Sobel Weber Associates, Inc.
- (Knopf, forthcoming)
- by James Ellroy
Bungei Shunju: Japan
Sonia Draga: Poland
Penguin Random House: Spain
A Letter from the Author
"Perfidia" is the title of a plaintive and melancholy circa-1940 big-band vocal and instrumental; "Perfidia" is also the Spanish word for “betrayal.” PERFIDIA is the title of my latest novel, which will be published in the United States next fall by Alfred A. Knopf.
It is my largest novel, my most historically detailed novel, my most stylistically accessible and intimate novel. It is plaintive, it is melancholy, it is steeped in the moral betrayal of America’s early World War II internment of its citizen Japanese. It is an epic pop history of Los Angeles in the month of December, 1941. It is the first volume of “The Second L.A. Quartet.”
“The L.A. Quartet” – THE BLACK DAHLIA, THE BIG NOWHERE, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL and WHITE JAZZ -- covered the years 1946 to 1958 in Los Angeles –- and all four novels were international bestsellers. My next series of novels, “The Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy” –- AMERICAN TABLOID, THE COLD SIX-THOUSAND, and BLOOD'S A ROVER -– covered the years 1958 to 1972, and expanded from Los Angeles to depict America at large. Again, all four books were international bestsellers.
My design for “The Second L.A. Quartet” is unprecedented in scope, stylistic execution and dramatic intent. I will take characters -– both fictional and real-life -- from the first two extended bodies of work, and place them in Los Angeles during World War II –- as significantly younger people. The action will begin the day before the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and will carry an enormous range of people through to the end of the war. Massive police investigations, political intrigue, grand love affairs, war profiteering, Axis sabotage plots. Four 700-page hardcover novels that will span the homefront breadth of the greatest worldwide event of the twentieth century.
And, now, Volume I -– PERFIDIA.
The story unfolds, in densely structured real time, between December 6th and December 29th, 1941. Los Angeles is at the cusp of a titanic and horrifying world conflict. Political divisions – Isolationism versus Interventionism – rage. Anti-Japanese rancor is escalating and then the bodies of a middle-class Japanese family are found, in their home.
It might be seppuku – ritual sword suicide. It might be murder. It’s a political hot potato for the rampantly corrupt Los Angeles Police Department, an agency beset by near-feudal factionalism and hounded by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. The war now turns the LAPD topsy-turvy – and the Watanabe case becomes a maelstrom that forever changes and shatters scores of lives.
William H. Parker (1902-1966) was the greatest policeman of the American twentieth century, and appeared, as a subsidiary character throughout “The L.A. Quartet.” Parker, the reformer. Parker, the pious martinet. Parker, the volatile drunk. PERFIDIA finds him as a 39-year-old Traffic Division captain, with a wildly brilliant and decidedly erratic idea to disrupt the Soviet agenda after the war is won. He needs a plant, a provocateur, an informant. He finds:
Kay Lake, age 21, the female lead of my later-set novel, THE BLACK DAHLIA. PERFIDIA finds her at loose ends. She’s shacked up with a corrupt cop named Lee Blanchard. She’s extraordinarily gifted, crazily reckless. She’s a crazily eager pawn in “Whiskey Bill” Parker’s anti-Soviet scheme.
Bill Parker and Kay Lake become deeply enmeshed in the Watanabe murder case.
Hideo Ashida, age 24, is an all-new character. He’s a forensic chemist of extraordinary talent, a closeted homosexual secretly in love with Kay Lake’s fantasy lover, and the only Japanese in the LAPD and Los Angeles city government at large. Hideo Ashida will do anything to spare his family the horror of internment. He will break any rule, betray any patron, abrogate any law. He sees the Watanabe murder case as his only ticket out.
Dudley Smith is the overarching villain of “The L.A. Quartet.” In PERFIDIA, he’s the 36-year-old homicide detective investigating the baffling Watanabe case. The case means money to Dudley. He’s embroiled in a hot wartime romance with screen legend Bette Davis. He’s concocted draconian schemes to exploit the Japanese internment. He’s locked in mortal combat and an ever-shifting web of allegiance and betrayal with Bill Parker, Hideo Ashida, Kay Lake.
“The Second L.A. Quartet”.
The grand romance of Los Angeles during World War II.
History as fever dream and terrible yearning.
This epic begins here, now – and with you.
-- James Ellroy, Los Angeles, September 2013