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3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  2,184 ratings  ·  66 reviews
Fred Underhill is a young cop on the rise in Los Angeles in the early 1950's -- a town blinded to its own grime by Hollywood glitter; a society nourished by newspaper lies that wants its heroes all-American and squeaky clean. A chance to lead on a possible serial killing is all it takes to fuel Underhill's reckless ambition - and it propels him into a dangerous alliance wi ...more
Paperback, 328 pages
Published February 1st 1999 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1982)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Pretty good early Ellroy. Though I had problems with the middle third (the pacing just goes totally dead as he goes into a longwinded, heavily expository backstory), I'd still call this "essential" to anyone (like me) who loved the LA Quartet--as it introduces key characters, like Dudley Smith, and locales, like the Victory Motel, that figure so prominently in the Quartet. In fact, the entire first third reads a lot like the LA Quartet, though a lot less polished. Once the story moves away from ...more
Mar 19, 2008 Andy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: hard-boiled crime fans
Shelves: hardboiled-dicks
When I went to a James Ellroy reading I went through my collection to find a good one I wanted him to autograph. I picked "Clandestine". It's that good! When he signed it, he wrote:

"To Andy -
Doom Dwells!
James Ellroy"
Even when reading one of James Ellroy's earliest and most conventional novels, it's easy to understand both why he divides fans of crime fiction so much *and* why he's one of the writers in the genre who have earned the most respect from academic literary circles. "Clandestine" is far from perfect, but mostly succeeds in going even further than Hammett and Chandler in elevating the detective novel to serious literature.

From the first page, you can notice that Ellroy's sensibility is closer to th
The fact that this took me over a year to read is likely indicative of something. I'd been wanting to read Ellroy since seeing LA Confidential, and maybe I should have held out for a copy of that.

I really liked the first half of the novel, and the cop who finds that his need for justice is too constrained by the police department. This is the formula that gives you Batman. It's also the formula that gives you Magneto. There's a dangerous line, and unlike many vigilante stories this one admits th
In an interview with Paris Review in 2009, James Ellroy said “If you’re confused about something in one of my books, you’ve just got to realize, Ellroy’s a master, and if I’m not following it, it’s my problem.”

He is indeed a master. His beautiful, lyrical writing of brutal and dark subjects is inspiring. I read this book many years ago and now have re-read it. It tells the story of a young ambitious policeman in Los Angeles who suspects a serial killer is at work in the deaths of two women. In t
J. Mark
I haven't looked into where this sits in Ellroy's oeuvre, but it's a bit of a mess.

Plus side: a few of the characters are the most compelling of Ellroy's creations, I really didn't know what was really going on until the last chapter.

Downside: I had a very hard time understanding the motives of the very complex main character, Fred Underhill. Seems that Ellroy was trying to include as many disparate traits in one man as he could get away with, and I don't think he really does get away with it.
My first Ellroy book, and it won't be my last but I wasn't very intrigued by this one.

The main character is something of a cipher and mishmash, at first an ambitious good guy but later like a younger Dudley Smith himself without much transitional explanation. Too many characters are too similar both in name and traits. The nine year-old(!) child who nearly looked like a man and acted like a perverted teenage delinquent, what was up with that? Why did our hero "fall in love"
This was my first James Ellroy book and I found it intriguing. The characters are all so beautifully flawed it makes them fascinating. The hero Fred Underhill risks his career as an LA Cop in a high profile case that winds up getting him kicked off the force. The crime and it's collateral damage to his life haunt him for years, threatening to destroy his life. Clandestine is a beautifully written who-done-it with unique twists and turns.
Philip Booth
Look up the definition of "hardboiled" in the dictionary, and you'll find James Ellroy. It's the first Ellroy novel I've read all the way through, after making a few starts through some of his other books. He deftly evokes the sun-sprayed corruption of L.A., circa early '50s. The story begins as a rather grisly police/detective mystery, and then shoots off into some surprising directions, at one point taking readers to the Midwest. Several folks are engaged in Very Bad Things, and the protagonis ...more
Another early Ellroy. He's circling the Dahlia here...introducing Dudley Smith and all of his psychological mastery. The hero in this one is fairly straightforward - - his only real sin is ambition. Also continues JE's early obsession with golf, which is fascinating. The villain is awesome - - kind of a weird pulp supergenius. It's goofy but cool. This dude's books, man, are just the best.
A fictionalized account of the real-life murder of Ellroy's mother. Read it with his autobiography, My Dark Places, to compare how he writes the same story in fiction/memoir.
Matteo Pellegrini

