Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Mr. Arkadin

Perfidia

Recommended Posts

Ellroy's second L.A. quartet launches with Perfidia, due to be published this fall. A letter from the author spills some of the story details:

 

My design for “The Second L.A. Quartet” is unprecedented in scope, stylistic execution and dramatic intent.  I will take characters -– both fictional and real-life -- from the first two extended bodies of work, and place them in Los Angeles during World War II –- as significantly younger people.  The action will begin the day before the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and will carry an enormous range of people through to the end of the war.  Massive police investigations, political intrigue, grand love affairs, war profiteering, Axis sabotage plots.  Four 700-page hardcover novels that will span the homefront breadth of the greatest worldwide event of the twentieth century.  

 

And, now, Volume I -– PERFIDIA.

 

The story unfolds, in densely structured real time, between December 6th and December 29th, 1941.  Los Angeles is at the cusp of a titanic and horrifying world conflict.  Political divisions – Isolationism versus Interventionism – rage.  Anti-Japanese rancor is escalating and then the bodies of a middle-class Japanese family are found, in their home.

 

It might be seppuku – ritual sword suicide.  It might be murder.  It’s a political hot potato for the rampantly corrupt Los Angeles Police Department, an agency beset by near-feudal factionalism and hounded by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.  The war now turns the LAPD topsy-turvy – and the Watanabe case becomes a maelstrom that forever changes and shatters scores of lives.

 

There's a lot more at the link.

Edited by Ryan H.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow! After mentioning Perfidia, Ellroy launches right into things that piss him off -- and the list is long. He's sure to become persona non grata in literary circles now, if he isn't already. He can't say such things in polite company!

 

What can you tell us about your new project, the second LA Quartet?

I’m about to finish the first volume, called Perfidia – my biggest book – which will be published in Britain this fall. The new quartet takes characters both fictional and real, major and minor, from the first quartet and the trilogy, but places them in LA during the Second World War. It’s the month of Pearl Harbor, 6-29 December 1941. It seamlessly takes the quartet and trilogy, adds four novels, and makes my oeuvre as a historical novelist one inextricable 11-novel whole. And although the story is very much about the injustice of the internment of the Japanese – most of them innocent – let me say, and this is very un-PC, the f*cking internment was not the Holocaust or the Soviet Gulag.

 

Will people disagree with that?

I don’t think they’d like my tone. But the book takes a theme I first got hip to thanks to Skyfall. It’s f*cking brilliant and it’s the only profound James Bond movie. They’re usually boring and overlong; the books are boring and racist. The stories are shoddy and sloppily plotted. But Skyfall is about the defence of the West, and that’s what the series is about. I also want to write an espionage trilogy set immediately after the Second World War called the Red Alert Trilogy. Churchill predicted the Iron Curtain and Soviet aggression, and thought we should go into Russia while they were weak after the Second World War. In hindsight, he was right.

 

How do you feel about Obama?

I hate him. I think he’s a coward, incompetent and I find him sinister. He’s the face of cancerous socialism under the guise of benevolence. His wife going on the Academy Awards by remote hook-up made them come across like Soviet apparatchiks. However, I don’t have a TV, cellphone or internet and I find the world untenable. I’m a big Tory. Big. Tory. There’s also a part of me that loves to say, “F*ck you, I’m a Republican.” I’m a Thatcherite and a Reaganite.

 

And later ...

 

Anyway, I need to go back to bed now. What are your plans for tomorrow?

 

Nothing concrete until about 4pm…

 

In that case, I’ll meet you back here at noon, after I’ve been to church, and we will continue.

Edited by Christian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I started Perfidia today and got a little over a hundred pages in (it's a whopping seven hundred pages total). As a prequel to the L.A. Quartet books, Perfidia is peculiar. I'm curious to see where Ellroy will take this stuff over the next three books (it's pretty clear that this is all going to lead into The Black Dahlia in a big way).

Also, if you haven't read the first L.A. Quartet, you'll probably find Perfidia impenetrable.

