Cover image for Crime wave : reportage and fiction from the underside of L.A.
Crime wave : reportage and fiction from the underside of L.A.
Ellroy, James, 1948-
Personal Author:
First Vintage Crime/Black Lizard original edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Vintage Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
xiv, 288 pages ; 21 cm.
Part one: Unsolved. Body dumps -- My mother's killer -- Glamour Jungle ; Part two: Getchell. Hush-hush -- Tijuana, mon amour ; Part three: Contino. Out of the past -- Hollywood shakedown ; Part four: L.A. Sex, glitz, and greed : the seduction of O.J. Simpson -- The tooth of crime -- Bad boys in tinseltown -- Let's twist again.
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Los Angeles.nbsp;nbsp;In no other city do sex, celebrity, money, and crime exert such an irresistible magnetic field.nbsp;nbsp;And no writer has mapped that field with greater savagery and savvy than James Ellroy.nbsp;nbsp;With this fever-hot collection of reportage and short fiction, he returns to his native habitat and portrays it as a smog-shrouded netherworld where"every third person is a peeper, prowler, pederast, or pimp."

From the scandal sheets of the 1950s to this morning's police blotter, Ellroy reopens true crimes and restores human dimensions to their victims.nbsp;nbsp;Sublimely, he resurrects the rag Hush-Hush magazine.nbsp;nbsp;And in a baroquely plotted novella of slaughter and corruption he enlists the forgotten luminaries of a lost Hollywood.nbsp;nbsp;Shocking, mesmerizing, and written in prose as wounding as an ice pick, Crime Wave is Ellroy at his best.

Author Notes

James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. His L. A. Quartet novels - "The Black Dahlia", "The Big Nowhere", "L. A. Confidential", & "White Jazz" - were international best-sellers. His novel "American Tabloid" was Time magazine's Novel of the Year for 1995; his memoir, "My Dark Places", was a "Time" Best Book of the Year & a "New Yorker Times" Notable Book for 1996. He lives in Kansas City.

(Publisher Provided) James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles, California on March 4, 1948. His parents were divorced and he moved in with his father after his mother was murdered in 1958. The story of his mother's unsolved murder would become the basis for his 1996 nonfiction work entitled My Dark Places. He attended Fairfax High School, where he sent Nazi pamphlets to girls he liked and criticized JFK, while advocating the reinstatement of slavery. He was eventually expelled for preaching Nazism in his English class.

He joined the army after his expulsion from school, but after realizing that he did not belong there, he faked a stutter and convinced the army psychologist that he was not mentally fit for combat. After three months, he received a dishonorable discharge and returned home. His father died soon thereafter. He was thrown in juvenile hall for stealing a steak from the local market. When he got out, his father's friend became his guardian, but by the age of eighteen, he was back on the streets. He was sleeping outside, stealing, drinking and experimenting with drugs. It wasn't long before he was thrown in jail for breaking into a vacant apartment.

When he got out of jail, he started a job at an adult book store, his addictions growing progressively larger. He was misusing the drug Benzedrex, a sinus inhalent which nearly drove him to Schizophrenia and his drinking was ruining his health. He contracted pneumonia twice as well as a condition called post-alchohol brain syndrome. Fearing for his sanity, he joined AA, became sober and found a job as a golf caddy.

At the age of 30, he wrote his first novel entitled Brown's Requiem, which was published in 1981. His other works include Clandestine, Blood on the Moon, Because the Night, Suicide Hill, Killer on the Road, and The Cold Six Thousand. His works The Black Dahlia and L. A. Confidential were adapted into feature films.

Ellroy's title, Perfidia, made the New York Times bestseller list in 2014.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ellroy's celebrated novels, including L.A. Confidential, mix stream-of-consciousness-like experimentation with documentary-style detailing of procedural fact. This collection of his magazine work for GQ, mostly nonfiction, stresses the latter, offering in-depth, sometimes diary-style records of actual police investigations, including his own "reinvestigation" of his mother's murder (the basis of his memoir, My Dark Places [1996]). This technique succeeds in communicating the frustrating drudgery of much police work--dead ends, elusive data, etc.--but most readers will miss Ellroy's narrative voice: edgy, profane, verging on the outrageous. In addition to the several essays on unsolved murders, the collection also includes a couple of stories starring Danny Getchell, the tabloid publisher from L.A. Confidential, and a section devoted to modern-day Hollywood, including a psychosexual analysis of O. J. and a reflection on Ellroy's experiences with the movies. The self-styled Demon Dog of American literature puts himself on a bit of a leash here, but there's enough woofing to please hardcore fans. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)037570471XBill Ott

