This Storm
From "one of the great American writers of our time" (Los Angeles Times Book Review)--a brilliant historical crime novel, a pulse-pounding, as-it-happens narrative that unfolds in Los Angeles and Mexico in the wake in Pearl Harbor.New Year's Eve 1941, war has been declared and the Japanese internment is in full swing. Los Angeles is gripped by war fever and racial hatred. Sergeant Dudley Smith of the Los Angeles Police Department is now Army Captain Smith and a budding war profiteer. He's shacked up with Claire De Haven in Baja, Mexico, and spends his time sniffing out fifth column elements and hunting down a missing Japanese Naval Attaché. Hideo Ashida is cashing LAPD paychecks and working in the crime lab, but he knows he can't avoid internment forever. Newly arrived Navy Lieutenant Joan Conville winds up in jail accused of vehicular homicide, but Captain William H. Parker squashes the charges and puts her on Ashida's team. Elmer Jackson, who is assigned to the alien squad and to bodyguard Ashida, begins to develop an obsession with Kay Lake, the unconsummated object of Captain Parker's desire. Now, Conville and Ashida become obsessed with finding the identity of a body discovered in a mudslide. It's a murder victim linked to an unsolved gold heist from '31, and they want the gold. And things really heat up when two detectives are found murdered in a notorious dope fiend hang-out.

This Storm Details

TitleThis Storm
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 4th, 2019
PublisherKnopf
ISBN-139780307957009
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Crime, Thriller, Mystery Thriller

This Storm Review

  • Ronald Koltnow
    January 1, 1970
    To be published by Alfred A. Knopf on 4 June 2019When PERFIDIA, the first volume of James Ellroy's second L.A. Quartet, came out, I said: "Volume Two promises to be more profane; I can't wait." I was right. A friend did not like PERFIDIA; he said it read like someone doing a parody of Ellroy. He may have missed the point. Ellroy is no longer a crime writer; he has become a fabulist. His most recent books are wild fandangoes on American society in the post-war world. This book deals with the earl To be published by Alfred A. Knopf on 4 June 2019When PERFIDIA, the first volume of James Ellroy's second L.A. Quartet, came out, I said: "Volume Two promises to be more profane; I can't wait." I was right. A friend did not like PERFIDIA; he said it read like someone doing a parody of Ellroy. He may have missed the point. Ellroy is no longer a crime writer; he has become a fabulist. His most recent books are wild fandangoes on American society in the post-war world. This book deals with the early days of WWII in L. A. A fugitive rapist, Fifth Columnists, and a rain-exhumed body in Griffith Park get the action rolling. Three separate investigations dovetail into one. Two groups of detectives, one led by the morally flexible Dudley Smith, the other by the tortured Catholic Wm Parker, beat, screw, and kill their way across the greater Southern California landscape. Ellroy's theme is stated late in the book; "We are all treading water in quicksand." Some, Ellroy, tells us, carry their quicksand inside themselves. These are conflicted characters with divided loyalties. Parts are laugh-out-loud funny, parts are overblown, yet you get drawn into the lives of characters and cannot wait to see what slip of the tongue (quite literally in one case) will cause enlightenment or mayhem. In order to fully appreciate the book, you should reread PERFIDIA and the first Quartet again. Characters and events weave in and out of all the books. Fortunately, a list of Dramatis Personae is included at the back of the book. Real life characters pop in and out and deal with the fictional ones. Like all of Ellroy's books, there is a thread of redemption that runs through the wild fantasy of violence. It is profane, insensitive, partially obscene, and delirious. Vintage Ellroy? No. A wild new direction? Si.
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  • William
    January 1, 1970
    .I met with both the extraordinary Joseph Knox and the legendary James Ellroy last Tuesday 28 May 2019 up in Manchester at what I now call the "Mount Olympus" Waterstones bookshop.Full size image here.
  • OutlawPoet
    January 1, 1970
    While I liked the patter and the sharp dialogue, there are so very many characters strewn throughout that it was hard to care about any of them. The author rapidly changes from scene to scene and character to character, challenging the reader to get to know any of them.I was okay with the seediness. Just know that there are no heroes in this book. Every last character is involved in something unsavory: rounding up Japanese for internment camps, prostitution, drugs, dirty money, etc. There are sc While I liked the patter and the sharp dialogue, there are so very many characters strewn throughout that it was hard to care about any of them. The author rapidly changes from scene to scene and character to character, challenging the reader to get to know any of them.I was okay with the seediness. Just know that there are no heroes in this book. Every last character is involved in something unsavory: rounding up Japanese for internment camps, prostitution, drugs, dirty money, etc. There are scandalous little asides to the sexual behaviors of movies stars of the time and even more scandalous bits about law enforcement and politicians.Everyone is dirty.This further challenged me when it came to caring about any of them. It didn't help that every last one of them was imbued with the casual racism that was prevalent during them time.While I think the author did a masterful job of presenting a dark and dirty LA in one of the darkest and dirtiest times in the world's history, it doesn't make for pleasurable reading.It is, however, a masterful representation of a time and place best left in the past.
