L.A. Confidential

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L.A. Confidential
First edition cover
AuthorJames Ellroy
Cover artistJacket design by Paul Gamarello
Jacket illustration by Stephen Peringer
CountryUnited States
SeriesL.A. Quartet
GenreCrime fiction, noir, historical fiction
PublisherThe Mysterious Press
Publication date
June 1990
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback) and audio cassette
Pages496 pp (first edition, hardcover)
ISBN0-89296-293-3 (first edition, hardcover)
813/.54 20
LC ClassPS3555.L6274 L18 1990
Preceded byThe Big Nowhere (1988) 
Followed byWhite Jazz (1992) 

L.A. Confidential (1990) is a neo-noir novel by James Ellroy and the third of his L.A. Quartet series.[1][2] It is dedicated to Mary Doherty Ellroy. The epigraph is "A glory that costs everything and means nothing"—Steve Erickson.


The story is about several Los Angeles Police Department officers in the early 1950s who become embroiled in a mix of sex, corruption and murder following a massacre at the Nite Owl coffee shop. The story eventually encompasses organized crime, political corruption, heroin trafficking, pornography, prostitution and Hollywood. The title refers to the scandal magazine Confidential, which is fictionalized as Hush-Hush. It also deals with the real "Bloody Christmas" scandal.

The three protagonists are LAPD officers. Edmund Exley, the son of prestigious 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 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 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".[3]

The Los Angeles Times gave a critical review, calling the novel "incontinent mayhem" with a plot "faster than a stray bullet and equally random."[4]

Kirkus Reviews described LA Confidential as "energetic, sprawling, and often stylistically irritating."[5]

The New York Times wrote that "the plotting becomes so tortuous and the narrative style so burdened by repetitive scenes of atrocious violence that the author compromises the truthfulness of his own vision."[6]

In other media[edit]

Character 1997 movie 2003 TV pilot 2018 TV pilot
Det. Lt. Edmund "Ed" Exley Guy Pearce David Conrad Brian J. Smith
Ofc. Wendell "Bud" White Russell Crowe Josh Hopkins Mark Webber
Det. Sgt. Jack Vincennes Kevin Spacey Kiefer Sutherland Walton Goggins
Capt. Dudley Smith James Cromwell Tom Nowicki Tony Curran
Lynn Bracken Kim Basinger Melissa George Sarah Jones
Sid Hudgens Danny DeVito Pruitt Taylor Vince Dominic Burgess
Pierce Patchett David Strathairn Eric Roberts TBA
Det. Richard "Dick" Stensland Graham Beckel TBA Shea Whigham


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 film was universally acclaimed. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards; Kim Basinger won both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the film, while Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.


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.

In 2018, CBS ordered a new pilot based on the novel.[7] The pilot would star Walton Goggins as Vincennes,[8] Mark Webber as White,[9] Brian J. Smith as Exley,[10] Sarah Jones as Lynn,[11] Alana Arenas as June,[9] and Shea Whigham as Dick Stensland.[9][12][13] In May 2018, it was announced that the pilot would not be moving forward.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Heffer, Fred (19 September 2017). "Why LA Confidential is Hollywood's last great noir". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  2. ^ Gottlieb, Akiva (May 5, 2017). "A celebration of the 20th anniversary of L.A. neo-noir classic 'L.A. Confidential". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  3. ^ Moore, Kevin (10 June 1990). "Summertime Crime-Travel". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2022-02-07.
  4. ^ Roraback, Dick (8 July 1990). "Depravity in Dreamland : L.A. CONFIDENTIAL by James Ellroy (Mysterious Press: $19.95; 512 pp.)". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  5. ^ "L.A. CONFIDENTIAL | Kirkus Reviews".
  6. ^ Stasio, Marilyn (July 15, 1990). "Crime" – via NYTimes.com.
  7. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (February 2, 2018). "L.A. Confidential, Eric Holder-Inspired Main Justice Among 4 CBS Drama Pilots From Top Producers". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  8. ^ Andreeva, Nellie; Petski, Denise (February 20, 2018). "L.A. Confidential: Walton Goggins To Co-Star In CBS Drama Pilot; Anna Fricke Joins As Co-Showrunner". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c Otterson, Joe (March 8, 2018). "CBS' 'L.A. Confidential' Pilot Adds Mark Webber, Alana Arenas, Shea Whigham". Variety. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  10. ^ Andreeva, Nellie; Petski, Denise (February 22, 2018). "L.A. Confidential: Brian J. Smith To Star In CBS Drama Pilot". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  11. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (March 14, 2018). "L.A. Confidential: Sarah Jones To Star In CBS Drama Pilot". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
  12. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (14 May 2018). "CBS Pilot Update: Will 'LA Confidential' Find Streaming Home?". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  13. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (29 June 2018). "'L.A. Confidential': Efforts to Find CBS Pilot a New Home Fail". hollywoodreporter.com. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 6 February 2019.

External links[edit]