Perfidia (2014)

Perfidia book cover

As with all of James Ellroy’s fiction since the 1990s, I am infatuated with the book.  With the prose and the characters.  Unlike Ellroy’s previous fiction, this one exposes something new, hinting at something that was never Ellroy before.  Or maybe it is a change in my perceptions, seeing something that isn’t there, or was always there.

What I think connects me with Ellroy’s fiction most of all is an old-fashioned idea of passion.  The kind that drives courtship and romance, but also anger and violence.  It is the id unleashed to dramatic effect, where the base expectation is of chaste and civilised containment in an orderly, ordered society.  Writing for The Telegraph, Chris Harvey relayed some of Ellroy’s thoughts on this powerful driver of life and dramatic tension:
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Ellroy bleeds for Hopkins

Book covers

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

– apocryphal, Ernest Hemingway


The Lloyd Hopkins trilogy is not Lee Earle ‘James’ Ellroy’s first work, nor his best.  But I can see that he sat his typewriter and bled to produce it.  Perhaps he just didn’t bleed quite enough.  It seems that Hopkins is Ellroy’s fictional alter ego: tall, energetic, nervy, intuitive.  A genius cop who breaks all the rules.  A womaniser who ruins his marriage that way.  A dark past that hovers over him.

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Underworld USA: America unimagined

Ellroy’s homecoming in three movements

American Tabloid

Look at the Prez … look at the clown car. There they go, pretending to be real people. There they go, pretending to be running the world. Can’t be! Those people? No way!


Waaaaaaay back.

1990s … 1970s … 1950s.


Look at them now. No. Not the ones in the foreground. Zoom past them. Zoom below the popular cast. Sharpen the focus on what’s underneath.

See the unfamiliar faces? See them talk and move about. See them hate and love. See them get it right and fuck it up. See them project the shadows that are the familiar faces and events.

That’s what James Ellroy wants in ‘Underworld USA’. Three books. American Tabloid (1995), The Cool Six Thousand (2001), Blood’s a Rover (2009).

American history 1958-1973. Told the way it never was, with characters that never were, who explain the characters we always knew, and how things really were.

Ellroy channelling Will Graham from the Hannibal fiction? Immersed so deeply in the subject he comes out transcribing a Zeitgeist mind-set of that era. Like it’s an unhealthy obsession. Like it’s an alien psychology. Like it’s a sickness?

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