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  • 3 no 7
    January 1, 1970
    “This Storm” by James Elroy is classic noir fiction that transports readers into the turbulent world of World War II Los Angeles, a city gripped by war, pessimism, resignation, and moral ambiguity. The sentence structure matches the mood with short sentences, .quick descriptions, and no-nonsense conversations. “Note the tattoo. It’s there on the right forefinger-thumb web. It’s an “SQ” circled by snakes. Remember Tommy Glennon’s tattoo stencil? It’s flat out just like that.”Readers are immersed “This Storm” by James Elroy is classic noir fiction that transports readers into the turbulent world of World War II Los Angeles, a city gripped by war, pessimism, resignation, and moral ambiguity. The sentence structure matches the mood with short sentences, .quick descriptions, and no-nonsense conversations. “Note the tattoo. It’s there on the right forefinger-thumb web. It’s an “SQ” circled by snakes. Remember Tommy Glennon’s tattoo stencil? It’s flat out just like that.”Readers are immersed in 1942 Los Angeles, the people, the blackouts, the contentious politics, the uncertainty, the fear, but mostly and the individual stories and the personal tragedies. The characters are crude and rude, yet focused and straightforward. The conversations are politically incorrect and exceedingly real. The story begins when an unusually intense rain and the resulting mud slides unearth a body in Griffith Park. “Let’s go. We’ve got mud slides in Griffith Park. They’ve dislodged a body by the golf course.”Characters pull readers into the narrative, almost talking directly to them, allowing them to eavesdrop on conversations and thoughts, throwing them into turmoil in the midst of regular life in L.A. Every detail reinforces the time“This Storm” is filled with war, domestic spies, counter-intelligence, and political misdeeds. I received a copy of “This Storm” from James Elroy and Random House Publishing. It is a wild ride from the first page to the last. I recommend that you plan your time carefully because once you start “This Storm” you will not put it down until the end.
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  • David C Ward
    January 1, 1970
    Elroy has fallen in love with his style at the expense of narrative and coherence, to say nothing of economy. That style combines overly mannered fastidiousness and arcane usages with manic bebop hipster wooo-wooo. This one connects an old gold robbery with war frenzy even as Nazis and Stalinists combine to prepare for the post war world using said gold. The plot is impenetrable and incomprehensible (with incredible levels of violence) albeit recounted in micro detail because no one knows what’s Elroy has fallen in love with his style at the expense of narrative and coherence, to say nothing of economy. That style combines overly mannered fastidiousness and arcane usages with manic bebop hipster wooo-wooo. This one connects an old gold robbery with war frenzy even as Nazis and Stalinists combine to prepare for the post war world using said gold. The plot is impenetrable and incomprehensible (with incredible levels of violence) albeit recounted in micro detail because no one knows what’s going on. As a character says near the drawn out ending, “This deal has never made sense, and it never will. There’s too much to it, and it goes back too far.” Yup!Also: Orson Welles wasn’t fat in 1941, the year of Citizen Kane.
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  • Karin Carlson
    January 1, 1970
    This should have been/could have been brilliant but sadly I think Ellroys L. A. Confidential days are far behind him. Somewhere in this mess of words (oh so many words) there may be a really good story but this authors ego took over and all I could read/see/hear was “look at me look at me.....see what an erudite, cool and hip writer I am?” And when I say too many words there is no other way to describe this book. They are used, overused, misused and they weigh on you. They cover up and hide any This should have been/could have been brilliant but sadly I think Ellroys L. A. Confidential days are far behind him. Somewhere in this mess of words (oh so many words) there may be a really good story but this authors ego took over and all I could read/see/hear was “look at me look at me.....see what an erudite, cool and hip writer I am?” And when I say too many words there is no other way to describe this book. They are used, overused, misused and they weigh on you. They cover up and hide any glimpse of a coherent plot. The first few pages of the book included the word gestalt over and over. And over again. As if the author just liked the way the word looked on paper so he decided to use it. I read Perfidia, the start of what will be (sadly) another Ellroy quartet so I can’t say I wasn’t warned but hope springs eternal. I haven’t had to force myself to finish a book in years and at 581 pages it took a lot of force. I wish I could find something positive to say about this book but no matter how hard I try nothing springs to mind. I guess my gestalt is too unorganized. Smiley face emoji.
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  • Chris Mansell
    January 1, 1970
    "Human love will not sustain us in this time of horror."If This Storm, Ellroy's follow up to the magnificent Perfidia, has any kind of thesis statement, that's it. Where Perfidia was a sweeping romantic epic set against the backdrop of Pearl Harbour and a savage series of murders, This Storm is... Well, it's not that! It's something altogether more brutal and misanthropic, in line with Ellroy's earlier work on the Underworld USA trilogy. If anything, This Storm feels like the Blood's A Rover of "Human love will not sustain us in this time of horror."If This Storm, Ellroy's follow up to the magnificent Perfidia, has any kind of thesis statement, that's it. Where Perfidia was a sweeping romantic epic set against the backdrop of Pearl Harbour and a savage series of murders, This Storm is... Well, it's not that! It's something altogether more brutal and misanthropic, in line with Ellroy's earlier work on the Underworld USA trilogy. If anything, This Storm feels like the Blood's A Rover of this second L.A. Quartet, picking up right where Perfidia left off with a storyline that, despite its longer time frame (five months rather than 21 days) feels somehow less consequential. Principle players this time around are shitheel cop Elmer Jackson, fresh LAPD recruit Joan Conville, and a returning Hideo Ashida, Kay Lake, and the ever Machiavellian Dudley Smith. When a prodigious rain washes up a body from the Griffith Park fire, they are all set on the trail of some missing gold that may or may not be connected, every last one of them looking to profit from early wartime L.A. for his or her own ends. It sets up a long story told in the usual Ellroy punchy style, with all the betrayals and twists you'd expect.And yet... There was something about this one that lost me just a little along the way. Maybe I should have re-read Perfidia first so it was fresh in my mind. But I found myself at times struggling to keep the various characters and their motivations straight. I'm not too worried, because in these stretches I was mostly content to let the sheer atmosphere of the thing wash over me, and I'm sure more will reveal itself to me on a second reading in a few years' time when this quartet is completed.
