This Storm by James Ellroy [3/10]

I was one of legions who fell in love with James Ellroy’s clipped, frenetic prose over the course of his L.A. Quartet. set in the 50s and 60s. but by the time I devoured that series’ closer, “White Jazz,” it was apparent the stylistics were getting out of control. “American Tabloid,” the first in his Underworld trilogy, was brilliant, with a riveting storyline, but the remaining two of the trilogy tested my patience. Now “This Storm” succeeds “Perfidia,” kicking off on New Years Eve, 1941, a day after its predecessor, within a prequel series to the L.A. Quartet. A body in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, a puzzling address book … and evil Dudley Smith, dogged Sergeant Elmer Jackson, forensic cop Hideo Ashida, treacherous Joan Conville, together with dozens of other outlandish characters, embark on a seemingly endless plot of villainy, racism, and death. The novel’s pace is astonishing but not to good effect, for the tapestry of monstrosities and their ill-doings quickly becomes pointless. And the style! If Ellroy remains a brilliant painter of both seediness and glitz, his words and sentences have become amped up into an undisciplined, jerky mess. I enjoyed a handful of scenes and character immersions but the plot revelations, when they came, carried no emotional heft at all. Overall, “This Storm” is an unlikeable nightmare without a heart, and a lumpen pastiche of the literary dances of Ellroy’s older prose.

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