 

Wow! After mentioning Perfidia, Ellroy launches right into things that piss him off -- and the list is long. He's sure to become persona non grata in literary circles now, if he isn't already. He can't say such things in polite company!

It's generally known that Ellroy's over-sized "right-wing" persona is mostly performance art, so I would suspect that he's probably okay. Edited by Ryan H.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just started it tonight as well.  It's been a while since I was reading Ellroy's prose, but it's enjoyable to be back to it.  It's also fun to meet the younger versions of Lee Blanchard, Bucky Bleichert, Kay Lake, Dudley Smith and Buzz Meeks.  The William H. Parker character is interesting, although he reminds me a little of L.A. Confidential's Ed Exley.

 

In the meantime, here's Glenn Miller's "Perfidia," which is mentioned early on in the book -

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The William H. Parker character is interesting, although he reminds me a little of L.A. Confidential's Ed Exley.

William Parker is the police chief in L.A. Confidential.

One major revelation regarding Dudley Smith has me scratching my head.

Edited by Ryan H.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've read the Friday and Saturday sections so far, which is about 100 pages. I am enjoying this but am surprised by how much Ellroy has chosen to repeat himself. It is great for fans and we get to pat ourselves on the back for noticing the Easter Eggs, but I don't think I would recommend this to anyone new to his work.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is great for fans and we get to pat ourselves on the back for noticing the Easter Eggs, but I don't think I would recommend

this to anyone new to his work.

Agreed. Its density would be overwhelming to a newcomer.

There are some new thematic nuances here (stuff I expect Ellroy to build on in the remainder of Perfidia and in the following books), but it's not for the uninitiated. Perfidia assumes familiarity with the L.A. Quartet and the Underworld USA Trilogy.

Edited by Ryan H.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So how accessible would it be for someone who's only read the Underworld USA Trilogy? I listened to The Black Dahlia on audiobook, but don't remember that much of it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So how accessible would it be for someone who's only read the Underworld USA Trilogy? I listened to The Black Dahlia on audiobook, but don't remember that much of it.

So far, it's *very* heavy on L.A. Quartet characters, particularly those from The Black Dahlia. I'd at least give that another look before trying Perfidia.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

William Parker is the police chief in L.A. Confidential.

Oh, that's right. It's been over a decade since I read it, but the more I read of Perfidia, the more the first quartet is coming back to me. (I had to check back to confirm that Buzz Meeks was who I thought he was.)

 

 

It is great for fans and we get to pat ourselves on the back for noticing the Easter Eggs, but I don't think I would recommend

this to anyone new to his work.

Agreed. Its density would be overwhelming to a newcomer.

So how accessible would it be for someone who's only read the Underworld USA Trilogy? I listened to The Black Dahlia on audiobook, but don't remember that much of it.

I'm going to reserve judgment on this until I've read through the entire book as a whole. Ideally, while it is true that those of us familiar with Ellroy's work are now recognizing characters and thinking about how this beginning ties into the dynamics and character arcs of the earlier books, Perfidia will be the first book chronologically out of all of them. In other words, this will be the youngest and earliest that a reader will meet some of Ellroy's most famous characters. For that reason, if Perfidia works as a whole, it may be preferable for new readers to start with it - in which case they would be starting the first of eight books which are all set in the same world (with then an additional three books after, which are not entirely unconnected either).

 

At this point, I can't help but be impressed at the sheer ambition and weight of Ellroy's planned work.  He is really going to further develop some of these characters more than I ever imagined he would.

 

But until I can judge this book as a whole, which book I would recommend first is still entirely theoretical.

 

Edited to add: Meanwhile, I have a serious problem.  I am stuck at work all day when all I want to do is to sit down and finish reading this novel.

Edited by J.A.A. Purves

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dennis Lehane, The New York Times:
“... The four books in what became known as the Los Angeles Quartet — “The Black Dahlia,” “The Big Nowhere,” “L.A. Confidential” and “White Jazz” — were written with razzle-dazzle intensity and a lust for the past that approached religious fervor. They launched a frontal assault against any crime fiction that had become self-righteous or one-dimensional, and any literary fiction that had become overly enamored of those people Mary Lee Settle called the “vaguely unhappy in Connecticut.” The Los Angeles Quartet burned a pathway for the next generation of crime writers by proving genre could be literature if one had the ambition and the talent to make it so.