Los Angeles, 1951. A soli ventisei anni Freddy Underhill è già considerato un poliziotto di grande talento, destinato a una brillante carriera. Un giorno però viene assassinata una donna amica del detective e la polizia incarcera un innocente che, dopo un interrogatorio brutale, confessa e si suicida. Un errore madornale, per cui Underhill viene scelto come capro espiatorio. Lasciata la polizia, l'ex detective va alla deriva, si trasforma in un relitto umano. Ma quando, anni dopo, un'altra donna

Bob Reutenauer
Not nearly as masterful as _American Tabloid_ , book 1 in the Underworld Trilogy. This is early Ellroy, and I see long passages of brilliance , but mostly in the first third of book. The rest is uneven, rambling, and circuitously distant (Milwaukee!)f rom the heart and soul of his writing, his oeuvre, the dark noir of--post-war Los Angeles. The friendship of LAPD Officer Fred Underhill and his patrol partner "Wacky" Walker is the dominant feature of the first 100 pages, but ends there. Well done ...more
Ellroy's second novel starts strong - just as strong as any of his later works. Unfortunately, it then meanders through a weakly structured abyss of narrative sideshows, ending with an overly tidy Kumbaya.

All of Ellroy's later moves show clearly in this early work. His steady eye and steady hand dangling the narrative tangles above the blood, guts, and wonder of Los Angeles - a seething citywide hell bog that giveth and taketh away.

Certainly a good read for any Ellroy fan. But not the best pla
William Johnson
Though one story, this is really three books. And compared to the LA Quartet, this appears to be a rough draft for various plot points of that Quadrilogy.

The first part of the book is vintage, LA Quartet level Ellroy in which we follow our hero and his partner through their lives as LA patrolmen.

The second part of the book features three characters from the LA Quartet (including Dudley Smith) and plays out as an ethical character study and commentary on justice, due process and what being a man
è pur sempre un buon hard boiled, ma se messo a confronto con gli altri ellroy (in primis, American Tabloid, che resta il mio preferito) è veramente un brutto libro.
il personaggio di freddy pare un po' troppo raffazzonato, quasi che sia succube degli eventi (nessun ellroy's hero) è succube degli eventi; quello di lorna, invece, sembra troppo abbozzato e poco "pensato". lo spunto narrativo comunque è buono e la trama regge, al limite dell'impossibile, però, con qualche scivolone nel paradosso.
Chuck Briggs
This is an early effort by James Ellroy, although it features one of his best known creations, Detective Dudley Smith. It thought it was a pretty terrific story. Rookie cop James Underhill, ambitious and wanting to rise quickly on the force, spends his off hours chasing leads in hunt of a serial killer. Underhill is portrayed as a ruthless, arrogant intriguer, someone who will stop at nothing to forward his career but is still remarkable sympathetic in his relentless pursuit of the truth..

Set up
Feb 06, 2011 BoekenTrol rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: stubee
Recommended to BoekenTrol by: kizmiaz

This book came along as a ring book. Will be reading it soon.

At first I had a little difficulty getting into this book. A diiferent style of writing / placed in a different period with habits and objects I know the name of in Dutch but I'm not familiar with in English.
When I read over / through that, I liked the story.
Somewhere half way though, I thought of putting it down. It as quite violent, brutal and I started to dislike the book because of it. Not be
Tim Niland
Fred Underhill is a young policeman in Los Angeles on his way up. By day he keeps the city safe from crime and at night he prowls for loose women and goes looking for "the wonder," a sense of awe that he feels from anything that is new an unusual: from people, nature or crime. Things change dramatically when one of his romantic conquests is later found murdered in the manner that makes Underhill suspect a serial killer may be at work. Underhill has a suspect, and working under a black flag with ...more
Francis T. Villante


