Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Listened to: "Perfidia" by James Ellroy

Listened to Perfidia by James Ellroy, 2014, audio download from Overdrive.com. Craig Wasson narrator.

I did not realize this novel is a prequel of sorts to Ellroy's L.A. Quartet series.

This is Dudley Smith's book. I read the Quartet novels several years ago and Dudley was usually the evil mastermind pulling strings.  In those books Dudley was usually in the background making some dough, enforcing morality, and keeping the non-white people under control. This is the first novel to include a first person telling by the Dudster - correct me if I am wrong.

Set in December, 1941. A quadruple murder of a Japanese family on December 6 draws in fictional and historical characters. Dudley Smith, Two Gun Jack (former LA Chief of Police), Bill Parker (future Chief of Police), Hideo Ashida (civilian chemist for LAPD), Bette Davis (the actress), and all the other goons and goblins and goobers populating Ellroy's LA.

The quadruple murder investigation is detoured by the next day's Pearl Harbor attack. After Pearl Harbor everyone is in a fervor or a tizzy. Japanese victims are not a priority. Fifth column worries abound. Politics and finance are entangled. Politics and propaganda shake hands and trade winks.

Dudley follows his own strange sense of justice and morality. Dudley is a great bad guy because he isn't a bad guy. Dudley is a crusader. Dudley is sharp as a whip and he's the man you want on your side when you've been robbed or your wife is assaulted. Dudley will seek justice, and if the courts do not provide relief then Dudley will deliver it himself.

Sure, Dudley never visits his wife and daughters because he is always working, smoking opium, or shtupping Bette Davis. Sure, Dudley kills as easily as coughing. Sure, Dudley commits several murders and traffics heroin. But, Dudley always thinks he is in the right. He is doing the right thing. If Dudley Liam Smith makes a buck along the way then, so what?

Ellroy also gives us narration by Hideo Ashida, Kay Lake, and Bill Parker. Hideo is one of those genius level cop employees Ellroy usually gives us. He's an early graduate and PhD. He's also Japanese and closeted gay and his career and livelihood are under major threat.

Kay Lake is a South Dakota runaway who worked for a time as a prostitute. Lake lives with a LAPD Officer who is unable to have sex. Lake sleeps with many other men and is recruited by Bill Parker as a spy to go after some Reds.

Bill Parker has rank (Lieutenant? Captain?) and a drinking problem. Parker and Smith are at odds. Parker is infatuated with Lake and a redhead he once saw when attending the traffic school in Northwestern.

Mix in fifth columnist commies, Japanese, and German Bund members. Racists and rapists. Lots of booze. Lots of paranoia. Then listen to 28 hours of serpentine story with thick plotting.

1. Ellroy is lousy at dialogue. Everyone sounds the same and it's like the characters are reading from a thesaurus.

1. Black Dahlia connections? Of course there are. Heck Elizabeth Short turns out to be Dudley's illegitimate daughter. I don't recall if that came up in the L.A. Quartet.
2. Dudley Smith is pals with Joe Kennedy. Smith's father and brother were murdered by Black and Tans in Ireland when Dudley was 14. Dudley killed a Black and Tan shortly afterwards.
3. Joe Kennedy's support for Ireland has him meeting Smith in Ireland and sending The Dudster  to Boston. Kennedy is Smith's patron and in the novel Dudley entertains JFK in LA and gets JFK laid.
4. Smith is a benezedrine pill popper.
5. The redhead Bill Parker dreams about is none other than a stand-in for James Ellroy's mother, Geneva Hilliker Ellroy. The redhead has the same hair, profession, and home town.
6. Smith and another cop traveled to NYC to murder of Kid Twist under the behest of Bugsy Siegel.
7. Joe Kennedy has an illegitimate daughter in LA. The mother is Marion Davies. Davies is also shtupped by the Kennedy sons.


Todd Mason said...

Engaging as always...you give Bette Davis as "Betty" once and the note about Ellroy being sent by Bugsy...Smith was sent?

Gerard Saylor said...

Fixed it.