“... In Dudley Smith, Ellroy has found the hellhound guide for his neon-noir Los Angeles underbelly. Smith, a demon removed from any concept of restraint, says at one point: “I destroy those I cannot control. I must be certain that those close to me share my identical interests. I’m benevolent within that construction. I’m ghastly outside of it.” Smith casts the same shadow over “Perfidia” that Judge Holden cast over Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian.” He’s writ large and writ evil, a monolith of corruption and utilitarian expediency. But unlike what Ellroy did with Smith’s previous appearances, here he sets his sights, to varying degrees of success, on the devil’s heart and the ways in which satanic charms often coexist with paternal benevolence. For Smith engenders loyalty as much as he does fear. In a world as sordid and chaotic as the one Ellroy depicts, the simple purity of Smith’s evil attains a kind of nobility.”


Chris Harvey, The Telegraph:
“There has never been a writer like James Ellroy. Since the Eighties, in novels such as LA Confidential and The Cold Six Thousand, he has been making real a secret world behind the official history of America, where bad girls mingle with very bad men, and the designs of murderers, cops, mobsters, movie stars and politicians can be equally callous, equally deadly. He melds racial invective, street slang, hepcat jazz talk, junkie jive and scandal-rag rants into prose of such controlled intensity that to enter it is to experience a vivid eyeball rush of recognition.

“... Setting his characters on course to a known future was an epic task. To render it seamless with the existing books, Ellroy spent three months rereading all his relevant novels, mapping the lives of his characters in detail. The plot-planning alone ran to 700 pages. He comes clean about one of the book’s main protagonists. “William H Parker is the darkest, the truest, the most redemptive self-portrait I’ve ever written. He’s got my proletarianism, my Christian fervour, my piety, my profligacy, my restlessness, my need to control my environment, my extreme ambition, my fear, my alcoholism, all of it.”

“... Ellroy says he doesn't understand the young men of today, however. "Today's generation of males don’t seem to have an urgent need to impress women and I don’t get it. You have a generation hooked on off-handedness and irony and casualness. And I abhor the casual and the ironic and the uncommitted, especially in relation to women. "Why are we here?" he asks. "And why is the conjunction of men and women at the heart of all great art." He identifies what he sees as a "shocking component of the human race in this digital age" - the desire to "be somebody... with no idea of how to go about it, or even why?"

New reports suggest that Ellroy may be collaborating with David Fincher on a Fifties-set crime series for HBO ...”


Jason Sheehan, NPR:
“There are a lot of reasons not to read James Ellroy's newest novel, Perfidia — the opening shot in his proposed second L.A. Quartet. It's a long and sprawling book with about a million pages and 10,000 characters, so if that kind of thing scares you, go back to your Hunger Games and leave the grown-ups alone. It's a brutal book. More than one person crawls home with a handful of his own teeth. A quick gunshot to the head? That's a merciful way to go in Ellroy's Los Angeles, and not many characters get that kindness.

“... But this is why you should read it. Because it's beautiful. It's got style like your grandfather did back when he dudded up on a Saturday night in a zoot suit and chain. Because it's epic in its depth and evocation of an ugly time and an awful place that, with its sheen of youth and beauty, is too often made glossy and innocent in our memories. And because in a book which leans heavily on a boxing motif, Ellroy writes like a great fighter works the ring. He bobs and he feints along the book's 23-day timeline. His sentences are short, sharp jabs, building into gorgeous combos that can floor you with their precision. In over 700 pages, he rarely meets a conjunction he doesn't excise ...”


Chris Wallace, Interview Magazine:
“... Living and working in Los Angeles now, Ellroy, at 66, says he is in his prime, doing the best work of his life. Presently that work is the beginning of the "Second L.A. Quartet," a prequel to his two famous series, linking his best books and his most loved characters. The first novel in this new series, Perfidia, out this month from Knopf, opens in the days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and reintroduces us to the bent copper Dudley Smith (famously played by James Cromwell in L.A. Confidential), and a 21-year-old Kay Lake (who would become the woman played by Scarlett Johansson in the Black Dahlia film). Perfidia is a massive love story loaded with all the racial and sexual tension of Ellroy's best, and draped across the kind of byzantine crime plot for which he earned his fame.

