Good Minds Suggest—James Ellroy's Favorite Historical RipsnortersPosted by Goodreads on September 8, 2014
Since James Ellroy made his name on the rogue cops and dead dames of his bestselling L.A. Quartet—a razor-sharp noir series set in the City of Angels that includes The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz—he has expanded his writing to an operatic scale. His ambitious Underworld USA series reenvisioned the "secret history" of the 20th century, throwing the JFK assassination, mobster subterfuge, J. Edgar Hoover, and other major players into a steaming, nihilistic tale of politics and bloodshed. Ellroy now returns with an equally epic new historical novel, Perfidia, the first of what will be a follow-up L.A. Quartet about the city that is his love and obsession. Beginning December 6, 1941, the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor shocked the nation, the book investigates the possible murder of a Japanese family. If you're looking for history that will blow your hair back, try one of Ellroy's favorite historical ripsnorters.
Libra by Don DeLillo
"John F. Kennedy's assassination, largely seen through the eyes of Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald seeks out history. He's a pawn in a complex conspiracy characterized by many levels of deceit, interlocking agendas, screwups, and a demonically propulsive fate. There are mobsters, rogue CIA men, aggrieved Cuban exiles. DeLillo pulls off two astonishing feats: He makes the grandiose lowlife Oswald sympathetic and has you rooting for the conspirators. And this book fearlessly takes the pulse of 1963 America."
Watergate by Thomas Mallon
"Here is the secret human infrastructure of the most scrutinized political scandal in American history. You get all the facts, meet all the players, and see how and why it all happened. Watergate is a conversational epic; Thomas Mallon sustains skulduggery and repartee with a blithe and seamless narrative ease. The gang's all here: Dick Nixon, his White House goon squad, Martha Mitchell—zonked out of her gourd. This brilliant novel is most poignantly a story of fleeting love, its memory, a minor conspirator's compromised redemption. In the end Watergate breaks your heart."
Billy Bathgate by E.L. Doctorow
"The title character is a teenage boy in Depression-era New York City. He narrates his story from the unspecified present and speaks in an all-new narrative voice. It is rife with anachronism, invented slang, metaphysical rumination. This voice is solely the product of Mr. Doctorow's stunning imagination. In Billy Bathgate's words, we live the reign and fall of the Bronx gangster Dutch Schultz, and we become the benefactors of a hideous predator's largesse. This novel celebrates the very idea of the American myth, in a mythic language created from the ground up."
The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
"We're aboard the minesweeper USS Caine. Our eyes are those of Ensign Willie Keith, a rich-kid lounge lizard, late of Broadway dives and posh Long Island. Willie's running from his suffocating mom and a consuming love affair with a wrong-side-of-the-tracks girl. The crew of the Caine is a microcosm of America in wartime extremis. Willie is the observer who becomes someone stronger and braver through the simple art of observation. Psycho Captain Queeg and the Caine's mutineers capture center stage and ultimately fade behind Willie's transformation. The Caine Mutiny is a coming-of-age parable and a grand historical romance."
Exodus by Leon Uris
"Long before 'Identity Politics' was both canonized and reviled, Leon Uris proudly proclaimed himself to be an American, a Jew, and a Zionist. Exodus is the romance of emerging nationhood. Israel is founded in the wake of unspeakable atrocity. This is the greatest of the 1950s vintage Big Bestsellers. It's pulpy, punchy, pithy, and righteously heartfelt. It is frenzied in its depiction of a homeland fought for and secured. This large novel bursts with pride."
Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Historical Fiction