Rain is falling over Los Angeles throughout James Ellroy’s breathtakingly complex historical police procedural This Storm, a torrential saga of violence, corruption, lust, radical politics and greed ... beneath the conspiracies, double-crosses, killings, lies and alibis snakes an interlocking and comprehensible tale to be discerned—one either told in public or once more hushed up for the greater good ... Mr. Ellroy...extends his grand and grotesque yet idealistic vision even farther backward. The author has created an ongoing Balzacian jigsaw puzzle that will surely attract, repel, outrage and seduce readers for years to come.
The second volume of Ellroy’s second L.A. Quartet picks up where Perfidia (2014) left off, on New Year’s Eve 1941, and begins a chaotic 1942 with a plot so convoluted readers will be grateful every time characters restate the facts ... If, at some point, most of the characters seem to speak like Ellroy, or maybe his grandiloquent Smith, it’s somehow appropriate, plunging us ever deeper into a fevered secret history that could have been dreamed by nobody else. Relentlessly compelling.
Ellroy handles the criminal elements with flair and shows an impressive grasp of the investigatory and forensic techniques in use at that time. By the novel’s end, the interrelated mysteries have been resolved, and it’s exciting, page-turning stuff — but it’s only one aspect of a novel that has other, bigger things on its mind ... Ellroy has reached the midpoint of his most ambitious undertaking to date. The final two volumes can’t come quickly enough.
clearly Ellroy is having a blast using wartime LA as his playground, with Nazi sympathisers knocking about with other diabolical and cynical grotesques ... Ellroy remains one of the most exciting literary stylists in the English language. If David Peace’s iterative, repetitious, circular method lies at one end of the prose spectrum, Ellroy’s dry, clipped, slangy, telegraphic style is its counterpoint ... worth the wait. Like all good jazzmen, Ellroy works very hard indeed to make his music flow so easily.
Ellroy disdains the apparatus of realistic fiction—plot work, character development, scene build-up, fine writing. He is disinclined to read other novelists lest they put un-Ellrovian ideas into his head. The narrative sprawl is held together by structural plot elements ... Ellroy is undeniably one of the most influential crime writers of our time. But can the raw energy of his fiction outweigh the disgustingness and balderdash? Yes; if you see his novels as antidotes to the fake sunshine that Los Angeles, via the big screen, has blown in the world’s face for a century. But if you like your LA crime well-crafted stick to the ever rereadable Raymond Chandler and Walter Mosley. Your choice.
As usual with Ellroy, numerous disparate intrigues and cases are introduced that turn out to be tightly interconnected ... in This Storm Ellroy seems in a rush; beyond the book’s primary mysteries – a triple homicide involving two policemen, the identity of a decade-old corpse found after a landslide, and the location of a hoard of Nazi and Soviet gold – subplots are resolved almost as soon as they come to light ... It’s as if Ellroy, or his editor, is worried we won’t be able to keep up ... At the level of the sentence – a level of great importance for Ellroy, whose style has always been one of his most distinctive attributes, even as it has moved through several iterations – This Storm is of lower quality than his previous books ... Ellroy has mounted some incredible expeditions to the interior of the Great Wrong Place, but at this stage his return to Los Angeles looks more like the Great Wrong Turn.
Ellroy has been writing like this for so long, and his prose is so great, that he’s been given a lifetime pass ... This Storm becomes downright dizzying. How Ellroy ties up seemingly loose plot threads and sticks the landing with a satisfying flourish is as electrifying as the hep vernacular he delights in ... Such is the strength of Ellroy’s status in the world of letters that this new book carries a provocative cover: four arrows, bent to form the shape of a swastika. Ellroy acolytes will shrug it off, but folks outside that circle might be less forgiving.
Without a doubt, Ellroy aficionados will love This Storm. Others may baulk at its length and complexity, or at its headlong momentum ... The characters we meet in This Storm may not be relatable, but, for those of us still following the news, they are all too often eerily familiar and their methods need to be understood. What Ellroy shows us, time and time again, is not only the ugliness of corruption but also the shame that infects an entire society when the guilty are permitted to go about their business.
Separated by little more than 30 years from The Black Dahlia, Ellroy’s hyper-realistic, signature, profane-laced, police patois and jazz slang is in full Ultra HD 4K surround sound effect. Reading the prose from This Storm, I can see the rain falling, hear the rapid-fire back and forth of two cops on a stakeout, and smell their boozy coffee cigarette-smoked clothes. Ellroy’s writing style is completely his own ... The cast of This Storm is diverse and monumental ... Reading This Storm won’t make you a proud American, but reading it will make you realize what it was like behind all the glitz and glamour when Los Angeles was trying to decide who she wanted to be.
The density of Ellroy’s story, in which we are obliged to follow so many threads that the list is necessary to help us when we lose track, is exacerbated by his narrative style. And here, truly, is where readers need to make a decision ... It’s a style. Some like it; some don’t. But it goes on and on. For 577 pages. Like a machine gun spraying noir at you nonstop. Can you take it? Can you parse the churning prose, figure out what the hell’s going on, and keep turning the pages? All 577 of them? ... While Ellroy’s in the middle of a very ambitious story arc, and he’s employing a time-honored narrative technique sure enough, the question is not whether he’s the Demon Dog of American Literature, as he loves to call himself, or whether he’s producing crime fiction worthy of the ages ... The question is whether or not This Storm is readable. In point of fact, it’s not ... Perhaps James Ellroy is the greatest American novelist ever, as he and Stephen King both assure us, but most readers will be too exhausted after battling through the first few chapters to argue the point ... The fact is, out here in the mainstream where the book-buying dollars are spent, readers learn to pick their battles carefully. They’ll be more than willing to leave This Storm to the university professors, graduate students, and the Extremely Serious Noiristas, and instead choose something they can actually enjoy reading.
It being Ellroy, there are tangled storylines aplenty ... Mix in Mary Jane–dealing starlets, sleazy informants, synarchist gangsters, 'cops in the Silver Shirts and German-American Bund', Orson Welles and Walter Pidgeon in a decidedly non–Hays Code film sequence, and a thousand other threads, and you’ve got a raucous tale that will likely leave you in need of a shower and a Disney film. A gritty, absorbing novel that proves once again that Ellroy is the rightful heir of Chandler, Cain, and Hammett.