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This Storm: James Ellroy’s New LA Quartet Novel

April 19, 2018

The title of James Ellroy’s next Los Angeles Quartet novel is This Storm. The news leaked  on the internet a couple of years ago, but was swiftly removed from most websites, as at the time, Ellroy was apparently displeased with the leak. However, now you can pre-order copies of This Storm on Amazon and Waterstones so it’s fair to assume that This Storm is officially the novel’s title. Inevitably, the symbolism behind the title will be the source of some speculation for hardcore Ellrovians (and there are a few of us about!). I did some digging and the phrase ‘This Storm’ is used in the prologue to Ellroy’s most recent novel Perfidia:

Reminiscenza.

I wandered off in a prairie blizzard 85 years ago. The cold rendered me spellbound, then to now. I have outlived the decree and find myself afraid to die. I cannot will cloudbursts the way I once did. I must recollect with yet greater fury.

It was a fever then. It remains a fever now. I will not die as long as I live this story. I run to Then to buy myself moments Now.

Twenty-three days.

Blood libel.

A policeman knocks on a young woman’s door. Murderers’ flags, aswirl.

Twenty-three days.

This Storm.

Reminiscenza.

This is Kay Lake’s first-person narration which opens and draws to a close a few pages before the novels coda, when the phrase is repeated ‘War. Blood libel. Twenty-three days, this storm, reminiscenza’. The twenty-three days refers to the narrative timespan of the novel, beginning on the day before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and concluding on the last days of 1941. Given this setting and context, ‘the storm’ Ellroy is portraying in his fictional LA is the anti-Japanese hysteria, Internment and flagrant war profiteering that followed the Day of Infamy. In the second volume of the Quartet, the storm will continue ‘murderers flags, aswirl’ as the US is plunged inexorably into total war. Of course, we shouldn’t speculate too much about the plot when not even a synopsis for the novel has appeared yet. But it’s worth remembering that, just as Ellroy used the phrase ‘This Storm’ in the opening of Perfidia, he has also used as titles other phrases or words that have appeared in his novels. For instance, ‘Perfidia’ is the song that Bucky Bleichert and Kay Lake dance to in The Black Dahlia. Ellroy used the Black Dahlia case as backstory in his second novel Clandestine, but also gave it fleeting references in Brown’s Requiem and Blood on the Moon before writing his seventh novel ‘titled thrillingly and ironically The Black Dahliahe once joked in the documentary Feast of Death.

A good title can make the difference between a reader buying your book or not, and Ellroy has butted heads with publishers before about naming his novels. Killer on the Road was originally released as Silent Terror (at publisher Avon’s insistence), before subsequent reprints bore Ellroy’s preferred title. Correspondence I examined at the James Ellroy archive at the University of South Carolina indicated there was disagreement between Ellroy and his editors over Blood’s a Rover, which was Ellroy’s title choice, but we now know that Ellroy won that argument. Perhaps my favourite example, though, of Ellroy’s colourful history of title choices was from an unpublished novel. By the mid-1980s, Ellroy had completed three novels featuring his brilliant but unhinged Detective Lloyd Hopkins. He planned a fourth Hopkins novel and wrote the outline before abandoning it to write The Black Dahlia, the book that made his name. And the title of this unpublished fourth Lloyd Hopkins novel? – The Cold Six Thousand. A title he would return to around fifteen years later, like an itch he just had to scratch.

If you’re excited about This Storm but can’t wait for the projected April 2019 release date, then you may be interested to hear about another Ellroy forthcoming release. The Big Somewhere: Essays on James Ellroy’s Noir World is an anthology of critical essays I have edited featuring contributions from some of the best Ellrovian scholars working today. It is to be published by Bloomsbury in July, but you can pre-order a copy here. Check it out.

The Big Somewhere

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. Dan permalink
    April 20, 2018 12:08 am

    A little disappointed if we have to wait almost another full year. In February I read a few articles that indicated Ellroy had finished writing late last year and he expected a release this September. I understand there are editorial rounds and revisions as well as the logistics of the actual printing, but it still seems an awfully long time between manuscript completion and release.

    • April 20, 2018 12:23 pm

      Hi Dan, its a frustrating wait but Ellroy has always resisted the urge of publishers and editors to write a boo a year so as to not compromise the integrity of his work. You could always revisit his back-catalogue while you wait or maybe even buy The Big Somewhere…

      • Dan permalink
        April 21, 2018 2:28 pm

        Hi Steve, I know that Ellroy books take however long they are going to take. My “disappointment” is being under the assumption the past few months that we were much closer to an actual release based on several sources (including recent interviews!) At any rate, your previous two books are essential elements of my Ellroy library and looking forward to the third this summer. This is probably very premature, but any other Ellroy-related projects that you have in the pipeline?

