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3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  2,480 ratings  ·  80 reviews
Set in 1950s L A CLANDESTINE follows Frederick Underhill of the Los Angeles Police Department as he pursues his dream to become the most celebrated detective of all time. The death of a lonely woman gives him his chance. As an ex-lover of the victim, Underhill soon gets on the case with L A's most feared interrogator Lieutenant Dudley Smith. But instead of finding his care ...more
Paperback, 346 pages
Published 1996 by Random House (first published 1982)
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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  ·  review of another edition
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
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"
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
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
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
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.
Francesco Piras
Secondo libro di J. Ellroy.
Narra l'ascesa caduta e redenzione di Frederick Underhill giovane poliziotto appassionato di golf e bella vita nella Los Angeles degli anni 50.
Deciso a risolvere un caso di omicidio di una sua ex fiamma, Frederick in seguito ad un complotto ai suoi danni all'interno del LAPD, risulta costretto a fare un passo indietro e a ritirarsi.
Il desiderio di vendetta e un caso di omicidio simile lo porteranno a distanza di anni a scovare il vero assassino di entrambi i casi, spos
I thoroughly enjoyed “L.A. Confidential” and “American Tabloid” that I read many years ago. I caught L.A. Confidential on cable a few weeks ago and that whet my appetite for an Ellroy novel. While I was in the bookshop I stumbled across “Clandestine” and realized that several if the characters from the L.A. novels were also in this one.

I was not disappointed. This story introduces a young cop named Freddy Underhill. He is on the rise in the Wilshire district and in an effort to become one of the
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.
Riesgo Boudreaux
Empieza muy bien pero en el último tercio se ralentiza el ritmo sobremanera, decayendo (en mi opinión) el interés por los personajes, creándose un revoltijo de nombres y fechas. Un final bastante bueno y trepidante, adecuado para el personaje. En definitiva se lee con bastante adicción pero queda una historia fácilmente olvidable.
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
Clandestine isn't amped up on paranoia, hatred, lust, violence, pain and suffering the way Ellroy's other works are - it's only his second novel after all, he was just getting started. He hadn't quite found his jazzy-short-spurt-gunshot-sentences style (as in, there are actual adverbs in this book), but he had found his setting and characters - the LAPD of the post-war era, and the cops who yearn both for justice and their own personal lusts and vendettas. Clandestine is a decent intro to Ellroy ...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
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.
Jeffrey Zeltzer
Love LA Noir.

Would give a five star for first half of book. The ambience of early 50s LA is compelling. Police, sly characters and complex dames. Second half gets a 2 star. More typical violence and less fascinating story away from the city. Characters evolve into caricatures. Big fan of Elroy but total package misses the mark.
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
Robert F. Stuart
It's Ellroy

I've read many of Ellroy's books and this is one I overlooked. Found it at the Kindle store. It is a fast moving L.A. cops tale that will keep your attention to the end. And, yes, Dudley Smith enters into this tale. It is a good read, worth spending time with.
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.
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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
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