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The Cold Six Thousand

(Underworld USA #2)

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  6,708 ratings  ·  348 reviews
In this savagely audacious novel, James Ellroy plants a pipe bomb under the America in the 1960s, lights the fuse, and watches the shrapnel fly. On November 22, 1963 three men converge in Dallas. Their job: to clean up the JFK hit’s loose ends and inconvenient witnesses. They are Wayne Tedrow, Jr., a Las Vegas cop with family ties to the lunatic right; Ward J. Littell, a d ...more
Paperback, 688 pages
Published June 11th 2002 by Vintage (first published March 2001)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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Jeffrey Keeten
”They brought him back.

Frankenstein came. Frankenstein went. Nuns fluttered and fussed. Don’t hurt me--I’m Protestant French.

Frank destapled him. Nuns shaved him. He dehazed. He saw razors and hands. He rehazed. He saw Japs and Betty.

Hands fed him soup. Hands touched his dick. Hands jabbed tubes in. The haze sputtered. Words filtered through. Decrease his dose--don’t addict him.
He dehazed. He saw faces:

Student nuns--the brides of Frankenstein. A slight man--Ivy League threads--John Stanton-like
Jul 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white*” -- nixon was a racist, red-baiting bastard. nixon was a paranoid insecure fuck. nixon jacked off reminiscing about bugging offices and launching latin american juntas. nixon said "make their economy scream" to 'the jew' (his term of affection for kissinger) as a means to destabilize Chile in order to insert an american friendly right-wing dicktator.

LBJ was cheating on Ladybird, stealing elections, c
American Tabloid was about criminals making history and culminated with the plot to kill Jack Kennedy. In The Cold Six Thousand, the characters aren't trying to make history, they're just trying to survive it.

American Tabloid is one of my all-time favorite books. The second part of this trilogy has always been a bit of a disappointment to me. I read both again to prep for the release of the final book, Blood's A Rover. With that one sitting here, just waiting for me to start reading, I'm feeling
Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Allow me to pat myself on the back a few times for finishing this novel. I made a firm decision to finish at least one of James Ellroy’s novels after I saw him giving a rather provoking speech here in Amsterdam a few years ago. I think that Ellroy likes to shoot sentences from his hip like a shotgun and he certainly succeeds in doing that. I cannot say that I find four words sentences very attractive and they are getting really tiresome after a few hundred pages, but I must admit that they do co ...more
*3.5 Stars*
"You never know when you might rub shoulders with history."
Well here it is, the book that ends my 5-star streak with James Ellroy's books. But it's definitely not a bad book, just not as impressively crafted as the others and much more difficult to read.

John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy, all assassinated within five years, all by lone gunmen who all claimed to not be the only ones involved. Coincidence? James Ellroy thinks not, and just as in
Aug 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone not looking for cheer
This one gets the full-on review because I wrote one up a few years back in an attempt to understand whether I liked the book. I'm a big Ellroy fan, but the moral stance he takes in this novel is complex, and I had to think it through. I end up siding with him, if you don't want the whole thing. Or, if you have a few minutes:

James Ellroy’s novel The Cold Six Thousand, is an addictively compelling story driven almost exclusively by morally repugnant characters. The characters in Ellroy’s police n
To be fair: 'American Tabloid' was Ellroy's best novel, and the sequels had little chance of topping it. With 'The Cold Six Thousand', he picks up right where he left off: the assassination of JFK, orchestrated by a group of gangsters, mercenaries, and CIA hardcases, pissed off over the bloody and embarrassing 'Bay of Pigs' fiasco.


This time the bullseye is on Martin Luther King, as he makes enemies that include a Mormon power-broker and 'Company' connected tough guys selling heroin smuggled in
Oct 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
"I'm seeing visions, Dwight. I'm seeing all the Latter-day Saints."
― James Ellroy, The Cold Six Thousand


I remember when I was 5, thinking: "if I just didn't screw up, I could have been Jesus". I remember when I was 8, thinking: "if I just killed myself when I was 7, I could have gone straight to Heaven." I remember when I was 12, thinking: "Mormons could make fantastic mobsters." I hadn't yet learned about the John Birch society. I hand't learned about Howard Hughes and his cabal of Mormon fix-i
Apr 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
American Tabloid ends with Pete Bourdant watching Barbara do a rendition of "Unchained Melody" in some Dallas lunchtime geek joint on a particularly historical November morning in 1963. The novel ends with Pete watching and waiting for the screams to start.