... ELLROY: I wanted to portray a newly democratized, enclosed society. I wanted to show how extraordinarily fluid people are in their embrace of other human beings. Dudley Smith is deeply flawed—

WALLACE: And probably my favorite villain in recent literature.

ELLROY: But you have to love him. He's just this dashing, handsome guy. Did you figure out who the killer was?

WALLACE: No.

ELLROY: Well, the clues are there. They always are. Which is why when crimes are solved decades after the fact, it's obvious that the clues had always been right in front of them. A traffic ticket in Brooklyn is how they got ["Son of Sam" serial killer] David Berkowitz. You've just got to look.

... ELLROY: I'm not in therapy with the books I write, but a third of the way through Perfidia, I realized Parker is the deepest explication of myself and my conflicts, my insane ambition. Parker is the two sides of my nature. I'm entirely pious and religious, and entirely profligate. I'm a sober alcoholic and dope fiend, and seasoned obsessive, womanizing, dipshit fool, and serial ex-husband. [laughs] Parker comes from the Dakota prairie. Parker is chaotic and deeply romantic in life, in his desire to impose order on external circumstances, and on people at large. And make this big, clean, good-looking corrupt place cohere in his moral vision.

WALLACE: A place where the good guys lose. And the Dudley Smiths win. Smith isn't any smarter than his competitors, but he's hungrier. He's refined by greed.

ELLROY: He's driven by his own dark romanticism. The progenitor of my work is symphonic romanticism. It's the music of the German, the middle European, the Russian.

WALLACE: This is opera.

ELLROY: It is, yes. And Kay and Dudley and Parker are all classical music fiends. And Dudley's the romantic demon, the Faust, Berlioz's artist in the Symphonie Fantastique. He's quite mad. He loves Shakespeare. He loves Wagner ..."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just finished Perfidia. I grew to admire and enjoy it more as I went on. Some of the points of connection between characters and story threads seem too convenient, but it's nevertheless quite impressive that Ellroy weaves it all together as tightly as he does. I'm excited to see where the next three books head and which characters he chooses to follow in future installments.

 

As far as the "should you read this before or after the L.A. Quartet" conversation goes, I'll still advise readers to ploy through the L.A. Quartet first. It'll be easier to keep track of the characters, and Perfidia spoils some story reveals in the L.A. Quartet (in the same way that the Star Wars prequels spoil some of the original trilogy's twists and turns). 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I un-preordered this when it became apparent that I wouldn't get to it anytime soon. Sounds like I made the right choice, given the conversation here [no, I still haven't read The Black Dahlia]

 

Meanwhile, here's The Guardian:

 

Many people know Ellroy as the author of The LA Quartet, which includes The Black Dahliaand LA ConfidentialPerfidia, so the endnotes tell us, is the first volume of the second LA Quartet; the beginning of a prequel that Ellroy hopes will leave him and us with "one novelistic history" comprising 11 books – the two quartets plus his Underworld US trilogy. This second quartet "places real-life and fictional characters from the first two bodies of work in Los Angeles during the second world war as significantly younger people". The zone of Ellroy's ambition, then, is an American Comédie Humaine.

Edited by NBooth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just finished Perfidia. I grew to admire and enjoy it more as I went on. Some of the points of connection between characters and story threads seem too convenient, but it's nevertheless quite impressive that Ellroy weaves it all together as tightly as he does. I'm excited to see where the next three books head and which characters he chooses to follow in future installments.

 

As far as the "should you read this before or after the L.A. Quartet" conversation goes, I'll still advise readers to ploy through the L.A. Quartet first. It'll be easier to keep track of the characters, and Perfidia spoils some story reveals in the L.A. Quartet (in the same way that the Star Wars prequels spoil some of the original trilogy's twists and turns).

