Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index


to e-mail us:

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK


the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

American Tabloid

James Ellroy

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase American Tabloid - mass market paperback

Title: American Tabloid
Author: James Ellroy
Genre: Novel
Written: 1995
Length: 531 pages
Availability: American Tabloid - US
American Tabloid - UK
American Tabloid - Canada
American Tabloid - France
Ein amerikanischer Thriller - Deutschland
  • Time magazine named American Tabloid its Book of the Year in 1995

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

C+ : machine-gun spray overkill with a few nice flourishes.

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Antioch Review A Summer/1995 Steve Brzezinski
Entertainment Weekly A 10/3/1995 Tom De Haven
The Guardian . 21/2/1995 Nick Kimberley
The LA Times . 19/2/1995 Patrick Goldstein
New York B 13/3/1995 Walter Kirn
The NY Times B- 1/3/1995 Janet Maslin
The NY Times Book Rev. A- 26/2/1995 William T. Vollmann
The NY Rev. of Books A- 11/5/1995 Luc Sante.
The Observer . 16/7/1995 .
People . 10/4/1995 J.D. Reed
Publishers Weekly B+ 16/1/1995 --
San Fr. Rev of Books . 5/1995 .
The Spectator . 18/2/1995 Michael Carlson
TLS . 10/4/1995 Karl Miller

  From the Reviews:
  • "(A) cartoon tumor of a thriller, a black oozing abscess of paranoia." - Walter Kirn, New York

  • "(B)rilliantly unpleasant (...) This novel will not teach anybody anything new about the Kennedy assassination. Like Pulp Fiction, the movie to which in style and content American Tabloid is somewhat related, the goal does not seem to be so much accuracy or even verisimilitude as the depiction of a community of interlinked stories and lives. Violence becomes exaggerated almost to the point of caricature, but never crosses the line into mere gratuitousness." - William T. Vollmann, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       In rapid-fire staccato style Ellroy flings his brief paragraphs at us, detailing exactly five years of conspiracy and betrayal and men ruining other men's lives, culminating, naturally, with the death of JFK. We always found Ellroy a good read. He has that darkish tone, almost noir, and he spins a good tale. Here he spins out of control and inundates us, a random machine-gun spray. It's what he means to do, but that does not make it good in and of itself.
       A bizarre retelling of history, with J. Edgar Hoover, Jimmy Hoffa, and the Kennedys figuring prominently, Ellroy gives us the bleakest of stories. Over and over (and over and over) men's lives and reputations are ruined and then ruined again. We don't mind the negative slant: it's one way of looking at things, and maybe it's the right way, but the sledgehammer approach (we mean that literally and figuratively) finally blunts any effect.
       As usual Ellroy actually does the extremely brutal violence well, and we were not bothered by it (except for the fact that practically every scene revolves around violence). The sense and senselessness of it he captures less convincingly. He simply goes too far -- way too far -- overboard. The sex, as usual, is also less convincing.
       While there are spare and compact sentences that are beautiful in their power, rawness, and brevity, lined up endlessly the trick wears thin. Regrettably, the style overall makes the novel an uncomfortable read. One can not plow through it -- one is constantly jarred, as when driving across a dirt road, regardless at what pace. Ellroy writes well here, often, but this is just too disjointed for our taste.

       For fans -- of conspiracy, Kennedys, alienless X-Files, and possibly Ellroy -- we can recommend it. For others we say: approach with caution. Again the critics disagree, positively showering this book with praise.

- Return to top of the page -


American Tabloid: Reviews: James Ellroy: Other books by James Ellroy under review: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       American writer James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948.

- Return to top of the page -

© 1999-2010 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links