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  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    Bad verbs, bad nouns, bad men, and the corrupted, the crimes, juxtaposition amongst prose style delivered in the one and only Ellroy way of telling Declarative sentences there will be plenty telling not showing, breaking rules Ellroy style, telling in ways original, and taking you by the hand with characters you may not care for in the Ellroy staccato satirical telling, you may like it or hate it.I preferred the first book, Perifida, in this second L.A Quartet.There are two characters back in th Bad verbs, bad nouns, bad men, and the corrupted, the crimes, juxtaposition amongst prose style delivered in the one and only Ellroy way of telling Declarative sentences there will be plenty telling not showing, breaking rules Ellroy style, telling in ways original, and taking you by the hand with characters you may not care for in the Ellroy staccato satirical telling, you may like it or hate it.I preferred the first book, Perifida, in this second L.A Quartet.There are two characters back in the narrative from his previous novel Perifida, firstly Hideo Ashida, only man of Japanese nationality employed by the Los Angeles Police Department, and secondly, a prairie girl from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Kay Lake.
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  • Jason
    January 1, 1970
    I first came to dig James Ellroy as a youngster in the early-to-mid nineties, hipped first to the unaccountably rarely discussed KILLER ON THE ROAD, which was recommended to me by my friend’s father; he happened to be a neuropsychiatrist and he told me it was the finest psycho killer novel in the pantheon. It was a novel that meant a great deal to me indeed in my early teens and which I continue to think about regularly. It is a rare novel that I have read multiple times. I read a number of Ellr I first came to dig James Ellroy as a youngster in the early-to-mid nineties, hipped first to the unaccountably rarely discussed KILLER ON THE ROAD, which was recommended to me by my friend’s father; he happened to be a neuropsychiatrist and he told me it was the finest psycho killer novel in the pantheon. It was a novel that meant a great deal to me indeed in my early teens and which I continue to think about regularly. It is a rare novel that I have read multiple times. I read a number of Ellroy’s other earlier novels in addition to THE BIG NOWHERE, the second novel in his original L.A. Quartet. It was all strong stuff, garrulous hard-nosed pulp of some considerable verve and sophistication. I caught up with THE COLD SIX THOUSAND shortly after it hit paperback, at this point a man in his early twenties. I was expecting to like it but was not prepared to be as floored by it as I in fact was. It was a stupefying masterpiece, insanely ambitious, a work of devoted counterhistory, maniacally imaginative and disturbingly credible. It was hallucinatory pulp fantasia as serious historical fiction of the highest order. I was hardly the only reader out there who felt this way. The next two Ellroy novels would prove to be extremely strong but did not quite reach the exalted heights of THE COLD SIX THOUSAND. First came BLOOD’S A ROVER, trailing AMERICAN TABLOID and THE COLD SIX THOUSAND as the final work in the aptly named “Underworld U.S.A” trilogy (an appellation borrowed from a very fine 1961 Samuel Fuller movie equally focused on collusion between rogue state officials, law enforcement agencies, organized crime, media, and skeezy business interests). BLOOD’S A ROVER seemed somewhat diffuse in comparison to THE COLD SIX THOUSAND. It is a strong novel, but a strangely atomized one, and does not have the teeth or the charging insistence of its predecessor. Following BLOOD’S A ROVER, Ellroy would produce PERFIDIA, the purported first offering in a new L.A. Quartet. PERFIDIA is set during December of 1941 and shifts perspectives between a number of characters allied to one extent or another with the Los Angeles Police Department as it conducts investigations into a grisly homicide, perhaps racially motivated, the victims a Japanese family, Pearl Harbour and the incipient Japanese internment serving as backdrop. If I would have abstained from calling PERFIDIA the equal of THE COLD SIX THOUSAND back when I read it in 2014, I would certainly nonetheless have conceded that it had very effectively whetted my appetite for more. Flash forward to June, 2019. THIS STORM, the second novel in the new L.A. Quartet, hits the streets on a Tuesday and I commence reading it immediately. And blammo! Whew, it’s a humdinger, a major development, and doubtlessly superior to the very fine PERFIDIA (which I will concede quite probably deserves a second look). Ellroy’s prose style had more or less arrived at its current refined mode by the time of THE COLD SIX THOUSAND. This prose style is, to put it mildly, extremely heavy on style. Ellroy writes a kind of antiquated hep jazzcat jive, the delivery generally punchy and staccato. This approach has a quality of minimalism about it, I suppose, but is utilized to foment a wildly maximalist literature. It is very juicy writing, but in a utilitarian way it also lends itself to electricity and momentum. Note for instance how expediently he can dispatch with simple actions, lending them a quality of moxie: “He pulled over. The goons came on servile. They pointed him down a steep roadway. He skidded on hard dirt and sand.” Maximum efficiency coupled with bracing verve. You’ve got folks trying to catch “The skinny, the dish, the drift.” You’ve got the Mexican nightspots alliteratively jazzed-up all “Tacofied taverns and pachucoized pool halls.” Words like "voyeurizized." Note this hilarious, dazzling, berserk, highly characteristic sentence: “Georgie’s swag gored Elmer’s gourd.” If there is any doubt that jazz, jazz-speak, and jazz-think are at the heart of this kinetic style, perhaps take note of a character we meet only very briefly in THIS STORM, Hector Obregon-Hodaka, half Mexican and half Japanese, aficionado of both jazz and black women, who denies that he is Fifth Column, describing himself as “a live-and-let-live, hold-for-the-downbeat sort of cat.” Jazz is not the only musical marker in the first half of this new quartet. You will note fascinating considerations of Brahms and Shostakovich et al. A new Shostakovich symphony being smuggled out of Russia even provides one of the many, many plot strands in the monumentally jam-packed THIS STORM. The real life Otto Klemperer, famed conductor, is one of the many real life personages naughtily maligned in THIS STORM (par for the course in later Ellroy). The title of THIS STORM is taken from W. H. Auden, a further reference to High Culture. “This storm, this savaging disaster.” Of course the Second World War is the storm, the savaging disaster, but really and truly, at the end of the day, History herself is the storm, brutalizing, unrelenting, unforgiving. Naturally, also, the novel begins on New Year’s eve, and there