James Ellroy: palaverous, pleonastic, perpetrator of Perfidia
Good evening peepers, prowlers, pederasts, panty-sniffers, punks and pimps. It is time to bark like a Demon Dog. James Ellroy, self-styled White Knight of the far right is back, with a perfidious new purveyance of faithlessness, treachery and betrayal. Perfidia is the fourteenth full-length Ellroy offering. A seven hundred page donkey choker of a novel set in the 23 days surrounding the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 1941.
A prequel to The L.A. Quartet, that includes The Black Dahlia and LA. Confidential and the Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy of American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand and Blood’s a Rover. Ellroy threatens from the very outset that this will be the first in a new quartet, featuring a cast of crimetastic characters from his earlier bestsellers.
All the gang are here: Bucky “Tojo teeth” Bleichert, Lee Blanchard, Dudley Smith, Kay Lake. Mickey Cohen—on and on. According to the Dramatis Personae at the end of the book, there are at least 87 characters, and it seems like we meet a new one on every page. That’s right Crimeziners—Perfidia pops, purrs and pontificates as the benzedrine buzz of perverse pomposity and brass-knuckle beatings hit heavy from page one. Things get ugly fast. But you knew that would happen. This is Los Angeles, City of Angels, the hardboiled home of James Ellroy, and he rules baby.
Racist epithets bounce like bullets. Note the rampaging right wing revelry. Kough as the Kitchy Kreator Koos Konstantly about a Karnival of KKK Kooks. Thrill as he creates a swirling nexus of bad ju-ju. Observe as he ravages the reader with ribald repetition: J@P. J@P. J@P. J@P; CH¡NK. CH¡NK.CH¡NK. JEW, JEW, JEW, Short sentences shift, as his nomenclature of nastiness runs out of control. Jews we learn are Commies who started the Russian Revolution. They are cynically responsible for World War II. No doubt many suspected this. Seig-heils abound. Nazi uniforms abound. Preposterous far right posturing goose-steps across every page.
Item: Hideous Hari Kiri. Seppuku slashings. J@p murder most horrid.
Japanese criminologist Hideo Ashida plays a central role in Perfidia. As do very many homogenous white LAPD cops—every one of them savage booze-addled haters and bitter racist homophobes. “Queer” humor features heavily. African Americans do not. They are called C**NS, Jigab**s, Nigg@s. They live in “Darktown or the “Jigab** Jungle.”
Item: Benzedine. Opium. Benzedine. Opium. Benzedine. Opium Benzedine. Opium.
But this is just a bit of fun, right? Raping rectums with right wing rhetoric. It is not to be taken seriously, is it? Ellroy is after all the Dr. Seuss of gross abuse. When he heaps on the homo hate and the perverted panty peeping putrescence—It is just dear sweet uncle Jim isn’t it? The night stalker of crime noir. You would invite him over for a slumber party sleepover with your troop of teenaged girl scouts in a New York second wouldn’t you? Of course you would. Squeeeeeeeeee.
But what’s this? A perverted peep inside the diary of Kay Lake? A narrative noodling? A feminist faux pas? A cynical sop to the bull-dagger community?
No need to worry Crimeziners the leitmotif is lusty and lascivious. We get lots of lovely “lesbos” and Kute Kate schleps schlong plenty long[time] with every man she meets—and tells us everything. [Pant!]
Item: Terpin Hydrate. Benzedine. Terpin Hydrate. Benzedine.
But the sexy shenanigans don’t end there my round-heeled friends.
Slanderous salaciousness swims forth as Ellrovian characters rut with real-life screen divas: Joan Crawford features. Bette Davis features—on and on. This is not a work of love. It is a work of megalomaniacal obsession, bordering on insanity.
Item: Booze-addled room-spin. Pints of Whiskey and Mezcal. Terpin Hydrate. Benzedine. Opium. Chained-cigarettes on booze and bennies.
Staccato sentence structures twist taboos with verboten verbiage—ravaging the reader with ribald repetition. Boo-coo big-words and kanji characters come rápidamente. Hep-cat crime slang and cop-jargon are trowelled across every page. Bow down the malignant milieu of the monstrous mensch. Submit to the power of his poetical dialecticism. He is verbose, putrescent and marvelously malfeasant.
Blood gout, brass knuckle work, beaten bloody with a beaver-tail sap and lead-lined gloves—when willllllllll it ennnnd? More pages to go—lots of them—many of them in italics. Bombastic. Grandiloquent. Loquacious. Circumlocutional. A veritable bow-wow’s breakfast of tautological rambling. A palaverous and pleonastic police procedural to end all others. Do you dig it nowwwwww? Of course you do. You worship. You kow-tow. You indulge his every whim. Ellroy is the master. He rules over your every waking breath and commands your nightmares. He is the man—the god—the bestial second coming—and he conquers all.
Only another three novels to go Crimeziners, unless the white-coated men with butterfly nets capture the old goat first. But even then, you just know Ellroy will be there in the Los Angeles home for the criminally priapic, scratching out his DeSadeian prequels until the Faustian muse snatches him from us. James Ellroy the deranged and garrulous king of crime fiction long may he reign.
The Alberto Domínguez song Perfidia popularized by Xavier Cougat (1940) and Desi Arnaz plays throughout the novel. Dig the “flashback to Paris” scene in Casablanca—Perfidia plays again—and more recently in the Wong Kar-wai flick Days of Being Wild. Crimezine prefers the Julie London version. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8MjJXvnzj4