“Excel stood up. ‘A question before you go.’ ‘Sir?’ ‘Did a friend tell you to push Sanderline Johnson out the window?’ ‘No, sir. But aren’t you glad he jumped?'”
Carhop’s, mutilated dogs, bagmen, incestuous behaviours, kickbacks, police informants, shakedowns, strikebreakers, incessant strong-arming… This is the world where Lieutenant David D. Klein is held, and in some cases partake in as well. Lt. Klein is the commander of the LAPD’s Administrative Vice division, he has six men from Internal Affairs working under him and one trusted partner George ‘Junior’ Stemmons. One side note is that Klein is also an accredited attorney which he exhibits at various times throughout the book in times when professionalism is in question or as a getaway when in unstable situations. To say things are on the shady side in 1958 Los Angeles would be a gross mistreatment of the word shady, maybe eclipse would be more appropriate. The Los Angeles Police Department is as bent as their K9 companion German Shepherd’s back leg and it is difficult to decipher who is doing what, and to whom?
The initial focus of the story is on the work behind the scenes in severing the ties that organized crime has to the boxing industry. In doing so Klein shows how his professional and personal life is one big conflict of interest as he ends up killing a federal witness that he is by rule, required to protect. You soon understand that Klein had to consider outside work in order to compensate for his law degree. He did so by participating in mob hits which earned him the nickname “The Enforcer”, buying real estate with his sister Meg and becoming slum lords, tax evasion, property transactions and kickbacks, and bribary. Now that he has climbed the ranks at the police department he realizes that getting out is easier said than done. Knowing that he can’t escape his mob ties, he has been forced to maneuver his way around it, and by maneuver I mean kill people that are standing in the way of his freedom. What turns everything on its head is when Klein is directed by the Captain of the Narcotics Division to investigate a buglary of a known family, and gets a side job from Howard Hughes (yes, the American aviation business tycoon Howard Hughes), to follow a young starlet named Glenda Bledsoe to see if she is in breach of contract. Soon Klein will realize that he is being pulled in many different directions by very powerful figures in the city and it has finally caught up to him. He will have to make a decision on what is most important in his life or he will be burning the candle at both ends leaving his life and the lives of his loved ones hanging in the balance.
“I never said I knew; she never pressed me. Biographies, gaps: I hid Meg, she bypassed whoring. I never said I kill people. I never said Lucille K. made me a voyeur. She said I used people up. She said I only bet on rigged games. She said ranking cop/lawyer put some distance on white trash. She said I never got burned. I said three out of four – not bad.”
I found James Ellroy’s White Jazz to be too busy. Between inside jobs, outside jobs, inside-outside jobs, outside-inside jobs, shakedowns, the plethora of characters, and not to mention the dialogue it was hard to keep up. I really believe that I would have enjoyed this story if it weren’t for the convaluted nature of the style. I didn’t find my groove until about fifty pages in when the plot started to reveal itself and things began to settle down. I hope it wasn’t due to me not reading the earlier books because that has never been a problem that occurred to me before, and I don’t believe the author would punish a reader that way. I didn’t read L.A. Confidential, but I saw the movie and thoroughly enjoyed the brutality and the corruption of the Los Angeles Police Department combined with the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.
Honestly Mr.Ellroy seemed much more interesting in the interviews that I read to get a better feel for what he is, than he did in this book. I believe he let the style of the story get ahead of his writing ability which inhibited my personal troubles with comprehension and overall enjoyment. As crazy as it sounds, if he would have let his natural delivery take hold, I believe the novel would have taken on an even more coarse tone than White Jazz did. In one interview he proclaimed himself to be the ‘best crime writer in history’, he also mentions that Dashiell Hammett is essentially a God of crime writing and Raymond Chandler is vastly overrated. While I can’t agree or disagree with him on any of his claims, I can definitely see Hammett’s influence while looking back at White Jazz. The narrative of White Jazz is one long, non-functioning stream of consciousness that went from tolerable to intolerable at the drop of a hat (or turn of a screw however you want to look at it). I enjoyed certain aspects of the story, and I believe the author can deliver the nasty that I love about books like this, but in the end White Jazz just didn’t resonate.
” Rattle rattle – I shoved Moms some change. ‘Listen, have you ever seen the man staying in this room?’ ‘Praise Jehovah, I seen him from the back.’ ‘Have you ever seen him with someone else?’ ‘Praise Jehovah, no I hasn’t.’ ‘When was the last time you saw the girl in my photographs?’ ‘Praise Jehovah, when she did that striptease at Bido’s maybe four, or five days ago.’ ‘When was the last time she brought a trick to this front room here?’ ‘Praise Jehovah, maybe a week ago.’ ‘Where does she solicit her tricks?’ ‘Praise Jehovah, I don’t know.’ ‘Has she brought the same man more than once? Does she have regular tricks?’ ‘Praise Jehovah, I has taught myself not to look at the faces of these sinners.’ “