is a storm, your typical perfunctory rainstorm. There will be more rainstorms in Ellroy’s novel then would seem to strictly make sense for a Los Angeles-set piece, but might make a great deal of sense indeed for one in implicit dialogue with the tradition of film noir (that glorious genre, not really a genre per se and named a posteriori, that came into being in 1940s Los Angeles). THIS STORM begins with a fragment of diary from the inimitable Kay Lake, followed by a transcribed (though made up) harangue by profoundly disreputable real life Catholic nativist fascist-friendly shitheel Father Charles Caughlin extolling the righteous rightist machinations of Mexico’s thuggish green-shirted Sinarquistas (a real organization, their real leader is a character in the novel). The novel proper begins with Sargent Elmer Jackson occupying “front-house car” for a three-man stakeout of “hot-prowl burglar/rape-o” Tommy Glennon. He’s using his “part-time” girlfriend Ellen Drew as bait. Ellen Drew, it just so happens, was a real actress. I personally remember her best from Samuel Fuller’s second feature. In the Ellroy novel Ellen also tuns tricks. Elmer Jackson, you see, co-runs a call-girl ring. Lester Young’s sax is coming through on the car radio. You have some idea of what kind of (under)world this is we are talking about. The novel jumps between four principal perspectives. We’ve got 1) hayseed Elmer Jackson, almost certainly smarter than most people give him credit for being. We’ve got 2) circumspect homosexual Japanese PD forensic scientist Hideo Ashida, perhaps the most interesting character in PERFIDIA. We’ve got 3) tough-ass Irish Sergeant Dudley Smith, with his weakness for women and his tendency to cultivate male cronies (the brilliant Mr. Ashida, who he protects from internment, foremost among them). Finally we’ve got 4) the really tall redhead Joan Conville, who has a “hot date with History,” and is, following in the wake of Kay Lake, the most recent young woman to find herself entrapped by and infatuated with Captain William Parker, another real life figure who would go on the be the controversial and celebrated real life Los Angeles Police Chief. Kay Lake and William Parker are also principal characters. We know both of them will survive the new L.A. Quartet because Parker will, as mentioned, go on the be Police Chief and Kay Lake will appear in Ellroy’s novel THE BLACK DAHLIA, still cohabiting non-sexually with Officer Lee Blanchard. The malevolent Dudley Smith will somehow also survive this sordid Quartet. He’s in L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. Now, this review is not going to elaborate upon story and plot much further. Apparently Ellroy now produces outlines for his novels that themselves run more than a hundred pages. There is a whole heaping hell of a lot of plotting going on in THIS STORM. The treat of reading it extends beyond the delicious language. The plotting and narrative machinations are an absolute hoot and I don’t want to spoil this stuff. Take note of Elmer on page 451: “Strategies. Plays, plots, ploys, plans. His overworked brain’s overheated and pitched to a boil.” Indeed. The reader is encouraged the likewise overheat and boil. I wouldn’t dare put a damper on that! Suffice it to say that the novel really kicks into gear in the aftermath of a triple homicide that itself links back to a suspicious fire some years previous, the fire itself appearing to connect to a gold heist in the early 30s. Joan Conville’s diary: “The rain, the gold, the fire. It’s all one story, you see.” On top of the rain, the gold, the fire, and a particular triple homicide, we’ve got all manner of Fifth Column malfeasance involving nefarious collusion between the Extreme Left and the Extreme Right. Dudley Smith spends much of the novel working for the military trying to infiltrate seditious elements in Mexico. He uses this as a front for trafficking heroin, Mexican labourers, and Japanese slaves. Dudley: “Our mandate is to foil sabotage and make money.” Dudley’s enterprise is in large part analogous to the conniving of the Fifth Column elements. Ideology is represented as mostly hogwash, a con to pull the wool over the eyes of dupes and marks. In Elllroy-speak: it’s all a shuck. Greed and power are the bottom line. What the Stalanists and fascists in Ellroy most object to about democracy is that it is fundamentally neutered and concomitantly neuters their own ambitions. This is Ellroy Realpolitik: everybody out to make their own score in alignment with their private (often closely concealed) interests/values. Greed, vice, and animus would appear at the surface to be the motors of human enterprise. All the cops in Ellroy are corrupt and dissolute to one extent or another. They ubiquitously guzzle Old Crow bourbon. Dudley Smith drinks, takes bennies “for late-night woo-woo,” pops pain pills, smokes opium, does cocaine with a Mexican paramour, and eventually resorts to shooting morphine when his nerves are understandably fried. Animus is represented most especially in the form of racism, misogyny, and indiscriminate acts of hate. Ellroy always has and always will be a “problematic” writer because his argot is flooded with repugnant ethnic slurs and derogatory pejoratives. This element speaks to a broader investment in human grotesquery, but it would be insufficient to say that Ellroy is simply being true to his milieu or is presenting us with a purely damning kind of exposé. There can be no denying that Ellroy basks in grotesquery, practically luxuriates. Crime fiction has at its best always been a covert and slightly invidious way of servicing our troubled love affair with the amoral. This is what I love most of all about crime fiction. It itself is vice. Ellroy also depicts violence with a profoundly macabre glee, relishing the declamatory and orgiastic, spattering his decor with absurdist gore. There is of course also his aggressively irreverent treatment of real historical figures, neatly summarized in little gags about Fay Edgar Hoover and John “Cricket Dick” Huston. The treatment of Barbara Stanwyck in THIS STORM is hilarious, nasty, practically an outrage, but also great ironic fun. Orson Welles gets mercilessly dragged through the dirt, a simpering egotistical embarrassment secretly making pornographic movies featuring celebrities, subsequently beaten to a pulp and turned snitch. This is tawdry stuff, and it is also great fun. There is a carnivalesque element inherent to Ellory’s unrelenting despoiling of sacred cows, and I believe it is genuinely subversive, far more than a mere callow stunt. It is because of his genius for parcelling out judicious revelations AND because of his presiding romance with grotesquery that I continually laughed out loud, guffawed, and occasionally even practically howled whilst reading THIS STORM. Sometimes my jaw just dropped in appreciative awe. I practically never do these things when I read. Ellory has me doing them with disarming regularity. I find the grotesquery, vice, and decadence all the more impressive in that I have been