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First Look at Perfidia Front Cover

March 19, 2014 is now displaying the front cover of James Ellroy’s new novel Perfidia, and it’s quite striking. I expect a novel such as this will feature many different front covers over the years, but I thought I would say a few words about this one. The novel is set in Los Angeles, December 1941, during America’s entry into the Second World War. Ellroy has revealed that the notorious internment of over 100,000 citizens of Japanese heritage will be a major theme of the novel, although judging by this interview expect Ellroy’s portrayal to be controversial:

Although the story is very much about the injustice of the internment of the Japanese – most of them innocent – let me say, and this is very un-PC, the f*cking internment was not the Holocaust or the Soviet Gulag.

The cover then is very symbolic. The Japanese flag looms in the air over the lights of the City of Angels by night. Pearl Harbor, of course, was an aerial attack therefore the elevated flag seems appropriate. Also, the flag hangs ominously suggesting the widespread paranoia following Pearl Harbor that there was a Japanese Fifth Column in the US. At first I thought the cover was somewhat misjudged considering Japanese-Americans are, to a certain degree, the victims of this period of LA history. Why should the flag tower above LA as though they were more powerful than the city? However, the flag on the cover is the Japanese national flag. If I am not mistaken, the more aggressive symbol of Japanese imperialism at the time was the flag of the Imperial Navy:

Japan Imperial Navy

It may be over-reading, but perhaps by choosing the Japanese national flag the cover designer is demonstrating that this is a story about Japanese-Americans as people and not about the Empire of Japan and its colonial ambitions, for which the Imperial Navy flag may have been more appropriate as the sun’s rays suggest expansion whereas internment completely overestimated Imperial Japan’s infiltration of the US.

Anyway, this makes me hungry to read the book so its fairly good advertising.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Literary Man permalink
    March 19, 2014 8:26 pm

    It looks awesome! Love the Japanese flag that also looks like a bedsheet. . .

  2. March 21, 2014 6:46 pm

    These days even a writer as famous as Ellroy is lucky if his graphic designers have read more than the book blurb before designing the cover. You probably shouldn’t read too much into it … .

    “It’s about Japanese people in LA? Ok, stick a Japanese flag and a photo of LA on the front.”


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