      • April 21, 2018 6:13 pm

        Dan, that is a really kind thing to say. Thank you! Now that my James Ellroy Trilogy is complete with The Big Somewhere, I’m tempted to think I should leave it there. But nothing ever really ends in Ellroy’s noir world. Time revoked/fever dreams…

  2. April 25, 2018 11:08 pm

    Hopefully it will hit shelves by the time I’ve finished my rereading of the Ellroy oeuvre. Thanks to Jason Carter for recommending your blog.

  3. Kevin permalink
    May 5, 2018 12:59 pm

    Just curious – will The Big Somewhere be available as an eBook/Kindle option? Preorder price is kinda way up there on Amazon just now.

    • May 6, 2018 9:22 am

      Hi Kevin, there is an e-book edition which is a little cheaper https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-big-somewhere-9781501331343/. The pricing of academic books is a real issue for academics who want their work to be read by as wide an audience as possible. Scholarly publishers tend to charge this way as they know uni libraries have large budgets and will pay. Your best option, if you’re not going to buy a copy, is to order the book through inter-library loan for a small fee or see if your local library will stock it in their collection.

  4. Dan permalink
    May 5, 2018 2:07 pm

    For whatever it’s worth, the US version of Amazon just created a page for the book a couple days ago with a September 15, 2018 date. Was there a delay in the UK the last time around for Perfidia?

    On a related note, there was an Ellroy interview in German published online the other day. Had to put it through a google translator for a rough English version, but it mentions “This Storm” will include a Mexico-related plotline. This matches what I’ve read earlier this year in Spanish-language articles that featured Ellroy interviews. The German interview even includes a bit that seems to suggest a Kay Lake-Dudley Smith romance in the new book. Not sure if that was just Ellroy playing around in the interview or some nuance was lost in the translation, since Perfidia ended with Dudley having an emergency surgery courtesy of Kay…

  5. Robert Jones permalink
    June 26, 2018 6:50 pm

    I had the great fortune to meet Mr.Ellroy twice.

    He signed my copy of “The Big Nowhere” in 1990, and five years later when he
    also signed a copy of “American Tabloid” for me.

    Despite his outrageous reputation, in both meetings, he was polite and very amusing.

    Above all, he is a great, great writer. Many people find his style of writing very
    difficult to follow, but it is very clean and to the point. A major influence on UK writers
    such as David Peace and Malcolm Mackay

    He hasn’t compromised his art one bit. Dan Brown admirers needn’t bother, as they
    will stop reading him after the first page,

    Long may he continue.

    • June 26, 2018 11:12 pm

      Hi Robert, thanks for commenting. Yeah, I feel there is a big gulf between Ellroy’s Demon Dog public persona and the gentlemanly, pleasant man he is in person. I hope to meet him again if he does a book tour for ‘This Storm’

      • Dan permalink
        August 26, 2018 4:35 pm

        I just found an actual plot description for This Storm on the US amazon site. You have to look under the audiobook version as the site for the hardcover does not exist. Certainly sounds inteteresting-looks like Claire De Haven, Elmer Jackson, and even Joan C9nville will be prominent characters alongside the Perfidia quartet of Dudley, Ashida, Kay, and Parker.

      • August 26, 2018 5:35 pm

        Thanks for the tip Dan. The plot does sound interesting, but I wonder if this is another leak and not a press release, as it reads more like mental notes. It feels too messy to be a plot synopsis. I could be wrong.

  6. David permalink
    September 6, 2018 1:20 pm

    I’m sharing everybody’s frustration at the delay but you can’t hurry genius.
    I just hope Waterstones push the boat out and give us a special edition as good as their epic ‘Perfidia’ and that he comes to the UK as part of his launch tour.

    • September 6, 2018 5:15 pm

      Don’t worry David. Ellroy has looked on UK tours as being practically compulsory for his last few books. Im sure he’ll come for this one. It would be great to see him again.

      • Dan permalink
        December 8, 2018 10:24 pm

        Happened to find a more polished synopsis of This Storm on the Amazon page today. Not as detailed as the one that’s been out there for a few months, but one significant find. Looks like Dudley and Hideo remain two of the four main characters but not Bill Parker and Kay Lake. Instead its another real-life cop, Elmer Jackson of the Brenda Allen scandal. And Jean Hilliker stand-in Jean McConville.

      • December 10, 2018 1:20 pm

        Thanks for the tip Dan, and to answer your earlier comment Conversations with James Ellroy was indeed a blast to put together as editor. It was my first book and I still look on it fondly.

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