Publisher's Weekly Review

Ellroy's obsessionsÄTinseltown tabloid sleaze and his mother's murderÄhave fueled his writing and provided readers with countless indelible images, reams of trademark stuttergun prose and at least two killer books, L.A. Confidential and My Dark Places. This collection of 11 pieces of fiction and reportage, all previously published in GQ magazine, isn't essential Ellroy, but newcomers contemplating a tentative first dip might find it a fine place to start. The powerfully frank "My Mother's Killer" evolved into My Dark Places, and "Body Dumps" and "Glamour Jungle" both explore LAPD investigations into crimes similar to the death of Ellroy's mother in 1958, when he was 10. Two tales feature the investigative reporting of Hush-Hush magazine, always dedicated to digging the dirt and awesomely addicted to alliteration. Real-life accordionist Dick Contino has several capers of his own and gets to ingest illegal drugs, whack a few lowlifes and hang with Sammy Davis Jr. Ellroy also tackles O.J. Simpson's case, his own high school reunion and the making of the film L.A. Confidential. For some reason, his editor at GQ balked at letting the "Demon Dog of American Literature" loose on Bill and Monica. We surely missed out on a whole sackful of sleazy stuff there. Author tour. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In Ellroy's crime novels (L.A. Confidential, Mysterious, 1990), Los Angeles of the 1940s and 1950s is not the city of angels but "a smog-shrouded netherworld... [where] every third person was a peeper, prowler, pederast, poon stalker, panty sniffer, prostitute, pillhead, or pimp." This collection of journalism and short stories, first published in GQ magazine between 1993 and 1998, reflects Ellroy's fascination with L.A's seamy side, an obsession that grew out of his mother's unsolved murder. "My mother's death corrupted and emboldened my imagination," he writes in "Body Dumps," an investigation in terse police-blotter prose of the second unsolved homicide in the history of El Monte, CA. The first had been of Geneva Hilliker Ellroy, 15 years earlier. Included here is the account of that crime, "My Mother's Killer," later expanded into the powerful My Dark Places (LJ 11/15/96). Scandal-plagued Hollywood is the focus of the fictional "Hush-Hush," "Tijuana, Mon Amour," and "Hollywood Shakedown," orgies of hard-boiled alliterations ("A sweaty swish with the shakes"), surreal violence, and black humor. Ellroy fans will lap this up.ÄWilda Williams, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The police reconstructed the crime. My mother went out drinking Saturday night. She was seen at the Desert Inn bar in El Monte with a dark-haired white man and a blonde woman. My mother and the man left the bar around 10 P.M. A group of Little Leaguers discovered the body. My mother had been strangled at an unknown location and dumped into some bushes next to the athletic field at Arroyo High School, a mile and a half from the Desert Inn. She clawed her assailant's face bloody. The killer had pulled off one of her stockings and tied it loosely around her neck postmortem. I went to live with my father. I forced some tears out that Sunday--and none since. My flight landed early. L.A. looked surreal, and inimical to the myth town of my books. I checked in at the hotel and called Sergeant Stoner. We made plans to meet the following day. He gave me directions to the Homicide Bureau; earthquake tremors had ravaged the old facility and necessitated a move. Sergeant McComas wouldn't be there. He was recuperating from open-heart surgery, a classic police-work by-product. I told Stoner I'd pop for lunch. He warned me that the file might kill my appetite. I ate a big room-service dinner. Dusk hit--I looked out my window and imagined it was 1950-something. I set my novel Clandestine in 1951. It's a chronologically altered, heavily fictionalized account of my mother's murder. The story details a young cop's obsession: linking the death of a woman he had a one-night stand with to the killing of a redheaded nurse in El Monte. The supporting cast includes a 9-year-old boy very much like I was at that age. I gave the killer my father's superficial attributes and juxtaposed them against a psychopathic bent. I have never understood my motive for doing this. I called the dead nurse Marcella De Vries. She hailed from my mother's hometown: Tunnel City, Wisconsin. I did not research that book. Fear kept me from haunting archives and historical sites. I wanted to contain what I knew and felt about my mother. I wanted to acknowledge my blood debt and prove my imperviousness to her power by portraying her with coldhearted lucidity. Several years later, I wrote The Black Dahlia. The title character was a murder victim as celebrated as Jean Ellroy was ignored. She died the year before my birth, and I understood the symbiotic cohesion the moment I first heard of her. The Black Dahlia was a young woman named Elizabeth Short. She came west with fatuous hopes of becoming a movie star. She was undisciplined, immature, and promiscuous. She drank to excess and told whopping lies. Someone picked her up and tortured her for two days. Her death was as hellishly protracted as my mother's was gasping and quick. The killer cut her in half and deposited her in a vacant lot twenty miles west of Arroyo High School. The killing is still unsolved. Excerpted from Crime Wave: Reportage and Fiction from the Underside of L.A. by James Ellroy All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.