L.A. Confidential, by James Ellroy

Crime novel set in 1950's LA. Three police officers - Ed Exleigh, Bud Wight and Jack Vincenzo (not sure about spelling for any of these) - all are touched by a murder robbery at "The Night Owl" Restaurant: all having there own perspectives and reasons for investigating that crime and others that may or may not be related to it.

It took me a while to get into this, and quite a bit of skipping back to listen again. This was a novel that for large parts felt like it wasn't making things easy for the reader. There were a lot of characters, and it wasn't at all clear for some time which were the ones that you were meant to focus on. But about 2 CDs in (out of 14) I started getting into it, and was hooked.

This was a really impressive novel. There was so much going on, and even after I finished it, I'm not really sure I could explain how much of it was part of, as opposed to incidental to, the "Night Owl" incident. This had all sorts of crimes, corruption, bribery and double-crossing all the way through.

The story mainly followed the perspectives of Ed, Bud and Jack, but was also interspersed with sections supposedly quoting from newspapers and magazines. Although they're all nominally on the same side, they've each got personal issues affecting their actions, and so quite often they're not aware of what each other is doing or has discovered. So as well as only finding out gradually what's happened, you have to remember which of them knows what, and who's told which lies/truths to who. And that's on top of the misleading info coming from police informants and criminals.

The scene that first made me realise how good this was was when Ed (I think) was interviewing three suspects for the Night Owl job - he had them in three separate cells, and had some kind of mike wired up so that he could, at the press of a switch, make sure that whatever he was discussing with one of the suspects would be broadcast to speakers in the cells holding the other two. So we can hear what he's saying to each of them, but we also know which snatches of dialogue are being heard by the other two, and so see how he works them off against each other as he moves from one cell to another.

The reading was excellent too, and there were some great characters. One was a criminal who was really mouthy - he sounded like the guy that Joe Pesci played in Goodfellas - very entertaining to listen to (although he didn't really appear very much).

I think I tried watching the film once and didn't find it easy to follow. Now, I can't imagine how it could possibly be made into a film - they'd have to miss an awful lot out - but I'd like to see it again.

I think the criticism I'd make is that while the book felt pretty unforgiving to the reader - even when I was paying attention, I found myself skipping back to re-listen to bits to make sure I knew what was going on - it didn't have the confidence to let the reader work everything out himself. There were a few places where you got excerpts from newspaper articles which acted as a summary and reminder of the plot so far. In fact these were really helpful, but it did feel a bit of a cop-out. Although maybe it just would have been too hard without them.

And the ending was a bit of a disappointment, with people spilling the beans and filling in Ed and Jack and Bud on what had happened - it would have been more impressive if you could have worked it out, rather than have someone explain it all.

But I'm not complaining. I was very disappointed to come to the end of the book and craved more. Have ordered a copy of The Black Dahlia, although I've a feeling I did try that before and not get on with it. This time I'll try harder.

Re-read in 2017. It was quite an unforgiving read (although I'd expected that) and you had to concentrate. I loved the names - e.g. "Jonnie Stompanado", and "the Engleklink brothers". The audiobook was read by the same guy who'd read Sick Puppy, which I was consequently reminded of, and that put me off a bit, but once I forgot that it was great.

There were not nearly so many Hush Hush, strictly on the QT stories that I'd imagined from the first time I read it. And the ending had a lot more explanation than I'd remembered - but even then I don't think I completely followed what was going on. Good book though.

Completed : 20-Mar-2011 (audiobook)

Completed : 16-May-2017 (audiobook)

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