Count me as excited as well. The story feels grand in scope, and if you know anything about the historical details of some of the historical characters coming up, there is some great material that Ellroy will have to work with.

I finished it yesterday. The thing about reading Ellroy, and I say this especially for first-time readers, is that there are occasional moments that seem unnecessarily dark, lurid or offensive when you first begin reading the book. It’s not that they are unrealistic, but they can be pretty gruesome - like reading through the pages of a police report (something I regularly do in my work). But if you keep reading, the prose and the atmosphere of the book will gradually envelop you. You enter another world when you start reading Ellroy. It’s a rough place, but it has wit and pathos enough to be worth it - greatly worth it.

I read a number of reviews of the book and one thing I completely disagree with is where a large number of reviewers all repeated (like it was the thing they were supposed to say about the book) that Ellroy’s story has no good guys. But that’s not true. The good characters in Ellroy’s book are not perfect and it is made very clear that they all struggle with the human condition. But, in Perfidia, some of them very clearly have a conscience (William H. Parker, Lee Blanchard, Ward Littell) and some of them acquire a conscience they may not have originally been aware of as the story progresses (Kay Lake, Scotty Bennett).

And then Ellroy does not portray even the villains as entirely evil. Instead, he develops them with another kind of affection, making their humanity identifiable even if their sanity may be questionable.

Finally, I think it would be just fine for a new reader to begin reading Ellroy with Perfidia. Some back stories are told that are only revealed later in the earlier books, true. But the pleasure of reading Ellroy, while his mysteries are intricate, has never really been that of reading a whodunit where the point of the story is to try and guess the solution. The only disadvantage with starting with Perfidia is that you would then need to wait a number of years in order to keep reading them in chronological order. And I can say that having read the earlier books did in no way diminish my pleasure in reading this one.

 

When I have time to thumb back through it, I'll comment more on the religious themes in the book - there seemed to be a few of them running through it, including Parker and Smith's Catholicism - and the ways in which their belief in the spiritual world affected some of the other characters.

 

Also, it was fun to read of different characters' reactions to The Passion of Joan of Arc and Citizen Kane.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

LARB offers two pieces on Perfidia.

 

Jonathan Shapiro: A Healthy Serving of Ellroy:

 

Fortunately, Dudley Smith remains the most compelling, complex demon to burn through an American fiction since Cormac McCarthy’s Judge Holden took scalps in Blood Meridian. An inspired, wholly original creation, Smith is always the star of an Ellroy book. Armed with a badge, blackjack, gun, Irish charm and brogue, and sociopath’s sense of right and wrong, Smith is charmingly, unforgettably evil. If Smith were the only character Ellroy ever created, Ellroy’s greatness as a writer would be complete.
 
But Ellroy refuses to let well enough alone. In Perfidia, he gives us Smith’s whole life story, beginning in Ireland, with romantic stops involving Joseph Kennedy and Bette Davis. But in making the implicit explicit, Ellroy demystifies his own creation, leaving Smith less interesting than he was before. Cormac McCarthy was wise enough to never explain who or what Judge Holden was, leaving it to the reader’s imagination to fill the void. Legends and nightmares are sui generis, with nothing so prosaic as a backstory. In telling us who Smith is and where he came from, Ellroy waters down his greatest work. Sometimes writers are their own worst enemies.
 
 
Edmund Wilson located the appeal of detective fiction in its ability to provide readers with a sense of catharsis. The genre offers a controlled descent into paranoia and anarchy, “and then, suddenly, the murderer is spotted, and — relief! — he is not, after all, a person like you are me. He is a villain — known to the trade as George Gruesome — and he has been caught by an infallible Power.” Perfidia takes this formula, so perfectly attuned to the moral sensibilities of the “Greatest Generation” and the age of consensus, and inverts it for the post-Abu Ghraib, post-NSA, post-Michael Brown moral co-ordinates we inhabit today. Where Wilson saw the figure of police power as restoring a sense of order after a period of chaos, Ellroy’s detectives reaffirm the chaos underlying our provisional fantasies of order. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...