The Cold Six Thousand picks up earlier that morning with a new character Wayne Tedrow Jr. flying from Vegas to Dallas to hunt down a black (sorry I can't bring myself to use a more PC term nor can I bring myself to put the N word in the revie
This trilogy presents something like a postmodern (L.-F.) Céline. If L.-F. came back to life in contemporary America, this is the sort of thing he might have written (I am talking, of course, about 'late' Céline -- Castle to Castle, etc.). It is very intense. Perhaps one has to be obsessed with the period/events to 'dig it' -- as I am.

Céline, of course, is more authentic -- Ellroy is fictionalizing far more. I'm sure Fred Otash (whom I now realize I sorta crossed paths with as a teenager -- so m
Jul 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical, crime
Retire me. I'm stretched thin. It hurts to sleep. My hate life's a mess.

(This review will assume you've read American Tabloid.)

The Cold Six Thousand is a jittery, ugly, brilliant, haunting, flawed, and unforgettable book, and the first thing you need to know about it is I used more commas writing this sentence than James Ellroy used in this entire novel. I just want to get that out of the way. I said that White Jazz's chopped-up style worked well as an expression of Dave Klein's paranoia and
The Cold Six Thousand starts like a rude slap in the face interrupting a deep sleep. We pick up where the preceding volume American Tabloid left off: November 22nd, 1963. JFK has just been shot in Dealey Plaza. We already know Pete Bondurant and Ward Littell and their involvement in the assassination, but a new man blows into town on the 22nd; Wayne Tedrow, Jr. Wayne works for the Las Vegas police department and is sent by the mob to Dallas to kill a pimp named Wendell Durfee for assaulting a de ...more
Erik Graff
Aug 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: conspiracy theory fans
Recommended to Erik by: John Elkin
Shelves: literature
This book, recommended by my roommate, is the second in a three-volume series reimagining some of the major events of the second half of the twentieth century in America: the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, the assassinations of King and the Kennedy brothers--and, I suspect, events inclusive of Watergate in the third volume. The players are just the kind of CIA-, FBI-, Mafia-connected thugs often adduced (quite plausibly, I think) behind the aforementioned political assassinations. The atmosphere is dark, ...more
Chilly SavageMelon
Jul 20, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-thriller
Ellroy writes. Short, clipped, fragment sentences. Guys do shit. Girls do shit. Many characters are similar. Style doesn't help. '63 -'68. The killing of John to the killing of Bobby. MLK, CIA, FBI. Hoover. Hughes. Vegas. 'Nam. The shit goes on for 670 pages. Is this a novel, or the notes for said novel? Ellroy did this to me with White Jazz. Didn't dig it as much as some of his other stuff. Lack of style. Or wrong style. Minimalism can lead to heavy hits. Big Impact. Or it can come off as absur ...more
Apr 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime
As excited as I was to read Ellroy's American Tabloid, I found this sequel a bit disappointing. The story continues to follow several mercenaries, politicos, and downright nasty criminal types, as it moves from the JFK assassination in '63, through the assassinations of MLK and RFK in '68. There's a lot of hard-boiled crime and political manipulation stuff that's pretty interesting, as the three main characters try to eliminate anyone in the know about the JFK assassination. However, there are s ...more
Jan 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Is it just me or is this the choppiest Ellroy novel yet? While that clipped style worked very well for me in White Jazz and--to my astonishment--even better in American Tabloid, I found Cold Six to be straddling almost Dick and Jane-like syntactical territory so often, it is almost sinful--makes Hemingway look like Henry James.
Despite this griping, I found myself mesmerized by longish passages in the book which give me pause to wonder if we do not have an epic poem in crime-novel disguise on ou
Aug 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Another breathtaking, snarled novel by Ellroy, filled with phenomenally unlikeable people doing despicable things, and you can't stop reading it. Starts with the Kennedy assassination in Dallas and goes on to police corruption in Vegas, the mob, Cuba, the start of the war in Vietnam, sexual shenanigans, racism and the civil rights movement, Edgar Hoover and Howard Hughes, in other words, every damn thing that happened in 1963 and '64... I love this dirty poetry, so for an extra treat, I'm listen ...more
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
the author, commenting on this book in the Paris Review:
"The book has flaws. It’s too long, and the style is too rigorous for such a complicated story—.... It’s a big picaresque mess, and too demanding a read. But the stamina of it is sui generis. If you get it, you get it. It might not be your favorite of my books, but you can appreciate its scope, its audacity."

