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American Tabloid (Underworld USA #1)

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  10,182 Ratings  ·  575 Reviews
We are behind, and below, the scenes of JFK's presidential election, the Bay of Pigs, the assassination--in the underworld that connects Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, D.C. . . .

Where the CIA, the Mob, J. Edgar Hoover, Howard Hughes, Jimmy Hoffa, Cuban political exiles, and various loose cannons conspire in a covert anarchy . . .

Where the right drugs, the right amount of c
Mass Market Paperback, 544 pages
Published April 24th 2001 by Ivy Books (first published 1995)
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Jul 06, 2009 brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
to paraphrase kris kristofferson: if it sounds fucked up, man, that's because it is.

sometimes i chug coffee to the point where i'm glazed with sweat, red-eyed, about to crap my pants, and i throw my headphones on and blast either miles davis bitches brew or motorhead ace of spades. i sit down in front of the computer and write write write. and the result is exactly what you'd imagine from a mediocre writer w/a flair for the hyperbolic all hopped up on caffeine. not too good. imagine, however, i
Aug 24, 2009 Greg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, favorites
Check out the prose. Dig the style. Raymond Carver looks verbose. Hemingway looks weak and fey.

Dig the streamlined story. 1500 pages of plot compacted into 576.

Dig the violence. The greed. The manipulations, the conspiracies.

Check out the Outfit. The Beard. The Cadre. Jimmy and the Klan. The Hair and Little Brother all gunning towards history like a hophead mainlining a speedball.

Check out the geek posing at writing this review.

James Ellroy has called me a panty sniffer to my face. Granted, he calls everyone at his book signings a variety of colorful names, but I still like the idea that I’ve been personally mock-insulted by one of my favorite authors. This is his best novel, and my love for it is pretty much unconditional.

As proof of my devotion: My internet alias is from a character in it, and I’ve got an autographed copy of it sitting on my shelf along with an signed copy of the sequel, The Cold Six Thousand. The t
Richard Vialet
He used to pimp and pull shakedowns. Now he rode shotgun to History.
Whoa, Ellroy's done it again: another 5-star read. So far, that's 5 out of 5 for me. This time, he takes his talent for weaving complex plots and conspiracies from his 50's Los Angeles setting and unleashes it nationwide in an epic re-shaping of the country's turbulent history between 1958 and 1963 as we follow three men who play pivotal roles in the events that ultimately lead to that infamous day in Dallas, Texas on Novem
Feb 19, 2016 Brandon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, ebook, 2016
I began reading this book around mid-December but given the chaotic nature of my life at the time, I found it nearly impossible to focus. Seeing as Ellroy’s American Tabloid is a novel that commands your attention, a wandering mind will do you no favors. So when things settled down, I picked it back up, determined to dive back into the world of mid-20th century America and read all about The Kennedys, the FBI/CIA, Jimmy Hoffa and the Communist Red Scare.

With American Tabloid, Ellroy is uncomprom
Oct 18, 2009 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Whoa. This book is the literary equivalent of sticking your head out of a car window at 80mph.

I don’t hear this talk much anymore, but at one point folks were very interested in defining and/or writing “The Great American Novel.” I assert that this may be it. Forget everything about grandma and her apple pie, with this book Ellroy grabs us by our collective red, white, and blue lapels and flings us out of the barn loft into a big warm pile of the real history of the United States. As unpleasant
Ian GalaDali
On Tour

In 1996, Ellroy toured Australia with one of my favourite bands, the Jackson Code.
Ellroy did a number of readings from AT, then the band played and then he sang/narrated with the band.
It was a great night, although I am hazy on the detail.
It was an early date with my wife, and I didn't get as drunk as I would otherwise have done (and do now), but I am hazy nevertheless.
I don't know how they got the idea to do a gig like this.
I remember that Ellroy wore a great Hawaiian shirt.
He looked lik
aPriL does feral sometimes
If readers haven’t encountered one of my schizophrenic reviews that litter my GR book diary here and there, I’m writing another one again. I always feel torn when I admire the talented writing and/or depth of research and ideas of a writer, and ultimately, the author’s tricky mind, but at the same time, I also think the subject/characters are despicable, horrible and unpleasant. One such book that I read previously was by Octavia Butler, ‘Fledgling’. ‘American Tabloid’ is another. Once again, I ...more
America was never innocent. We popped our cherry on the boat over and looked back with no regrets. You can’t ascribe our fall from grace to any single event or set of circumstances. You can’t lose what you lacked at conception.

