In the third part of his masterful LA quartet, Ellroy opens up the canvas even wider. The time window of the story is Christmas 1951 to April 1958 in Los Angeles, although there's a 1950 prologue and much prehistory. The book has three LAPD protagonists: quick-fisted enforcer Bud White, who especially hates wife beaters; Narcotics sergeant Jack Vincennes, recovering from substance abuse himself and given to feeding breaking stories to the local tabloid press as well as the hit TV show "Badge of Honor" to make himself look good; and up-and-comer college kid and decorated vet Ed Exley, anxious to get out from under the shadow of his father Preston, who was an LA detective and is now in construction. All three have dark secrets (as do nearly everyone else in this ultra-noir). A bloody shootout in which six people are massacred at an all-night cafe and three young blacks are arrested drives much of the immediate plot, but a series of unsolved and hardly noticed prostitute slayings haunts White, and Vincennes -- busted to Administrative Vice -- dispiritedly investigates a porn ring. Everything and everyone ties to everything and everyone else, and though White and Exley detest each other, the cases will inevitably bring them together. Ellroy includes fewer appearances by real people (such as crime boss Mickey Cohen and small timer Johnny Stompanato -- now known for being Lana Turner's lover and being murdered by her daughter), although a Walt Disney stand-in (and his mid 1950s amusement park) figure into the plot. Ellroy's style becomes more rapid fire and fragmentary, but still outstanding and impossible to put down. Dialogue crackles: My favorite scenes are when Exley questions the black suspects, and the first encounter of White and Lynn Margaret Bracken, the high-priced call girl who looks like Veronica Lake.
This report prepared by David Loftus