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One of my favorite books.
In my experience, I've found that you either love James Ellroy, or you detest him. He is mostly known for his sharp short prose that bounces like a dropped butchers knife on the kitchen floor.
Thanks to Oliver Stone's film JFK, it seemed that everyone and their brother was doing something on JFK's assassination in the early 1990's. New conspiracy theories were coming out like gossip in the theeatre pool; New evidence seemed to be coming out, and I'm sure that Geraldo Rivera did something on him too at some point. I remember when Quantum Leap (one of my favorite shows during that time) even did something on it. The whole topic, while interesting, became over-saturated.
But then, in 1995, James Ellroy came out with something spectacular. A fictionalized account that that spans five years, leading up to the Kennedy Assassination is better than some of the teeth gripping conspiracies that are floating around. Ellroy doesn't go off and say that "this is actually how it was done" (we'll never know that), but his story is so fleshed out and detailed, that it all seems so plausible.
In normal Ellroy style, his characters are flawed. And he, in a style that was perfected in his 1990 novel LA Confidential, he is able to span months at a time by letting us read Headlines, or Confidential Documents or Audio Transcripts that help fill in the spaces without "talking about them". It's brilliant. Because there are times that you almost feel like you're not reading a book, as much as an investigator who has either been privy to secret documents, or have broken into someones office to peek at them.
Ellroy's world is a dark one. His is a guy who will never be seen writing YA or a picture book. And it's only been in recent years that I've seen a promotional photo of him where he's seen smiling. Which is a little off setting, because -- if you've read his work -- you think that the guy must never smile. But regardless of his dark nature, there's always something intriguing about his work. And American Tabloid is a true winner.
How I like to explain the book to others is: American Tabloid is the mob movie that made the Godfather look like a fairy tale. Now they just have to make the movie.
If I had one complaint about the Unabridged Audiobook is that: I was excited to get my hands on this unabridged recording for sometime. I had a copy of the Unabridged version that was done by Books-On-Tape years ago (narrated, I believe, by Dick Hill). Christopher Lane does a fantastic job in his delivery, and even with creating the personas of the characters he's develops. My only beef is that there are moments where it seems like the producer had seamed in points that needed to be re-recorded with Dick Hill's narration. It didn't take away from my enjoyment of the audiobook, but it was noticeable to me. Like a little bit of apple skin stuck between my teeth.
But other than that, fantastic all around.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
This is one of Ellroy's best novels, and an essential for anyone who enjoys hardboiled, historical or true crime. The interweaving of historical facts and persons with fictional plotlines and persons is dazzling. The '60s are as fascinatingly depicted as they have ever been.
The use of terse, poetic and often offensive language such as racist terms is par for the course for Ellroy, but despite ultimately being intended to underline the flaws of society at this oft-fondly recalled time in U.S. history, it may be shocking to someone who hasn't read Ellroy before.
The Audiobook is near perfect, but the narrator's voices and accents sometimes blend together. It seems like he was hired largely on the ability to affect the Kennedy accent and does so very well, but that voice at times bleeds into other characters and it can be puzzling. Characters who hail from vaguely similar places sound the same. Mob figures and Cubans, for example, all sound the same. J Edgar Hoover sounds like a bad Kennedy impression most of the time. Also, there are some overdubs for random lines that were clearly recorded at a different time, as they are much louder than the rest of the book and basically drop all attempt at accents and voices. Annoying, but not often enough to be a big deal. Overall a great listen, despite these flaws, and a fair unabridged treatment of a must-read.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful