Saturday, April 22, 2017

Perfidia by James Ellroy

Just finished Perfidia. First-rate. And relaxing: no one to sympathize with. Just enjoy the endless historical mayhem.

Excerpts I appreciated:

....Land grabs, plastic surgery, blood libel. Rogue cops, sub attacks, a lynch-mob massacre. Pay phones. A white man in a purple sweater. Secret radios and feigned seppuku. The haughty Left and the bellicose Right. A grand alliance of war profiteers.

He’ll tell it all to Dudley Smith or to William H. Parker. He’ll tell no one if it suits his needs. He has uncovered the real Fifth Column. It is not what anyone thinks.

*

[After the Dudster randomly shoots a  Japanese-American man in a phone booth to honor a whimsical request from his lover Bette Davis…]

“…. The Chief will be meeting J. Edgar Hoover at Union Station this afternoon. Mr. Hoover is here to further implement his plans to abrogate the civil liberties of your people. Japanese radios and firearms will be confiscated. A good many more Japanese businesses will be forcibly closed. There will be a massive seizure of Japanese property and financial assets, and it is likely that your people will be made to wear demeaning armbands. I condemn these actions, even as I attempt to exploit them. I am grateful that my lawless streak allows me the latitude to maneuver, and to offer opportunities and protection to my colleagues and those who serve to further my designs. I feel that you have begun to emerge as a colleague.”

Ashida went dry-mouthed. The kitchen went gas-stove hot.

Dudley said, “A Japanese man was murdered early this morning. His name was Goro Shigeta, and he was shot in a phone booth south of Hollywood. He appears to have been heavily in debt to bookies in Little Tokyo, and Thad Brown thinks he was killed to settle a gambling debt. I would disagree with that hypothesis. I think a white man motivated by misguided patriotism and racial hatred killed Mr. Shigeta, and I think that a good deal more of such hatred will be inflicted upon your people. I would like to spare you and your family the horror of it.”

*

....Dudley Liam Smith—fate favors you.

He got his K-car. He hooked out to the Valley and east to Burbank. The airport cops let him perch on the runway. He had two hours to kill. He smelled Bette on his shirt cuffs.

He had time to scheme and strategize. He had time to craft a disingenuous report to Bill Parker.

Watanabe/​multiple homicide/12-7-41. Second summary—one week in.

He popped three bennies. He padded redundant information. He layered in futile background-check dirt. He heaped on the dead-end leads and stressed the clannish Jap culture that constrained the job.

The bennies kicked in. He shoveled cop officialese and underlined his detective’s frustration.

Record checks were impossible. The war dashed all normal avenues of approach.

Can you read between the lines, Captain? Call-Me-Jack wants this job shitcanned by New Year’s. He will get what he wants—but this damnable case intrigues me.

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