This Storm

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Jun 2019

Member Reviews

I think Ellroy is a fine writer, but I'm blessed if I understand what's going on in this book. I hope that by the time the MS editors have done what needs to be done the quality of the book will be much enhanced.
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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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Another 'hot date with history'

Following almost straight on from 'Perfidia', this opens on New Year's Eve 1941 and closes in May 1942. It's another manic slice of LA low-life in Ellroy's trademark staccato tones, getting even more hallucinogenic and stream-of-consciousness. Kay Lake's diary offers some more traditional narrative to break up the jittery, jazzy, hard-to-hold-onto storylines. 

Fans of Ellroy will know what to expect in this continued descent into the maelstrom of wartime LA: violence, betrayal, corruption are everywhere, all the characters are tortured or tortuous. Joan Conville who had been haunting the margins of 'Perfidia' finally makes it on stage and women generally play a more prominent role in Ellroy's world of toxic masculinity.

I'd say it's pretty much essential to have read at least 'Perfidia' before this, ideally some of the earlier books, too, though they're later in chronology. If Ellroy's been a struggle for you in the past I'd be very surprised if this one changes your mind. Extravagantly violent, uncompromising in its refusal to make things easy or accessible, this is an adrenalin-rush of complicated, stylised, noir storytelling.

(I'll just add that the ARC is in bad shape with half lines and repeated paragraphs throughout - you do have to wade through this one).
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