aware when reading Ellroy, going back to that experience in my early twenties with THE COLD SIX THOUSAND, that he is producing a genuine moral literature. His characters are up to all kinds of sordid business but they routinely grapple with the extrapolation of questions of right and wrong, the novels themselves following suit. The moral becomes a matter of truth rather than fact. The imperative: we must establish adequate truths and become adequate to those truths. Purely moral imperative. The first two novels of this new L.A. Quartet place Dudley Smith and William Parker at odds with one another, because, though they are both Catholic, they abide by separate regimes of Right and Truth. There can be no mistaking: fantastically flawed though they are, often profoundly grotesque, Dudley Smith and William Parker are moral figures. The women in Ellroy’s fiction (note Joan Conville and Kay Lake especially) have becomes exemplary figures or moral elucidation. (We might add that though he has always been kind of temperamentally right wing, in his later years Mr. Ellroy has come to the conclusion, as is evident in novels and interviews, that one of the greatest things life has to offer is righteous left wing women.) Ellroy is just as much in dialogue with Greek tragedy and the 19th century novel as he is with pulp and trash precisely because he presents a moral vision that blankets the societal-historical field and foregrounds the tragic dimension. At the same time, his presentation of disparate, offset moral regimes coincides with something approaching a univocity of voice. I do not at all believe it a liability in his writing that the characters all speak so similarly, that they become extensions of the same voice. Kay Lake speaks of 'Spiritus Mundi,’ this idea of a collective soul or spirit. Though Ellory, I am sure, will pillory either man given half a chance, he is like so many 20th century minds a phenomenon born in the aftermath of Marx and Freud. Within the storm of History, within the savaging disaster of our malevolent species activity, he has brought us a number of staggering novels in which the society and the psyche wrap around one another like rutting snakes, speaking for a densely populated self that assimilates clandestine worlds.
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  • Bookreporter.com Mystery & Thriller
    January 1, 1970
    THIS STORM is like a drug. It is impossible to stop reading it once you start. Grains and particles (and chunks) of it linger in corners and crevices of your consciousness and memory, whether you are awake or asleep, as soon as you finish it. It cannot be accurately stated that you have never read anything like it unless you have had no contact with author James Ellroy’s prior work, particularly what has come to be known as the L.A. Quartet.This is book two in the Second L.A. Quartet, which pick THIS STORM is like a drug. It is impossible to stop reading it once you start. Grains and particles (and chunks) of it linger in corners and crevices of your consciousness and memory, whether you are awake or asleep, as soon as you finish it. It cannot be accurately stated that you have never read anything like it unless you have had no contact with author James Ellroy’s prior work, particularly what has come to be known as the L.A. Quartet.This is book two in the Second L.A. Quartet, which picks up a little more than a day after the conclusion of 2014's PERFIDIA and runs from December 30, 1941 to April 26, 1942. The protagonist remains the city of Los Angeles, which is still reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor just a few weeks before. The narrative shifts among the perspectives and points of view of several characters, each of which describes several others.Some are fictitious, such as Kay Lake, whose diary entries appear intermittently, and Hideo Ashida, an ahead-of-his-time LAPD forensic investigator who is laboring under two disadvantages, one of which is obvious and the other that he keeps hidden for preservation’s sake. Others are very real, from Count Basie and Orson Welles to Jack Webb and Ellen Drew. There is a “Dramatis Personae” section at the back of the book providing terse descriptions (“CHUCKIE DUQUESNE. Jazz musician and psycho killer.”) that assist, but do not always help, the reader in keeping track of who's who and what's what. One doesn’t want to stop reading the narrative long enough to look at it anyway. There is simply too much going on.Ellroy has noted elsewhere that each sentence in THIS STORM advances the narrative. Just so. It is a stiff-legged, full-out march that observes the LAPD administering rough justice to rapists and Japanese citizens alike (though Ashida is spared this. Mostly). The case that propels the novel takes flight when a heavy thunderstorm reveals a long-buried corpse in Los Angeles’s Griffith Park. It is important, yes, but there is so much else going on, including the primary and secondary effects of the Pearl Harbor attack (including citywide blackouts), the discovery of the bodies of two dead cops in a dive bar, and the sure knowledge that fifth columnists on both sides are attempting to control the city and country for their own political and selfish motives.Ellroy covers it all with a third person narrative (except for Lake’s diary) that is delivered with a machine-gun cadence in short and long bursts, depending on purpose and mood. The dialogue in places sacrifices the potentially tender feelings and sensibilities of readers upon a burning altar of accuracy. Pejorative terms for every group, race, creed or color are unearthed (though they have never really been buried) and unabashedly displayed, but never gratuitously. Their use subtly explains the whys and wherefores of what is occurring.There are no real good guys in THIS STORM. Every character is badly, even horribly flawed in some manner, though many try and succeed to do at least one right thing for the right reason if that can be discerned. At the same time, nothing --- not even the cover --- is what it seems to be at first blush. Conundrums abound, not the least of which is that one can keep up (barely) with the rapid-fire delivery of Ellroy’s prose by reading as slowly as possible. One gets lost otherwise, but please note: Ellroy is arguably creating the Great American literary collection single-handedly with this Quartet and its predecessor, and you really want to read every beautifully dark, twisted and graphic word of it to have your circuits irrevocably rewired.Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
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  • Bookreporter.com Historical Fiction
    January 1, 1970
