A new novel from Ellroy is always a publishing event. That Perfidia is the first volume of his 'Second L.A. Quartet' makes this publication even more exciting.
It is December 6 1941. America stands at the brink of World War II. Last hopes for peace are shattered when Japanese squadrons bomb Pearl Harbor. Los Angeles has been a haven for loyal Japanese-Americans – but now, war fever and race hate grip the city and the Japanese internment begins.
The hellish murder of a Japanese family summons three men and one woman. William H. Parker is a captain on the Los Angeles Police. He's superbly gifted, corrosively ambitious, liquored-up and consumed by dubious ideology. He is bitterly at odds with Sergeant Dudley Smith – Irish émigré, ex-IRA killer, fledgling war profiteer. Kay Lake is a 21-year-old dilettante looking for adventure. Hideo Ashida is a police chemist and the only Japanese on the L.A. cop payroll. The investigation throws them together and rips them apart. The crime becomes a political storm centre that brilliantly illuminates these four driven souls – comrades, rivals, lovers, history's pawns.
Perfidia is a novel of astonishments. It is World War II as you have never seen it, and Los Angeles as James Ellroy has never written it before. Here, he gives us the party at the edge of the abyss and the precipice of America's ascendance. Perfidia is that moment, spellbindingly captured. It beckons us to solve a great crime that, in its turn, explicates the crime of war itself. It is a great American novel.
Read Caroline Baum's Review
This is like having your head slammed against the wall while being frisked in an episode of The Wire set in LA in the forties. But in a good way.
The cast of characters in this seven hundred page crime epic tops ninety. We met some of them in earlier parts of Elroy’s first LA Quartet (which included Black Dahlia and LA Confidential). Others are from real life, including Bette Davis, Edgar J Hoover, Leonard Bernstein and Bob Hope. Beginning on the night of the attack on Pearl Harbour this is a sprawling panorama of corruption and conspiracy, told from four perspectives including that of Hideo Ashida, the only Japanese cop on the LAPD and a morally dubious woman called Kay Lake whose diary adds to the fugue-like layered texture of the narrative.
Daunting, awesome in scale and complexity, this is messy, brutal, complicated, labyrinthine, bad-ass stuff from a writer who is still unrivalled in the genre. Its rhythms are jazzy, its sprawl and sweep disorientating and abstract but the furious virtuosic energy Ellroy charges his prose with exercises a magnetic pull that is hard to resist. You have to be up for it though: it’s a relentless rollercoaster into darkness that can leave the reader feeling as if they have been mugged. Ellroy asks his readers to work, hard, but the effort is richly rewarding for those brave souls who like their noir extra strength.
About the Author
James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. He is the author of the acclaimed 'LA Quartet': The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential and White Jazz. His most recent novel, Blood's A Rover, completes the magisterial 'Underworld USA Trilogy' - the first two volumes of which (American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand) were both Sunday Times bestsellers.
"There has never been a writer like James Ellroy." * Telegraph *
"An epic and bizarrely transcendental novel that represents an extraordinary achievement by any measure ... a genuinely impressive feat of sustained literary energy: 90% of novelists couldn't get anywhere near it...His is an awe-inspiring artistic vision and this is a novel that should surely be read by new readers as well as fans." -- Edward Docx * Guardian *
"The master of American crime fiction." * Sunday Times *
"A triumphant return to the violent fictional world where he started - 1940s Los Angeles ... Fans will not be disappointed ... It is populated by many of Ellroy's most memorable monsters, notably LAPD Sgt Dudley Smith ... Reading it made me want to return to the original Quartet." * Evening Standard *
"James Ellroy is back doing what he does best, weaving a tangle of tales set in wartime Los Angeles...I look forward, eagerly, to the next three instalments." * The Times *