Perfidia : A Novel
by James Ellroy and Craig Wasson


It is December 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.


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More About Perfidia by James Ellroy; Craig Wasson


It is December 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 Sergeant 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 twenty-one-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.
From the Hardcover edition.

  • Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
  • Date: Sept 2014

From the book

Los Angeles, December 7, 1941

Sunday brunch with Elmer and Brenda. Decorous, save for the talk.

Brenda owns a lovely home in Laurel Canyon. The furnishings can be seen in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Harry Cohn enjoys Brenda's girls and gave her free run of the Columbia warehouse.

A Mexican maid laid out huevos rancheros. Elmer mixed gin fizzes. Gary Cooper fucked Barbara Stanwyck on the couch I was perched on. Brenda swore that the rumor was true.

I felt disembodied. It was lack of sleep more than shock over what I'd heard at City Hall. Lee Blanchard, Ben Siegel and Abe Reles. Captain William H. Parker's belief that I would now be ripe for entrapment. He held me to be a woman who would stand up for her man and do anything to cover his misdeeds. He was gravely mistaken there.

Elmer said, "Lee caught a squawk with the Dudster. It's all over the air. Four Japs in Highland Park."
Brenda dosed her eggs with hot sauce. "You go straight to shop- talk."

Elmer said, "A good host plays to his guests, honey. Shoptalk is the only sort of talk that Miss Katherine Lake enjoys."

I laughed and picked at my food. Brenda and Elmer were nearly ten years older than I. They were professionals; I was a cop's quasi- girlfriend. The disparity rankled. We all went back to Bobby De Witt and the Boulevard-Citizens job. Open secrets and unspoken truths began germinating there. I wanted to peddle myself to wash the stink of Bobby off of me; Brenda refused to let me do it. She said, "You live by these crazy-girl notions you get from books and movies. I wouldn't be much of a friend if I let you take that nonsense too far."

Elmer handed me a cocktail. I wondered how up-to-date he was on Lee and Ben Siegel. "Bugsy" is now ensconced in a "penthouse" suite at the Hall of Justice jail. Sheriff's deputies serve as valets, flunkies and chauffeurs for visiting starlets. Velvet curtains provide privacy for Ben and his overnight guests. His release is imminent. Abe Reles' "swan dive" scotched the prosecution's case against him.

Elmer smiled and waggled his cigar stub. We possess an odd telepathy and often seem to know what the other is thinking. It always pertains to "shoptalk."

He said, "Lee paid off his chit with Benny Siegel."

I said, "Yes, I figured it out."

Brenda crushed her cigarette on a bread plate. "Tell all, honey. Don't be a C.T."

I said, "No, your lover goes first."

Elmer sprawled in a chair and grabbed Brenda. She fell into his lap and went Whoops! He said, "Thad Brown drove Dudley Smith and Lee to Union Station. He read the papers a few days later and put it together."

Brenda said, "How'd you figure it out?"

I made that zip-the-lips gesture. Elmer said, "Give, sister." Brenda said, "Don't be a C.T."

I played coy. "There's a Traffic captain who knows a lot about Lee."

Elmer draped an arm around Brenda. "How do you know that?"

"Because Captain William H. Parker is courting me."

Brenda hooted. "Honey, that sanctimonious son of a bitch does not court women in any kind of classic sense."

I lit a cigarette. "You mean he doesn't take bribes, beat confessions out of suspects, or screw your girls in the back of Mike Lyman's Grill, where I'm meeting him at 1:00."

Brenda looked aghast. Elmer looked flabbergasted. He said, "Kay, how do you know that Whiskey Bill Parker knows a lot about Lee?"

I blew an imperiously high smoke ring. "Because Parker is courting and coercing me. Because he has me transcribing wire recordings at City Hall before he tells me his play. Because you, Brenda and Lee had...


"Perfidia is a brilliant, breakneck ride. Nobody except James Ellroy could pull this off. He doesn't merely write--he ignites and demolishes." - Carl Hiaasen

"[Ellroy's] style--jumpy, feverish, and anarchic--mirrors the world we enter. . . . The police are not knights, they're occupiers, and in Perfidia, Ellroy comes closer than ever to making the case that he writes alt-histories not of the Los Angeles police but of the Los Angeles police state. . . . [He] depicts with frightening authenticity how those innocent of crimes are knowingly framed in the interest of the almighty 'greater good'." - Dennis Lehane, The New York Times Book Review

"The unmistakable product of James Ellroy's fevered imagination. . . . Perfidia shows us the war on the home front as we have never seen it before. The result is both pure, unadulterated Ellroy and a darkly compelling deconstruction of the recent American past. . . . [It's] written in a familiar staccato style that delivers large amounts of information in extremely compressed form. The violence, which is frequent and horrific, is described with a clinical exactitude that never flinches. And the entire enterprise is colored by an instantly recognizable tabloid sensibility. . . . Like it or not, believe in it or not, this is James Ellroy's America, and it is a savage, often frightening place." - Bill Sheehan, The Washington Post

"Ellroy successfully spins a drug-alcohol-and-nefarious-deeds-fueled wartime web of double-dealing betrayal, insidious activities, and gruesome atrocities. . . . . It's tough and ugly and infuriating--and relentlessly readable. . . . [His] often-staccato prose is as jumpy as the time period and the fact that we see or hear about the same incidents from different--and differing--viewpoints enhances that sense of unease and distortion. But the narrative is tautly held together by the ongoing police procedural and by several primary characters."
--Daneet Steffens, The Boston Globe

"A powerful roar of a story with wonderfully flawed characters and a richly conceived plot that will keep you turning every last one of its 700 pages. . . . This stunning novel resonates throughout with the dark vibe of noir. . . . The story is wickedly elaborate, its plotting brilliant. . . . Kudos to Ellroy for elevating the crime genre with this raucous, sprawling, political beast." - Zoë Ferraris, San Francisco Chronicle

"[The first L.A. Quartet] made Ellroy America's best crime novelist, a terse, staccato, Bukowskian demimonde poet. . . . Perfidia represents new depth, scope, and craftsmanship in James Ellroy's canon. It is his finest work. You'll wonder how he can top it." - Tim Stegall, Austin Chronicle

"A historical novel, stippled with authentic details of that not-very-innocent era, disguised as a first-rate mystery novel." - Fred Grimm, The Miami Herald

"It is welcome news that Ellroy's latest effort, Perfidia, returns home, sliding in as a prequel to the L.A. Quartet, set in the previous decade. Ellroy's revisionist impulse is to complicate the patriotic unity of the wartime years much as he undid the myth of placid postwar Los Angeles. . . . What lies ahead, as Ellroy presses deeper into the war years, is anyone's guess, but like his protagonists, he is driven by a paradoxical obsession: to keep on digging up dark memories of the city, in the hope of rising above the psychic traumas of the past--not reborn, but newly wise." - Saul Austerlitz, The Atlantic

"If Ellroy's bitter visions entice you, Perfidia will take you once again to the underbelly of American history. . . . You will dive into Perfidia with a shiver that is equal parts anticipation and fear--because you know it's going to get very dark very fast. . . . Ellroy's singular style has been described as jazzlike or telegraphic; here it is insomniac, hallucinogenic, nightmarish." - Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times

"Big, brash and overpowering, this will appeal to fans of Ellroy's terse, lurid style."
--Randy Cordova, The Arizona Republic, Book Pick of the Month

"Ellroy has a way of giving gravitas to ugliness and making brutality beautiful. . . . To see him operat - Jason Sheehan, All Things Considered/NPR

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