Conspiracy theorists have been among us since the inception of mankind. Whenever an event of a particular scale and importance happens they will be there, in the background, quietly (well, not always) disputing the official story and proposing alternative explanations. Con
pierlapo  quimby
Sep 24, 2012 pierlapo quimby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anglofoni
Questo romanzo si può dire che segni un confine netto nella mia vita di lettore, la mia linea d'ombra.
Ricordo che lo comprai il giorno stesso dell'uscita, o quello dopo, avevo letto qualche anticipazione sui quotidiani (forse conservo ancora un ritaglio della Stampa da qualche parte) e quando lo presi dall'espositore all'ingresso di una minuscola libreria oggi chiusa, il libraio, caro amico, mi guardò annuendo con intima soddisfazione.
Conoscevo Ellroy solo di nome all'epoca, ma il suo progetto s
Feb 04, 2016 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2016
“He used to pimp and pull shakedowns. Now he rode shotgun to History.”
― James Ellroy, American Tabloid


Could I give this six stars? I'm almost serious. I've said in reviews of le Carré, that long, long after the temporary prince and princesses of pop literature (Yes, I'm looking at your Foer brothers, etc) are dead and their novels pulped for the next 21st-century style of Ikea furniture, people are going to still be reading James Ellroy.

Look, I'm only 1/3 into the Underworld USA trilogy, but I
Apr 14, 2015 Nate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just posted this but I was listening to the Fugs and this song should be the fucking theme to this book:

Who can kill a general in his bed?
Overthrow dictators if they're Red?
Fucking A-man!
CIA man!

Who can buy a government so cheap?
Change a cabinet without a squeak?
Fucking A-man!
CIA man!

Who can train guerrillas by the dozens?
Send them out to kill their untrained cousins?
Fucking A-man!
CIA man!

Who can get a budget that's so great?
Who will be the 51st state?
Who has got the secret-est service?
One tha
(this was a diversion, something to transport)

Much of the GR community shares a united front on American Tabloid, comparing it to meth or serial lines of blow, Ellroy is credited with thousands of pages of plot stripped down to slide into a mere 600 page volume. There is a measure of truth in said consensus. Well some of the metaphors do work. It does often appear that an acetylene torch is applied to the reader's soul. Events do come tumbling into focus and then disappear in the span of a few p
Dec 27, 2007 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: central north carolina
while ellroy's chandler-on-crack routine is exhausting stylistically [mock sample excerpt: "this spic commie was a real cooze hound. dig his geeked-out arsenal: 20 30.06 shells, three silencer-rigged .45s, a rapemobile-mounted shotgun. agency/outfit sanctioned figured kemper boyd."], _american tabloid_'s dark reimagining of early-60s optimism as a cesspool of cynical political power plays underscored by mixed alliances, double- and triple-crosses, and the reduction of the era's most "powerful/in ...more
Oct 10, 2015 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
B's got a crush on Pete Bondurant from ever since way back when he first read The Cold Six Thousand but Kemper Boyd's my guy - gets me every time with his classic compartmentalization (nobody likes Ward, but I have a little bit of a soft spot for him). I put off finishing this for as long as I could because I didn't want it to end because it's totally brilliant and because Ellroy does the passage of time so well that even though it'd been two days and I was halfway through it felt like I'd lived ...more
Ɗắɳ  2.☠
Okay, I will reluctantly post my first review here. Up to now, I've never really felt the need to do my own reviews. I'd rather leave that to the semi professional book bloggers & "power users" out there. Who quite frankly, are much better at it. Typically, once I finish a book, I merely post my take, on whichever of my friends reviews I happen to like the most. I also find myself skimming many long reviews, so I hope to keep this short. I'll leave the synopsis for the pros, so without furth ...more
Nick Black
It had some really memorable lines, but overall I dug The Cold Six Thousand more. We'll see how Blood's a Rover goes, but overall I'm thinking James Ellroy is something I'd enjoyed much more eight years ago. What's the point, Pete/Boyd/Wayne/Littell? For such multitalented, resourceful and industrious individuals, they sure seem to lack any meaningful weltanschauung of their own, content to play the part of vessels. Not a stride is broken upon the death of XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX late in this firs ...more
Marco Tamborrino
"L’America non è mai stata innocente. Abbiamo perso la verginità sulla nave durante il viaggio di andata e ci siamo guardati indietro senza alcun rimpianto. Non si può ascrivere la nostra caduta dalla grazia ad alcun singolo evento o insieme di circostanze. Non è possibile perdere ciò che non si ha fin dall’inizio."

