Jeff's Reviews > American Tabloid

American Tabloid by James Ellroy
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's review
Dec 27, 07

Recommended for: central north carolina
Read in December, 2007

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/influential" figures [kennedy (known as "The Haircut"), j. edgar hoover, howard hughes] to low-level pawns ruthlessly manipulated by crooked cops, mafiosa and the like is as addictive as the uncut heroin that, in ellroy's world, finances world-stage events including the bay of pigs, the kennedy assasination, etc.

think of _american tabloid_ as something like a fictional _people's history_ of 1959-1963, gore vidal on a really bad acid trip, or just what it claims to be: a tabloid rendering of critical moments in US history.

the novel is definitely a "grower," with plot intrigue overshadowing ellroy's painfully hardboiled style only after several hundred pages that establish a web of CIA/FBI/Justice Department/Mafia/Cuban alliances and counter-alliances, enabling a deeply impressive scope and ambition for _american tabloid_. regardless, one must be prepared to wade through over 500 pages of countless plot twists and one-sentence, three-word paragraphs to realize the novel's full payoff. while the tradeoff was ultimately worth it for me, i suspect others might feel differently.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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David Just finished 4th or 5th reading of the last dozen years and needed to see how it faired on Goodreads. Your "Chandler on crack" and "painfully hardboiled" descriptions are apt. The story continues to be an exhilerating ride in spite of not seeming as violent as in the first reading, nor as plot convoluted. Pete Bondurant - a friend's friend!

I liked your White Jazz redux too. Funny.

message 2: by Karen (new)

Karen Holden Hi there - would you like to put a question to James Ellroy himself about American Tabloid? BBC World Book Club is interviewing him next Tuesday 3rd November and would love to hear from you. If you could email me at as soon as you can with your question about the book (anything - doesn't have to be particularly clever!), we can either arrange for you to talk to the man himself, or have our presenter put your question to Mr Ellroy for you. Then you get to hear your question on World Service Radio. Please get in touch soonest! All best Karen Holden, Producer, BBC World Book Club

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