cover image Hollywood Nocturnes

Hollywood Nocturnes

James Ellroy. Scribner Book Company, $20 (272pp) ISBN 978-1-883402-54-9

Ellroy's clipped and compelling noir realism, so effectively plied in such novels as L.A . Confidential and The Black Dahlia , shows itself to comparable advantage in short form here. The pick of the collection is ``Dick Contino's Blues,'' the longest of the six previously published stories. Adrift in the hazy Hollywood '50s, accordion king Contino wades through nightclub gigs, broads, scandal and auto shows while saving a girl from ``pinko'' influences and from a publicity-grabbing fake kidnapping that unfortunately coincides with a serial killer's rampage-in-progress. Ellroy's rat-a-tat style expands slightly in ``High Darktown,'' where an L.A. cop and former boxer follows an old enemy to a brutally violent resolution--while most of L.A. celebrates the end of WW II. In a foreword that exhibits the same high-heat style, Ellroy refers to the uneasy realities that underscore his prose, including his mother's unsolved 1958 murder in the City of Angels. Ellroy's narratives and approach aren't likely to please fans of clever-cat or subtle-English-spinster cozies, but he's required reading for those who take their crime fiction gritty, dark and a few degrees below boiling. (June)