Review: The Cold Six Thousand by James Ellroy

Cold Six Thousand by James Ellroy

James Ellroy’s sequel to American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, has left more than a few readers frustrated. The style is a problem for many. As Ellroy says:

The style I developed for The Cold Six Thousand is a direct, shorter-rather-than-longer sentence style that’s declarative and ugly and right there, punching you in the nards. It was appropriate for that book, and that book only, because it’s the 1960s. It’s largely the story of reactionaries in America during that time, largely a novel of racism and thus the racial invective, and the overall bluntness and ugliness of the language.

The result is nearly seven hundred pages written like the opening two paragraphs:

They sent him to Dallas to kill a nigger pimp named Wendell Durfee. He wasn’t sure he could do it.

The Casino Operators Council flew him. They supplied first-class fare. They tapped their slush fund. They greased him. They fed him six cold.

Actually, that first sentence is atypical in that it’s probably one of the longest non-dialogue sentences in the novel, but typical in its casual use of a nasty racial slur.

Stick with it, because eventually you adjust. I don’t remember how deep into The Cold Six Thousand I was the first time I read it before it started to flow for me, but on this second read, when I knew what to expect, it took off from the first page.

Structurally, The Cold Six Thousand follows the template established in American Tabloid, but Ellroy increases the scope and ups the intensity, culminating in a breathtaking conclusion that takes a sap to your jaw several times over. The Cold Six Thousand is a stunning achievement, not just a worthy successor to American Tabloid, but quite possibly its equal.

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Review: American Tabloid by James Ellroy

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