They say life imitates art, or perhaps it is the reverse. It would be futile to unravel which is which with the fiction of James Ellroy, the self-described “greatest crime novelist” in the US.

Most of Ellroy’s books, including his latest, This Storm, are set in the fading world of 1940s and 1950s Los Angeles, where he grew up. Though he is most celebrated for his seamy murder plots, Ellroy’s storylines interlace with the most dramatic events of the postwar US. Unlike any other time and place, we can literally hear LA’s patois through its movies — Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall delivering Raymond Chandler’s lines. The most famous of Ellroy’s novels, LA Confidential and The Black Dahlia, were also turned into Hollywood pictures, each of which he denounced. Neither came close to capturing his books’ telegrammatic stream-of-consciousness, or their dizzying lists of dramatis personae.

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