There is another world, but it is in this one.

Paul Eluard. Œuvres complètes, vol. 1, Gallimard, 1968.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

James Ellroy's Battle of Los Angeles

James Ellroy tackles The Battle of Los Angeles, a real event, in his masterful historical novel This Storm.


 (ORANGE COUNTY, 5:00 A.M., 2/25/42)

     They cut inland. Coastal roadblocks stalled their progress north. Artillery jolts deafened them. Tracer rounds blurred their sight. Beach guns fired at airplane wisps and plain shadows.

     Ashida drove. Dudley commandeered Major Melnick's staff car. It was full-boat SIS. Big V-8/two-way radio/ammo-packed trunk. They blasted out of Ensenada and went AWOL.

     Sirens blared at 3:00 a.m. The Baja alert aped the L.A. alert. Some Statie coastal goon saw Zeros and tripped the alarm. He radioed beach batteries north to San Diego. Full artillery launched at 3:10.

     It spread. Whatever this was spread exponential. Jack Horrall patch-called Dudley and ordered them up.

     Whatever this was hit Baja and L.A. The City Hall guns blasted Jap Zeros or Jap wisps. The Alien Squad mobilized and roused Red Alert Japs.

     Coastal guns blazed. Spotters spotted whatever it was. Juan Pimentel sicced the Baja Staties. They patrolled beachfronts. They ran floodlights and strafed wave lines north to T.J. They shot at Jap subs or Jap wisps or whatever it was.

     No Jap subs blew up. No Jap Zeros exploded. Something was up there and/or down there. Somebody saw something and punched the trigger. Chain reaction. Jap fever. Some L.A. somebody. Some Baja somebody. Something was up there and/or down there.

     Prophets prophesied that something. Code-call intelligence accrued. Fourth Interceptor logged it. SIS ignored it. Possible airfields in San Berdoo County. Late February attack.

     The bookie-front raid backfired. The transmitter exploded. It blitzed a code-call approach. Now hear this: the fucking prophecy's fulfilled.

     Ashida drove blackout-blind. Eastbound streets blurred. He heard ack-ack and siren screech. Predawn lit the sky. A plane passed overhead. He thought he saw wing rivets and a hammer and scythe. Something's up there. He knew he saw something.

     Dudley chain-smoked. He wore his I'm-brooding-don't-talk-to-me look. He rolled down his window. Ashida smelled cordite and spilled gasoline.

     The two-way radio beeped. Dudley flipped switches and plugged in his headset. He said, "Yes, Thad." He listened. He said, "Yes, Thad," and unplugged.

     "We may have a klubhaus lead. A man named Yamura or Nunakawa killed himself in custody. His driver's license listed his address as 682 East 46th. That's the klubhaus block, and Thad wants us there. He's dispatching Lunceford and Jackson, as well."

     Ashida gunned it. He drove eighty-plus, blackout-blind. They crossed the L.A. County line. Sirens whooped and sputtered. He pushed it to ninety. He hit Gardena and caught Western Avenue. The sky cleared some. He took Imperial Highway east and hooked onto Central north.

     Low-rent L.A. at dawn. Gun chatter somewhere. No plane-crash debris. No foot traffic. Locked-tight business fronts.

     78th Street. 77th Street. 76, 75, 74. Ashida saw smoke. Two prowl cars sped past them. Their cherry lights whirled.

     Ashida floored it. He fishtailed and blew a string of red lights. Dudley unholstered his sidearm and winked.

     Smoke roiled up dark and thick. Ashida got it now. He hit the siren and unholstered. He steered the car with his knees and jacked a shell into the breech.

     Full dawn hit. 51, 50, 49. Black smoke plumed. Parked cars issued flames. Here's your something. It's for sure. There's a Negro Riot on the Jazz-Club Strip.

     They drove into it. Dudley cracked his windwing. Negroes rock-shattered windows and hauled off whiskey crates. 48, 47. Negroes bashed down the doors of the Club Zamboanga and Port Afrique. They swung two-by-four bashing rams. They smashed parked-car windows and hurled wine-bottle bombs. Car seats ignited, car windows blew.

     Ashida downshifted and pulled right. Somebody somewhere yelled, "It's a Jap!"

     Shots hit the car. The windshield exploded. Shots dinged the trunk and pierced the rear doors. Dudley grabbed the wheel and pulled it hard right. The car banged the curb and stalled flat.

     Dudley got out. Ashida got out a split second on. Dudley braced his arm on the car-top and fired into the mob.

     Three Negroes fell. A man's chest blew up. Dudley fired hollow points. He shot one man in the neck and blew a man's arm off.

     The mob issued one big scream. Ashida aimed and fired straight at it. He shot two men in the back. They careened and crashed and bumped heads.

     Dudley ran toward 46th Street. Ashida ran after him and caught up. They turned the corner. They saw the klubhaus, ablaze.

     Flames scorched the top floor. The air stung. Negroes hauled swag out the front door. Furniture, radios, trombones. Sinarquista tapestries.

     Ten Negroes. Twenty Negroes. Negroes in gang silks and zoot suits. Negroes slurping muscatel. Negroes waving Nazi flags on sticks.

     Somebody somewhere yelled, "Dig the Jap!"

     Dudley walked toward them. Ashida followed him. The Negroes made buzzing-airplane sounds and turned their arms into wings.

     Dudley aimed and fired. Two zoot suiters fell. The mob screeched and dispersed all whichways.

     A kid stumbled to the sidewalk. He cradled a big saxophone and peeled toward the avenue. Ashida saw his coffee skin and almond eyes. Tokyo meets the Congo.

     Ashida aimed at his face. He squeezed the trigger and saw it break red. The sax pitched backward with him. The kid death-cradled it.


8 November 2020

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