Non conosco il genere noir, ma so che Ellroy ne viene indicato come uno dei più grandi esponenti, se non il massimo. Come "horror" riferito a King e "giallo" riferito alla Christie,
Aug 22, 2011 Michael rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first Ellroy I've read, and it will likely be the last. Mostly because I find it impossible to take this seriously.

I don't doubt for a minute his portrayal of mobsters and G-men and teamsters run amok in the fifties and sixties; I'm sure they were just as violent and hellbent on mayhem as they're depicted here. His gloss on the Bay of Pigs jibes, too. There is one neat bit of business following a character's slow arc from soft-skinned do-gooder alcoholic into revenge-driven killer. B
Gus Sanchez

Yeah. Wow.

This was my first James Ellroy novel, and he did not disappoint. On the contrary, I developed a major hard-on for his hard-assed prose, and his dark, morally ambiguous characters - gotta say Pete Bondurant is now one of my favorite fictional characters ever.

I won't bore you with the details or the plot behind "American Tabloid", the first in a trilogy of works sketching out the nefarious doings of those in power, but if you love fiction that's both hard-edged and replete with his
With each successive book (beginning with the LA quartet), Ellroy refines his art. Style, entertainment and substance. A richly imagined, horrific, and hard-as-nails fantasy.
May 29, 2010 F.R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Re-reading ‘American Tabloid’ convinced me that after the obituary is published and we look back at James Ellroy’s career as a whole, it will probably be the LA crime novels which are seen as his greatest achievement.

Not that there isn’t a lot of excellence in this more “political” tome (for want of a better adjective). Starting in 1958 and leading to the Kennedy assassination, Ellroy gives us three men who play their parts behind the scenes and whose actions lead to that national tragedy. There
Feb 28, 2009 Andy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulp-fiction
Great thriller about the Bay of Pigs-Kill Castro-JFK pissing off the Mafia and the CIA in one fell swoop story, which culminates in Dallas Texas on November 22, 1963. Although I didn't care for the Kennedys depicted as a bunch of effeminate spoiled brats in power - that's the POV that their weaselly conspirators had and it digests for us what follows soon after. Ellroy's last great book. It was all downhill after this.
Nov 01, 2014 Luke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first in another history-minded trilogy, American Tabloid unpicks the hem of the myth of Camelot while keeping an eye on the main chance. The prose is as jacked-up as half the characters, and it moves forward with a terrifying urgency.

Like his other works, there's a lot of character specificity and a lot of fine detail evoked. But the Underworld USA trilogy manages to more convincingly convey a sense of momentousness, of this-is-probably-how-it-happened. But it ain't pretty.

Reading this bo
Colin McKay Miller
Aug 25, 2012 Colin McKay Miller rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who can stand Ellroy's bent
Shelves: novels
James Ellroy’s American Tabloid may not be as good as The Black Dahlia, but it’s still an excellent, historically-based crime novel.

James Ellroy isn’t for everyone. It isn’t just his staccato neo-noir voice or his violent stories. He often writes characters that, at the very least, display racist and misogynistic tendencies. Ellroy himself has been accused of these very things and has responded in, well, Ellroy-like fashion (pretty much him insulting and cussing at people without really addressi
At first I thought there were way too many characters and sides fighting against each other. It made it difficult to follow or to understand the characters. But then I realised, that is exactly what you want in a conspiracy/espionage novel; every side trying to setup or double cross each other, people playing a few sides in an attempt to achieve this.

