Skip to main content

Playboy Fiction Review: "Perfida" by James Ellroy

Issue: September 2014

Novel Exerpt: from Perfida (2014)

Author: James Ellroy

Rating: $$

Review: When you read a book or short story by James Ellroy, you pretty much know what to expect. It will be a crime/detective story. It will be set in Los Angeles. It will take place in the 1930s or 1940s. And above all, it will be pure noir. James Ellroy did not invent noir but he is the reigning Champion, the King, the Chairman of the Board of modern day noir fiction. And when it comes to L.A. noir -- a separate and distinct category -- forget about it: he's God. So it's no surprise that this story (novel) takes place in Los Angeles in 1941 and that it's good.

This part of the novel takes place not only in 1941, but on the night before a very infamous date in guessed it: the attack on Pearl Harbor. Even more interesting is that one of the main characters in the book, Detective Ashida, is gay and a Japanese American. Imagine how weird things are going to get for him in about 24 hours. That, I'm guessing, is the premise or undercarriage of Perfida and frankly, it sounds pretty interesting.

In this particular chapter, Ashida and his partner, Pinker, are setting up a crude sort of surveillance
Points for the seersucker and dashing
pocket square.
camera -- as best as they could in 1941 -- in order to catch the license plate numbers of cars that part outside a frequently-robbed drugstore in order to catch the thief. The cars trip the wire, a camera snaps a photo of the car's plates. Only while they're in the process of testing the device, he actually witnesses the drugstore being robbed. Only Ashida doesn't react right away because he wants to watch the robbery unfold in order to collect evidence. What ensues is a little scene-by-scene breakdown of how Ashida and Pinker work together, how Ashida deals with the ambient racism that's rampant in the L.A. of the 40s.

In the balance, it's just a good, old fashioned, hard-boiled crime story with crackling dialogue and that dark, dirty, greasy, slimy, noiry feeling throughout. I might actually pick this book about a year when it costs $1.00 at Half Price Books. A savings of about 2,600%, I'd say!

Look, James Ellroy doesn't need me out here shilling for his next book, and I've got other things to do. So, suffice it to say, I enjoyed this story cause...come's James Ellroy. And if you like crime/noir stories and you haven't read any Ellroy...remedy that situation.


Popular posts from this blog

New Yorker Fiction Review: "The Apologizer" by Milan Kundera

Issue: May 4, 2015

Rating: $$

Review: It took me five years and three separate attempts to finish Milan Kundera's famous novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, but in spite of that, quotes and insights from that book still rattle round my head on a weekly basis. What I mean to say is: my feelings on Kundera are very similar to my feelings on Haruki Murakami. I enjoy reading his work, but in small doses, like this short story.

Like Murakami, Kundera uses elements of magical realism, but where in a Murakami story you might encounter a flying dolphin or a disappearing hotel or a person who has lived his whole life in the same room, refusing to leave, Kundera's magical realism offers more direct insights and perspective on real life.

In Kundera's worlds, time and space are malleable and everything that ever happened in history is happening at the same time, and the narrator is a completely omniscient, caring, witty, and hands-on god-like being.

And so it is with "The Apo…

A Piece of Advice I Learned From My Grandfather

My grandfather was one of the most learned men I know. He read widely and voraciously, and not just in the sciences (he was a doctor); he loved politics, philosophy, and great literature as well. Whenever he finished a book he would write his thoughts about the book in the front cover and then sign and date it. To this day every once in a while I will open a book from my bookshelf or my mother's bookshelf, or at one of my family members' homes, and there will be my grandfather's handwriting. He was also a great giver of his books; if you remarked that you liked a particular one or wanted to read it, you were almost sure to take it home with you.

Reading is a very solitary pursuit but my grandfather was not a solitary person. He relished having family and friends around him which is convenient because he was blessed with a lot of both. And he carried out his intellectual life in a very "public" way as well. He was, in some ways, an intellectual evangelist. If he r…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "Meet the President!" by Zadie Smith

Each week I review the short fiction from a recent issue of The New Yorker. If you told me when I was 12 that I'd be doing this I'd have been like, "Dork. There's no such thing as blogs," and I'd have been right...

Issue: Aug. 12 & 19, 2013

Story: "Meet the President!"

Author:Zadie Smith

(Please note: I've developed a highly sophisticated grading system, which I'll be using from now on.  Each story will now receive a Final Grade of either READ IT or DON'T READ it. See the bottom of the review for this story's grade...after you've read the review, natch.)

Plot: Set in England, far into the future (lets say 2113) a privileged youth of 15, named Bill Peek, encounters a few poor villagers from a small, abandoned coastal town on the southeast shore. He meets a little girl named Aggie, who is going to her sister's funeral. Peek is cut-off from real life by a sophisticated video game system that is implanted in his head, therefore th…