Keith Staskiewicz
December 14, 2012 AT 05:00 AM EST


Current Status
In Season
James Ellroy
Byliner Inc
Mystery and Thriller, Fiction

We gave it a C

In his recent books, Ellroy has taken to writing in extremely short sentences, adopting a style that’s terser than a telegram from Hemingway. However, in Shakedown — an odd and not particularly effective high-concept novella — he adopts the voice of real-life Hollywood PI Fred Otash. Back in his heyday, Otash sold celebrity scoops to magazines, and here he’s forced to relive his many sins while waiting out the clock in purgatory. Narrating in the skeezy singsong of tabloidese, Otash hops through time, recalling a hyperbolized version of events that took place in Ellroy’s favorite milieu: 1950s Los Angeles. The story is packed with deliciously over-the-top (and blatantly untrue) scandals featuring the era’s biggest stars. But Otash’s abrasiveness and Ellroy’s near-Seussian alliteration make the story a daunting read, even at its slight length. See for yourself: ”I’m perched in purgatory. I’ve purged the most perverted part of my hellacious history.” Please. C

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