The reason why I enjoy reading Ellroy books is simply because he knows how make it feel like I’m reading a book from the era. The way they talk, t
Wow! This novel just blew me away. Like the more recent A Brief History of Seven Killings it takes real life events and weaves in fictional characters with historical figures to explore themes of conspiracy and political intrigue. Also, as with Marlon James' book this was a very violent novel with a great deal of profanity and racist and sexist language throughout.

American Tabloid is considered one of James Ellroy's best works and it is easy to see why. It is gritty, bold and brash. I was rivete
Anthony Ryan
Nov 30, 2014 Anthony Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first volume in Ellroy's epic trilogy of 1960s America is an oft-nightmarish cavalcade of corruption and violence. Ellroy makes great play out of the fact that you can't slander the dead as everyone from Jimmy Hoffa to JFK emerges as venal, crazy or both. Although there is a lot of fun to be had in exploring the connections between history and Ellroy's fiction, the main narrative pull centres on the shifting alliances and machinations of three highly flawed central protagonists. Ideologies a ...more
Feb 08, 2013 Gingerelvis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Quite simply one of the best books I've ever read. Easily top five.

The writing style takes a little getting used to, with very short sentences and a lot of American slang from the 50s and 60s.

The book is based on historical facts and figures in the JFK-era, skillfully inter-woven with believable fiction.

The first part of Ellroy's excellent underworld trilogy, it follows three main characters - Big Pete Bondurant, a bag man for Howard Hughes and general hood/shake down man; FBI agent Kemper Boyd
Erik Graff
Jul 31, 2015 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ellroy fans
Recommended to Erik by: John Elkin
Shelves: literature
Having noticed that I'd been reading several books about the Kennedy administration my roommate suggested I try this novel. It's a noire take on the period from 1958 to November 22, 1963, focing on events--particularly the failed US invasion of Cuba--leading up to the murder of the president. Many of the characters are historical, some fictitious. A couple seem to be historical characters given fictitious names, perhaps to avoid lawsuits.

Personally, I found Ellroy a bit too extreme for my tastes
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Crime fiction and personal confessions 4 59 Jun 16, 2014 11:08AM  
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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...

Other Books in the Series

Underworld USA (3 books)
  • The Cold Six Thousand (Underworld USA #2)
  • Blood's a Rover (Underworld USA, #3)

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“America was never innocent. We popped our cherry on the boat over and looked back with no regrets. You can't ascribe our fall from grace to any single event or set of circumstances. You can't lose what you lacked at conception.
Mass-market nostalgia gets you hopped up for a past that never existed. Hagiography sanctifies shuck-and-jive politicians and reinvents their expedient gestures as moments of great moral weight. Our continuing narrative line is blurred past truth and hindsight. Only a reckless verisimilitude can set that line straight.
The real Trinity of Camelot was Look Good, Kick Ass, Get Laid. Jack Kennedy was the mythological front man for a particularly juicy slice of our history. He called a slick line and wore a world-class haircut. He was Bill Clinton minus pervasive media scrutiny and a few rolls of flab.
Jack got whacked at the optimum moment to assure his sainthood. Lies continue to swirl around his eternal flame. It's time to dislodge his urn and cast light on a few men who attended his ascent and facilitated his fall.
They were rouge cops and shakedown artist. They were wiretappers and soldiers of fortune and faggot lounge entertainers. Had one second of their lives deviated off course, American History would not exist as we know it.
It's time to demythologize an era and build a new myth from the gutter to the stars. It's time to embrace bad men and the price they paid to secretly define there time.
Here's to them.”
“Jimmy Hoffa said, “I know how Jesus must have felt. The fucking pharaohs rose to power on his coattails like the fucking Kennedy brothers are rising on mine.”

Heshie Ryskind said, “Get your history straight. It was Julius Caesar that did Jesus in.”
More quotes…