for most of them. You’re basically spending most of the book really rooting for a thug, which is kind of an odd experience, though if you’re a fan of Noir it’s a familiar one. Man, these people suck and have ZERO business being cops, but damned if I wasn’t pulling for them anyway.
I don’t want to give any more of the plot away than I need to, but I think most of us know the basics given the popularity of the movie. It’s about L.A. Cops investigating a brutal mass shooting at the Night Owl Diner and all the twists and turns that ensue. There are the black kids who are the presumed suspects because, well, mainly because they’re black. There’s the rich dude side dabbling in pimping hookers that are dead ringers for famous movie stars, the movie star callgirls themselves, drug addicted narco cops, brutally violent beat detectives working in mob “containment”, and the ambitious son of a Captain looking to outshine his dead hero brother… It’s all here and a lot more. Oh, and if you think you know how it ends and wonder if you should bother? You really don’t quite know. It really is different enough from the movie for that to really not give you an extreme amount of insight.
I did on occasion have little bit of trouble following what was happening. It’s written in Cop-speak and 50’s slang. It all works to build the world and help you stay in the flow, but sometimes it can get a little Trainspotting-esque, like I found myself reading passages out loud because it made it easier to suss out the jive talk. Unless you’re really familiar with that don’t expect this to be a fast read. I will say, thought the time and effort are very much worth it. Fair warning, there are a lot of racial slurs as well. SO MANY racial slurs. I was really uncomfortable sometimes with the degree of racism exhibited by the characters, which I’m sure is the point. The really sad part is it doesn’t feel at all made up or exaggerated, it felt real and normal, which, again, is the point, but it does not help me back down on my convictions regarding the Black Lives Mater or police brutality, I will definitely say that.