Join Hafta-Ichi to find out the article “This Storm by James Ellroy review – a second prequel to the LA Quartet | Books”
James Ellroy is one of America’s most important crime writers; This Storm is the second volume in a promised series of books that act as prequels to his first LA Quartet, which was set in the late 1940s and 50s and included his breakout novel LA Confidential.
It starts two weeks after the events of 2014’s Perfidia. That book began on the eve of the Pearl Harbor attack and introduced us to Hideo Ashida, a brilliant LAPD forensic scientist working under the sinister Sergeant Dudley Smith. It’s now New Year’s Eve 1941: anti-Japanese paranoia is reaching its terrifying climax. President Roosevelt is only weeks away from issuing executive order 9066, deporting Japanese American citizens to internment camps; in this febrile atmosphere a charred body is found in Griffith Park that attracts Ashida’s attention.
Dudley Smith has joined the US Army, ostensibly to thwart fifth column activity in Mexico, but in reality to get control of the heroin trade. He obtains an army commission for Ashida, to prevent him being deported when the round-ups come. Ashida also gets a new assistant, Joan Conville, who figures out that the body in the park is connected to stolen gold, and along the way we meet again the charming socialite Kay Lake, the persistent Sergeant Elmer Jackson and the real life racist monster Father Charles Coughlin, while there’s a rather unpleasant late cameo from Orson Welles.
There are a dozen other main characters and at least three main stories that dovetail at the end: clearly Ellroy is having a blast using wartime LA as his playground, with Nazi sympathisers knocking about with other diabolical and cynical grotesques.
Ellroy remains one of the most exciting literary stylists in the English language. If David Peace’s iterative, repetitious, circular method lies at one end of the prose spectrum, Ellroy’s dry, clipped, slangy, telegraphic style is its counterpoint: “Annie was gooooood. She laid on the gee-whiz … The Vice squadroom was yawnsville. Elmer’s cubicle cocooned him. He heard party sounds and extraneous voices. Annie laid dat voodoo on old Saul.”
It’s been five years since the last novel from the self-described “Demon Dog” of American letters, but it’s worth the wait. Like all good jazzmen, Ellroy works very hard indeed to make his music flow so easily.
• Adrian McKinty’s The Chain is published by Orion in July. This Storm is published by Heinemann (£20). To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £15, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: This Storm by James Ellroy review – a second prequel to the LA Quartet | Books