    THIS STORM is like a drug. It is impossible to stop reading it once you start. Grains and particles (and chunks) of it linger in corners and crevices of your consciousness and memory, whether you are awake or asleep, as soon as you finish it. It cannot be accurately stated that you have never read anything like it unless you have had no contact with author James Ellroy’s prior work, particularly what has come to be known as the L.A. Quartet.This is book two in the Second L.A. Quartet, which pick THIS STORM is like a drug. It is impossible to stop reading it once you start. Grains and particles (and chunks) of it linger in corners and crevices of your consciousness and memory, whether you are awake or asleep, as soon as you finish it. It cannot be accurately stated that you have never read anything like it unless you have had no contact with author James Ellroy’s prior work, particularly what has come to be known as the L.A. Quartet.This is book two in the Second L.A. Quartet, which picks up a little more than a day after the conclusion of 2014's PERFIDIA and runs from December 30, 1941 to April 26, 1942. The protagonist remains the city of Los Angeles, which is still reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor just a few weeks before. The narrative shifts among the perspectives and points of view of several characters, each of which describes several others.Some are fictitious, such as Kay Lake, whose diary entries appear intermittently, and Hideo Ashida, an ahead-of-his-time LAPD forensic investigator who is laboring under two disadvantages, one of which is obvious and the other that he keeps hidden for preservation’s sake. Others are very real, from Count Basie and Orson Welles to Jack Webb and Ellen Drew. There is a “Dramatis Personae” section at the back of the book providing terse descriptions (“CHUCKIE DUQUESNE. Jazz musician and psycho killer.”) that assist, but do not always help, the reader in keeping track of who's who and what's what. One doesn’t want to stop reading the narrative long enough to look at it anyway. There is simply too much going on.Ellroy has noted elsewhere that each sentence in THIS STORM advances the narrative. Just so. It is a stiff-legged, full-out march that observes the LAPD administering rough justice to rapists and Japanese citizens alike (though Ashida is spared this. Mostly). The case that propels the novel takes flight when a heavy thunderstorm reveals a long-buried corpse in Los Angeles’s Griffith Park. It is important, yes, but there is so much else going on, including the primary and secondary effects of the Pearl Harbor attack (including citywide blackouts), the discovery of the bodies of two dead cops in a dive bar, and the sure knowledge that fifth columnists on both sides are attempting to control the city and country for their own political and selfish motives.Ellroy covers it all with a third person narrative (except for Lake’s diary) that is delivered with a machine-gun cadence in short and long bursts, depending on purpose and mood. The dialogue in places sacrifices the potentially tender feelings and sensibilities of readers upon a burning altar of accuracy. Pejorative terms for every group, race, creed or color are unearthed (though they have never really been buried) and unabashedly displayed, but never gratuitously. Their use subtly explains the whys and wherefores of what is occurring.There are no real good guys in THIS STORM. Every character is badly, even horribly flawed in some manner, though many try and succeed to do at least one right thing for the right reason if that can be discerned. At the same time, nothing --- not even the cover --- is what it seems to be at first blush. Conundrums abound, not the least of which is that one can keep up (barely) with the rapid-fire delivery of Ellroy’s prose by reading as slowly as possible. One gets lost otherwise, but please note: Ellroy is arguably creating the Great American literary collection single-handedly with this Quartet and its predecessor, and you really want to read every beautifully dark, twisted and graphic word of it to have your circuits irrevocably rewired.Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
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  • Jake
    January 1, 1970
    I met James Ellroy when purchasing this book at a book signing. I was nervous, having heard plenty of stories about his uncouth behavior in public. But he was actually quite nice and gracious with his time. It seems to me that once he rides out his initial wave of anxiety and gets comfortable in a situation, he’s fine. Both of us being Lutheran, we joked about the great Martin Luther; he of course appreciating Luther’s vulgarity towards the Pope.Ellroy makes it clear that he lives in the past. H I met James Ellroy when purchasing this book at a book signing. I was nervous, having heard plenty of stories about his uncouth behavior in public. But he was actually quite nice and gracious with his time. It seems to me that once he rides out his initial wave of anxiety and gets comfortable in a situation, he’s fine. Both of us being Lutheran, we joked about the great Martin Luther; he of course appreciating Luther’s vulgarity towards the Pope.Ellroy makes it clear that he lives in the past. He lives a monastic existence of no TV or much external stimuli, save books. For him, human history ended in 1972 and World War II is forever going on. Don’t ask his opinions on Donald Trump and modern politics.All that to say, it is tempting to look at This Storm, which traffics at length in fifth column and saboteur plots, as a screed on current events. But that’s not Ellroy and it never will be. For good and for ill. Ellroy is less concerned about what’s going on in the present than how the past impacted America.To this extent, he does a decent job. His characters frequently mingle with aspiring fascists and Nazi sympathizers. Ellroy’s books are basically about the horrors you see once you lift the curtain from the American facade and nowhere in our cultural history has that stage been more beautifully dressed than WWII. There are no heroes here; everyone’s an enemy and everyone’s out to screw each other, both in a sexual and non-sexual way. It’s typical Ellroy.But that’s also the driving problem with the book. I’ve read this story so many times, especially in the Underworld USA trilogy. Ellroy seems to be trying to fuse that with his LA Quartet with these books. But they read like an author who has run out of creative ways to tell this story. Bringing back all the old favorites makes the book feel uninspired, unlike say Perfidia, which introduced us to the great Hideo Ashida and gave the anti-Japanese sentiment of immediate post-Pearl Harbor LA feel real and earned. It’s impossible to latch onto any of the characters or care much about their circumstances, especially the implacable Dudley Smith, Ellroy’s personal Randall Flagg. This book is more of a mess than most of his and the deeper it goes, the less interested I was.Also, I was disappointed at how poorly Ellroy covered wartime LA. Maybe this felt under done because so much of the book was focused in Mexico as well but LA is usually a staple in his books and with few exceptions, this felt like the characters were scampering around in a studio backlot designed to simulate LA.The brilliant dialogue is still there and if it were my first Ellroy, I’d see it as a novelty. But now…eh. I was just glad to finish it.
