James Ellroy’s latest novel, “Perfidia” (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group), is a murder mystery set just before the internment of Japanese Americans.
The publisher gives the following synopsis: “It is Dec. 6, 1941. America stands at the brink of World War II. Last hopes for peace are shattered when Japanese squadrons bomb Pearl Harbor. Los Angeles has been a haven for loyal Japanese Americans — but now, war fever and race hate grip the city and the Japanese internment begins.
“The hellish murder of a Japanese family summons three men and one woman. William H. Parker is a captain on the Los Angeles Police Department. He’s superbly gifted, corrosively ambitious, liquored-up, and consumed by dubious ideology. He is bitterly at odds with Sgt. Dudley Smith — Irish émigré, ex-IRA killer, fledgling war profiteer. Hideo Ashida is a police chemist and the only Japanese on the L.A. cop payroll. Kay Lake is a 21-year-old dilettante looking for adventure.
“The investigation throws them together and rips them apart. The crime becomes a political storm center that brilliantly illuminates these four driven souls — comrades, rivals, lovers, history’s pawns.
“‘Perfidia’ is a novel of astonishments. It is World War II as you have never seen it, and Los Angeles as James Ellroy has never written it before. Here, he gives us the party at the edge of the abyss and the precipice of America’s ascendance. ‘Perfidia’ is that moment, spellbindingly captured. It beckons us to solve a great crime that, in its turn, explicates the crime of war itself. It is a great American novel.”
Ellroy told The Wall Street Journal, “The title of my latest book was inspired by ‘Perfidia’ [by Alberto Domínguez ]. I first heard the Ventures’ instrumental version of ‘Perfidia’ in 1961. When my old man heard me listening to it, he said I should listen to Glenn Miller’s hit from ’41. I did, and it knocked me out. It’s still my favorite.”
As a novelist, screenwriter, essayist, and memoirist, Ellroy is more closely identified with Los Angeles than any writer since Raymond Chandler. Nearly all of his writing is set in the rough, racist, pre-Miranda L.A. of the decade following the Second World War. Four of his novels — “The Black Dahlia,” “The Big Nowhere,” “L.A. Confidential” (the basis of an Academy Award winning-movie), and “White Jazz” — are collectively known as the L.A. Quartet. They comprise a dark and obsessive 1950s anti-history of his hometown.
His novels “American Tabloid,” “The Cold Six Thousand,” and “Blood’s a Rover” form the Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy, and “American Tabloid” and his memoir, “My Dark Places,” were both named as Time magazine’s Best Book of the Year.
For more information, visit http://jamesellroy.net.