I really liked it. Nothing quite like it, even among Ellroy's books. If you enjoy Pynchon, the pronounced style here won't trouble you
The Crimson Fucker
Sep 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
WARNING: reading more than 50 pages of this book after a six hour Marathon Final Fantasy Crisis Core, finishing The Catcher in the Rye and watching a crappy Bruce Willis movie may result in total and absolute psychological melt down… that being said I’ma go put on my aluminum foil hat and protect my cake flour cuz I know them aliens want it!!!
Tom Swift
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Man, what a wild ride. This one picks up where American Tabloid ended. Fast paced, the unique writing style in these book takes a while to get used to, but the story is fantastic.
Feb 20, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Interesting but not near as good as American Tabloid.
Titus Burley
Mar 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Can a book trouble, offend, unsettle, blaspheme, and ultimately flagellate the senses of its readers and still be a five star book that upon completing you immediately place in your "I will read again" category of important titles? Welcome to the realm of James Ellroy books. The late Barbara Seranella, a wonderful author in her own right, once told me in a long one on one conversation at a book event about attending a particular group's meetings (ahem, I won't mention the two initials of the gro ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
The first book in this Underworld series, 'American Tabloid', is a conspiracy theorist's wet-dream, and, arguably, an American Canon literary classic. However, 'The Cold Six Thousand', the second in the series, fell considerably short of my expectations, sort of a low-rent charmless Pulp Fiction movie.

The clipped sentences, which are like notes from some journalist's war diary, and the surviving characters from the first book, continue to tell all about the supposedly linked assassinations of J
Jun 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Well I finally got around to reading this and what a blast. Great how the forward starts out talking about how people romanticise a golden era that never was and then *bang* it takes you right into this dark, amoral underbelly of America. Gratuitous violence, corruption, blackmail, all delivered with some snappy one liners - sounds like a an episode of The Sopranos, except it makes that lot look positively moral. Oh, and enough conspiracy theory to bring Fox Mulder out of retirement.
Rustin smiled. “Do you hate him?”
“After what he put you through?”
“I find it hard to hate people who are that true to themselves.”

I don’t even know who could write a book like this, except Ellroy’s written more than one. It’s nasty and brutish and closer to the truth of things than history books can get. I dig his humanity in the midst of humanity doing despicable things.

Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you want to try to get wise about politics, violence and crime, the easy way, then read this seminal book of history, secret history, historical fiction, and language. I think it's more interesting than AMERICAN TABLOID, the first in his "Underworld Trilogy," because events and figures like JFK/RFK(and their murders), Vietnam, civil rights, Martin Luther King (and his murder), are more dramatic than what happened during the time span of American Tabloid. The central event in American Tabloid ...more
Roderick Hart
Oct 17, 2008 rated it liked it
Distinguishing features of this book are staccato ‘sentences’ and extreme violence. I got truly fed up with the sheer quantity of ‘scoped’, ‘braced’ and ‘clipped’. The staccato thing is an affectation of the author, who can write genuine sentences when he wants to. He usually wants to during exchanges between J Edgar Hoover and others, these having the effect of making J Edgar appear the most articulate individual in the book. I tend to think you can’t be articulate without being intelligent, so ...more
Jun 18, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This volume of James Ellroy’s alternate and hysterical history of the Sixties, stretches from the aftermath of the JFK assassination right up to the death of RFK. That was obviously a turbulent period in American history and it’s not surprising that this book at times feels rushed, as if trying to unpack too much at once. Which in a way is odd, as it also feels at points more style over substance. All of Ellroy’s various literary ticks are given full reign in this volume, to the level that someo ...more
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
Not quite halfway done with this, but I just can't bring myself to finish. I read all of Ellroy's L.A. Quartet (with The Big Nowhere and L.A. Confidential standing out as wonderful works). I read American Tabloid all the way through and, though I didn't love it, found it impossible to put down. This book suffers from too much for me to continue further. The three-to-five word sentences are assaultive and hardly informative after awhile. The action is more of the same from American Tabloid, and t ...more
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
Tried very hard but couldn't finish this one (on vacation, no less). Much more fragmented and hard to digest than the brilliant American Tabloid. Has been on hiatus for almost 2 years now. Reminds me of White Jazz, and not in a good way. Heard mixed things about Blood's A Rover, but not in the mood to try it anytime soon.
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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

Other books in the series

Underworld USA (3 books)
  • American Tabloid (Underworld USA #1)
  • Blood's a Rover (Underworld USA, #3)

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