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  • Kyle
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to Mr. Ellroy, Knopf, and NetGalley for the ooppurtunity to read This Storm by the legendary James Ellroy. First of all, let me preface that I am not being critical of the great Mr. Ellroy, but I did not enjoy This Storm as much as his first LA Quartet that began with The Black Dahlia, a classic in Noir Fiction. I think the problem began with reading this second installment before Perfidia, the first of the 2nd LA Quartet. Hope that is not as confusing as it sounds! Looking back at the Thank you to Mr. Ellroy, Knopf, and NetGalley for the ooppurtunity to read This Storm by the legendary James Ellroy. First of all, let me preface that I am not being critical of the great Mr. Ellroy, but I did not enjoy This Storm as much as his first LA Quartet that began with The Black Dahlia, a classic in Noir Fiction. I think the problem began with reading this second installment before Perfidia, the first of the 2nd LA Quartet. Hope that is not as confusing as it sounds! Looking back at the reviews of Perfidia, which are positive, leads me to believe I should of started in the correct order. The setting is Los Angeles of course, but in 1942 in the middle of WWII. There are themes of corruption along with racism and violence with the Japanese Interment Camps. I do not like to talk too much about plot points, it is better to be discovered, but unfortunately the narrative suffers here at the expense of the wordiness. There are classic elements of The Ellroy novel here, the short declarative, staccato sentences and paragraphs along with a long line of unsavory characters. In fact you will probably have a hard time finding any characters to "root" for. I think Mr. Ellroy has evolved from the classic crime novel, to more of a commentary of how the world is evolving. Judging by the characters and the settings, it is not going well in case you haven't noticed! While I enjoyed the classic sharp Ellroy style, I think this novel is a little wordy and short of narrative.. Again, that may be because I did not read Perfidia. I am going to go back and read the first installment, not the first time for many of us! That would be my suggestion for any new reader to this 2nd quartet. While this was not my favorite Ellroy book, I am glad that Mr. Ellroy is still producing novels in his trademark legendary trademark style. Both books are out now! Thank you to all, Happy Reading! #thisstorm #netgalley #jamesellroy
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  • Tim Niland
    January 1, 1970
    This is book two in Ellroy's second LA Quartet, covering the first six months of 1942. With the war and the internment of Japanese civilians as the backdrop, police detectives and criminalists are called to the discovery to a charred, boxed body, unearthed during a landslide. This leads to the discovery of a massive gold heist ten years earlier, and sets of a cataclysmic chain of events as cops, war profiteers and fifth columnists all scheme and plot to get the gold. Ellroy weaves a mix of ficti This is book two in Ellroy's second LA Quartet, covering the first six months of 1942. With the war and the internment of Japanese civilians as the backdrop, police detectives and criminalists are called to the discovery to a charred, boxed body, unearthed during a landslide. This leads to the discovery of a massive gold heist ten years earlier, and sets of a cataclysmic chain of events as cops, war profiteers and fifth columnists all scheme and plot to get the gold. Ellroy weaves a mix of fictional characters, cops, spies, refugees and politicos with real life characters like Orson Wells and other people from Hollywood, everybody drifting through the narrative. Cops with authoritarian tendencies becomes entranced by fascist doggerel, while leftover remnants if underground communist cells in the southern California intelligentsia and artistic community still exist, and they all rub shoulders incestuously at decadent parties where they realize that they have more in common, namely that gold fueled authoritarian control is better than democracy, with whispers of a Nazi / Soviet conference in Mexico in 1940 egging them on. When two bent cops are found murdered alongside a Mexican criminal in a house owned by a corrupt minister linked to the gold heist, everything comes together: crime, war, race and murder. Everything is on the table as the net closes in. While this book may not reach the heights of Ellroy's greatest work, it's still a gem, combining brutal crime fiction, heart on sleeve romanticism with spycraft and treasure hunting in a tempest of a story. His characters are as interesting as they are flawed, and the city itself looms as large as the deserts of Mexico.
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  • Bruce Bowman
    January 1, 1970
    "This Storm" is the second volume of James Ellroy's Second LA Quartet. It's far superior in intensity and vileness to "Perfidia", the first volume of the series. This is not a book for snowflakes, nor is it "A History of Los Angeles, California in the Early Phases of WWII." It is instead a mean, vicious tale of people doing what they can to climb whatever ladders of sex, money and power they may be climbing. There are no "hookers with hearts of gold" or anyone else with a heart of gold in any of "This Storm" is the second volume of James Ellroy's Second LA Quartet. It's far superior in intensity and vileness to "Perfidia", the first volume of the series. This is not a book for snowflakes, nor is it "A History of Los Angeles, California in the Early Phases of WWII." It is instead a mean, vicious tale of people doing what they can to climb whatever ladders of sex, money and power they may be climbing. There are no "hookers with hearts of gold" or anyone else with a heart of gold in any of Ellroy's books and "This Storm" is no exception. Morally pure people doing morally pure things are not to be seen. When "moral" people are encountered, they wind up to be self-serving frauds in the William Parker model. This makes "This Storm" a welcome antidote to the faux piety so common in the early 21st Century.The Second LA Quartet is, so far, not up to the level of the original LA Quartet. With "This Storm", it's getting there. "This Storm" seemed more complex and intense than "Perfidia." The next book in this series should be a real treat.
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  • Ed Stock
    January 1, 1970
    I made it through 100 pages before finally tossing the book aside. There's no chance I'll finish it. After Perfidia I promised myself I'd give Ellroy one more chance. This was that one chance.All style, no substance. Back when he put out his LA quartet I found his writing unique and captivating. It really had me hooked, with its fast pace, its terse writing, and even with its brutality.With Perfidia, I began to find him smug and stale. With This Storm, I'd finally had enough. When you find the s I made it through 100 pages before finally tossing the book aside. There's no chance I'll finish it. After Perfidia I promised myself I'd give Ellroy one more chance. This was that one chance.All style, no substance. Back when he put out his LA quartet I found his writing unique and captivating. It really had me hooked, with its fast pace, its terse writing, and even with its brutality.With Perfidia, I began to find him smug and stale. With This Storm, I'd finally had enough. When you find the same characters appearing yet again and becoming tedious, repetitive, and not worth caring about, it's time to bail. Even though many of his books have an uncommon intelligence, I couldn't help but be reminded of when Jeff Lindsay's Dexter series began to show signs of an author mailing it in and relying on reputation.
