L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy

¬†“He thought of Bud White, Ed Exley.¬† He sent up a wedding day prayer: The NiteOwl dead and buried, safe passage for ruthless men in love.”

This line, half way through the book, made me love it.  I wavered back a forth between hate and respect for a long time, but at this point I was caught Рhook, line and sinker.

Ellroy¬†writes in an intense, staccato style which beats you around.¬† I must admit, following his story was a challenge, and I’m a pretty well-rounded reader.¬† I write urban fantasy cause it’s my style, but I love reading crime novels, classics, and literary fiction, not to mention¬†Tolkien and other great fantasy writers.¬† Ellroy liberally uses everyone’s first and last names, has a huge cast, and a story ranging over 10 years from beginning to end.¬† Reader prepared to be challenged.

I watched the movie several years ago, and have always been interested in crime from the 1950’s, plus I have a prologue which takes place in the same decade.¬† I can almost write Ellroy’s¬†novel off as research.¬† I really enjoyed the movie.¬† It was gripping, over the top, and brilliant.¬† I love that White and Exley becoming friends in the end to face a¬†foe bigger than their hatred for each other.¬† I love it.¬†¬†I watched the movie again as¬†I neared the end of the book because I was having a hard time following the story.¬† I felt in need of¬†a “cliff notes” version to remind me what was really going on, in the big picture.¬† It helped me focus in on the points of the plot and the mystery of the crimes committed.

Now, I started this book and didn’t really enjoy it.¬† Call me old-fashioned, but I like stories with heroes.¬† I like good guys.¬† I like a little varnish.¬† The world is filled with enough evil as it is, I don’t really enjoy soaking in it when I’m trying to relax.¬† Ellroy’s heroes have no varnish. None. Nada.¬† Zip.¬† They are ruthless, hard, cold, and just about as evil as the¬†men they hunt.¬† They are selfish, self-serving, disloyal and kinda gross.¬† Any good points they have are lost in all the bad.¬† In fact, the movie had to add varnish.¬† It made them much better than they were.¬†¬† So, here I am in the middle of a book with no real good men, covering topics in¬†detail which are the lowest of¬†humanity.¬† I’m asked myself, “Why am I reading this?”¬†¬†Will any good¬†come from it.¬† I kept reminding myself that I liked the movie…not always the best way to motivate yourself to finish a book.¬† Books and movies are two totally different artistic storytelling mediums.¬† Then, I got to the line I quoted above and I decided to finish the book!

“…safe passage for ruthless men in love.”

So…now I’ve finished the book.¬† What did I find?¬† Heroes!¬† Yay!¬† Ruthless men in difficult situations who stop looking at what is gonna save their skin and start looking at what is right.¬† They start seeing past their hatred of one another, and find the common foe, only to realize they make a really good team.¬† I loved it!

The movie edited out 90% of the plot and brought the team together much quicker than the book did.¬† It slimmed down the case and made the story easier to follow.¬† It cut out a lot of the grosser and more debased sides of the story…if it hadn’t no one would have watched it.¬† The book is a hard-hitting, fast paced, over the top story of three cops without stellar records caught in a series of crimes¬†much bigger than they.¬† Out of it comes a trust and friendship which leaves the reader feeling very satisfied.

In this case, I would recommend the movie as a great film, and the book as a great book.  Both take a strong stomach and a strong mind.  Neither are clean or pure, but they come out shining with ruthless men doing the right thing.