First edition cover
|Cover artist||Jacket design by Paul Gamarello
Jacket illustration by Stephen Peringer
|Genre||Novel, crime fiction|
|Publisher||The Mysterious Press|
|Media type||Print (hardcover & paperback) and audio cassette|
|Pages||496 pp (first edition, hardcover)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-89296-293-3 (first edition, hardcover)|
|LC Class||PS3555.L6274 L18 1990|
|Preceded by||The Big Nowhere (1988)|
|Followed by||White Jazz (1992)|
L.A. Confidential (1990) is neo-noir novel by James Ellroy, and the third of his L.A. Quartet series. James Ellroy dedicated L.A. Confidential "to Mary Doherty Ellroy". The epigraph is "A glory that costs everything and means nothing—Steve Erickson."
The story revolves around a group of LAPD officers in the early 1950s who become embroiled in a mix of sex, corruption, and murder following a mass murder at the Nite Owl coffee shop. The story eventually encompasses organized crime, political corruption, heroin trafficking, pornography, prostitution, institutional racism, and Hollywood. The title refers to the scandal magazine Confidential, which is fictionalized as Hush-Hush. It also deals with the real-life "Bloody Christmas" scandal.
The three protagonists are LAPD officers. Edmund Exley, the son of legendary detective Preston Exley, is a "straight arrow" who informs on other officers in a police brutality scandal. He is first and foremost a politician and a ladder climber. This earns the enmity of Wendell "Bud" White, an intimidating enforcer with a personal fixation on men who abuse women. Between the two of them is Jack Vincennes, who acts as more of a celebrity than a cop, who is a technical advisor on a police television show called Badge of Honor (similar to the real life show Dragnet) and provides tips to a scandal magazine. The three of them must set their differences aside to unravel the conspiracy linking the novel's events.
The book was adapted for a 1997 film of the same name, directed and co-written by Curtis Hanson and starring Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger, David Strathairn and Danny DeVito. The movie was highly acclaimed. It was nominated for many Academy Award categories. Kim Basinger won both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the film. Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland won the Oscar's Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published award.
In 2003, a television pilot of L.A. Confidential was aired. However, the pilot was not picked up as a running series. The show's main actors would have been Kiefer Sutherland, Josh Hopkins, David Conrad, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Melissa George, Tom Nowicki, and Eric Roberts. The pilot is a special feature on the two-disc DVD and the Blu-ray releases of the film.
L.A. Confidential received many positive reviews. The Chicago Tribune said, "Ellroy is a master at juggling plot lines, using a stripped, spare noir style that hits like a cleaver but is honed like a scalpel." San Diego Union-Tribune was quoted saying, "Ellroy will soon be as well known as Hammett and Chandler, and L.A. CONFIDENTIAL will be the book that puts him over the top". The Associated Press said, "Always a master at painting the dark portrait, Ellroy puts down his broad brush for a sharp pen....He's stripped down the language to a hard cutting tool."