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  • Jess
    January 1, 1970
    It's a rare book that I can't even finish, but this one was that bad. Maybe Mr. Ellroy has fallen in love with his own press, but what I'm sure he thinks is pithy dialogue strikes me as poor writing and dialogue meant to shock. The occasional racist, homophobic, otherwise offensive language isn't such a shock, particularly from 40s-era police and criminals. But the nonstop flood contained in the sentence fragments Mr. Ellroy apparently thinks is good writing is just headache-inducing. This book It's a rare book that I can't even finish, but this one was that bad. Maybe Mr. Ellroy has fallen in love with his own press, but what I'm sure he thinks is pithy dialogue strikes me as poor writing and dialogue meant to shock. The occasional racist, homophobic, otherwise offensive language isn't such a shock, particularly from 40s-era police and criminals. But the nonstop flood contained in the sentence fragments Mr. Ellroy apparently thinks is good writing is just headache-inducing. This book wasn't worth the time I spent with it, and that's without even finishing it. What dreck!
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  • John Devlin
    January 1, 1970
    I’ve loved much of what Ellroy wrote in his early days, and was dismayed at his over the top 60’s big picture paranoia.The second forties book is a mixed bag, but what tips it into parody is that he’s stopped writing about real people some time ago.The characters and their intendants are just a swath of horrible tics and fetishes. Shock and grotesqueries abound making everyone a Frankenstein creation wears very thin over such a long book.The plot is a hopeless mess that runs so tangled the reade I’ve loved much of what Ellroy wrote in his early days, and was dismayed at his over the top 60’s big picture paranoia.The second forties book is a mixed bag, but what tips it into parody is that he’s stopped writing about real people some time ago.The characters and their intendants are just a swath of horrible tics and fetishes. Shock and grotesqueries abound making everyone a Frankenstein creation wears very thin over such a long book.The plot is a hopeless mess that runs so tangled the reader just concedes and waits to be told the denouement.
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  • Michael Garin
    January 1, 1970
    A tour de force, but a challenge to readThe Storm is reminiscent of John Dos Passos' masterwork USA triology, without the artistic mastery of Dos Passos' brilliance.Using a similar technique Elroy tells a convoluted tale of deception and debauchery during the early days of WWII.The cinematic approach, while creatively interesting makes reading and story a bit of a challenge because often the technique seems more important than either the characters or the plot.Nevertheless, it's James Elroy and A tour de force, but a challenge to readThe Storm is reminiscent of John Dos Passos' masterwork USA triology, without the artistic mastery of Dos Passos' brilliance.Using a similar technique Elroy tells a convoluted tale of deception and debauchery during the early days of WWII.The cinematic approach, while creatively interesting makes reading and story a bit of a challenge because often the technique seems more important than either the characters or the plot.Nevertheless, it's James Elroy and that makes it worth the effort.
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  • Chad
    January 1, 1970
    I certainly enjoyed this more than Perfidia. Ellroy's new "devolved" style is not really a mystery to be solved but rather a mania to be caught. I still prefer the older books, I guess I always will. There's something about the epic national scale of the Underworld Trilogy that I wish he would return to instead of rehashing the L.A. Quartet characters. But it is fun to see Buzz Meeks kick some ass again.
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  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    I love James Ellroy's gritty stories but not so much they way he tells them. His writing is just too off beat for me ....it shouldn't surprise me that he writes this way as it's the way he talks . I think I may re read this one but do an audio book instead . Perhaps I will appreciate it more. No body knows the old L A better than Ellroy.
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  • Gareth Carter
    January 1, 1970
    The usual Ellroy literary assault, (dense, complex and slang driven) but much easier to read than the Underworld USA trilogy.There's probably too much to take in on a single read, but it's a strong detective story nevertheless.Won't spoil anything, but I do wonder how he can bridge this quartet to the original series without even more contradiction of characters and plotlines.
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  • David Devine
    January 1, 1970
    You will have to enter into and enjoy the authors staccato style of writing, heavy use of slang of the era, and a multitude of characters to juggle (thanks for the summary of characters at end of book), to enjoy this novel.
  • Jason Allison
    January 1, 1970
    There is no voice that I’ve read as distinct and iconic as Ellroy’s. His LA of days past may or may not have existed. I don’t care. I love being there and find it hard to leave. This was nearly 600 pages and I wished it was twice that. The best novel I’ve read this year, hands down.
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  • Tom Coady
    January 1, 1970
    Great readWhile not as hard hitting as white jazz or American tabloid stills great read. My only comp!ain't is that dudley Smith is not treated well . His character seems out of joint when compared to his portrayals
  • Frederic
    January 1, 1970
    Provocative,powerful and prescient...the Kay Lake diary chapters show that Ellroy is no one trick pony and I look forward to the next volume of the Quartet...
  • Thomas Greaves
    January 1, 1970
    God bless James Ellroy - only he could something this batshit crazy yet brilliant. I'll probably revise the rating downward, like I did with Perfidia, but for now it feels right.
  • Claire-Maria Broaddus
    January 1, 1970
    challenging. sometimes i lost interest. made me think a lot about what it would mean to “make america great again”.
  • Salvatore
    January 1, 1970
    A small, more introspective piece in this quartet would not go amiss. That or more Sid Hudgens's articles. The world has grown so big!
  • Ben Page
    January 1, 1970
    Too racists and too choppy. I listened to the audio book and couldn’t follow the story. It may be a better read than listen but I just couldn’t get through it.
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