I liked the book. it started off slow but then it really picked up. it's main character Freddy Underhill an ex cop goes on a hunt for revenge it gets a little confusing with all of the characters and twists and turns in the plot. overall it was a good read. definitely a book you ha ve to read in a short time or you have to refresh yourself if you take your time in reading it.
I love L.A. Confidential (the film) so much that I wanted to read a book that evoked the same milieu, the same literary "terroir," while avoiding a retread of the same plot that would inevitably come with reading L.A. Confidential (the novel) itself. What better way to accomplish that goal than by going to James Ellroy's other work? Clandestine isn't one of Ellroy's most widely-known efforts, but possibly because it was one of his earliest, there's a rough-edged "rawness" to the writing that I f ...more
Steve Malley
I've got this strange fascination with Ellroy's early work-- it's good, but not brilliant.

Supposedly, the story goes that the original submission for L.A. Noir was insanely long. The publisher wouldn't touch it until it was trimmed down, but Ellroy couldn't find anywhere to make cuts. A joking remark, 'Maybe I should take out all the and's and the's and stuff', led to the telegraphic style that makes his work so raw and brilliant.

Which is what fascinates me. All the other elements are here: th
I found this hard to get through as the fluctuating skill and stupidity of the main character was distracting. I read this well after many others by Ellroy and many other styles so it was hard to get back into his style and the context. But the story is weak and the pace stutters.
Dan Lemke
Another early work by James Ellroy (see Brown's Requiem review) that is pretty typical of the author's narrative style. Ellroy's prose grows more staccato later in his career, but here (as in the Lloyd Hopkins trilogy) the prose is fairly typical of the genre (partially this is because the book is told from the first person POV). The murders are grotesque without being overly graphic; Ellroy's murders tend to be more offensive than that of Christie or even Chandler, but he knows when to stop on ...more
Robert Intriago
An enjoyable book but not his best. In my opinion some of his early work are better because of the change in his writing style, which first appeared in “L.A. Confidential”. His easy flowing manner of the early books transformed itself into a series of disconnected sentences in what I call a “machine gun” presentation. Wikipedia calls it “Staccato”. This is the story of Fred Underhill and his experiences in the LAPD in the early 1950s. The reason I decided to read it is the fact that in the book ...more
Tere Fredericks
Not Sure About This One

As a noir book, it not only hits the spot, it fulfills everything you can imagine. Except the ending. I am truly ambivalent about the ending. Is a noir book supposed to have a happy ending? Was this a happy ending? I recommend this book to anyone a fan of the genre, then answer the questions above.
Fred Underhill, a young, smart and attractive police officer had everything going his way. Then he involved himself in a murder investigation that ended badly and was forced off of the police force. Some years later, another murder draws him back into investigating, this time without the benefit of a badge.

A fast paced ending and an intricate plot save this book after an early resolution. A slow-moving middle section is thankfully not extensive. While it is fairly easy to guess who the villain
Nick De jong
fantastic story teller

I love James Ellroy's books. His style of writing, the pictures he paints with words. Every character is flawed in some way. Some you loath more than others, Great book.
Chrisandra M. Boehme
Odd book

This book is written in a different style from anything that I have read before. It took a long time for me to get into it. I do not think that I would read another book by this author
I think James Ellroy had two different plot lines and couldn't figure out what to do with either of them, so he tied them together with a tenuous thread and pronounced the result a novel.
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James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. His L.A. Quartet novels—The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz—were international best sellers. His novel American Tabloid was Time magazine’s Best Book (fiction) of 1995; his memoir, My Dark Places, was a Time Best Book of the Year and a New York Times Notable Book for 1996. His novel The Cold Six Thousand was a New York ...more
More about James Ellroy...
The Black Dahlia (L.A. Quartet, #1) L.A. Confidential (L.A. Quartet, #3) American Tabloid (Underworld USA, #1) The Big Nowhere (L.A. Quartet, #2) White Jazz (L.A. Quartet, #4)

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