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From the modern master of noir comes a novel about the malevolent monarch of the 1950s Hollywood underground--a tale of pervasive paranoia teeming with communist conspiracies, FBI finks, celebrity smut films, and strange bedfellows. Freddy Otash was the man in the know and the man to know in '50s L.A. He was a rogue cop, a sleazoid private eye, a shakedown artist, a pim From the modern master of noir comes a novel about the malevolent monarch of the 1950s Hollywood underground--a tale of pervasive paranoia teeming with communist conspiracies, FBI finks, celebrity smut films, and strange bedfellows. Freddy Otash was the man in the know and the man to know in '50s L.A. He was a rogue cop, a sleazoid private eye, a shakedown artist, a pimp--and, most notably, the head strong-arm goon for Confidential magazine. Confidential presaged the idiot internet--and delivered the dirt, the dish, the insidious ink, and the scurrilous skank. It mauled misanthropic movie stars, sex-soiled socialites, and putzo politicians. Mattress Jack Kennedy, James Dean, Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson--Frantic Freddy outed them all. He was the Tattle Tyrant who held Hollywood hostage, and now he's here to CONFESS. "I'm consumed with candor and wracked with recollection. I'm revitalized and resurgent. My meshugenah march down memory lane begins NOW." In Freddy's viciously entertaining voice, Widespread Panic torches 1950s Hollywood to the ground. It's a blazing revelation of coruscating corruption, pervasive paranoia, and of sin and redemption with nothing in between. Here is James Ellroy in savage quintessence. Freddy Otash confesses--and you are here to read and succumb.


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From the modern master of noir comes a novel about the malevolent monarch of the 1950s Hollywood underground--a tale of pervasive paranoia teeming with communist conspiracies, FBI finks, celebrity smut films, and strange bedfellows. Freddy Otash was the man in the know and the man to know in '50s L.A. He was a rogue cop, a sleazoid private eye, a shakedown artist, a pim From the modern master of noir comes a novel about the malevolent monarch of the 1950s Hollywood underground--a tale of pervasive paranoia teeming with communist conspiracies, FBI finks, celebrity smut films, and strange bedfellows. Freddy Otash was the man in the know and the man to know in '50s L.A. He was a rogue cop, a sleazoid private eye, a shakedown artist, a pimp--and, most notably, the head strong-arm goon for Confidential magazine. Confidential presaged the idiot internet--and delivered the dirt, the dish, the insidious ink, and the scurrilous skank. It mauled misanthropic movie stars, sex-soiled socialites, and putzo politicians. Mattress Jack Kennedy, James Dean, Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson--Frantic Freddy outed them all. He was the Tattle Tyrant who held Hollywood hostage, and now he's here to CONFESS. "I'm consumed with candor and wracked with recollection. I'm revitalized and resurgent. My meshugenah march down memory lane begins NOW." In Freddy's viciously entertaining voice, Widespread Panic torches 1950s Hollywood to the ground. It's a blazing revelation of coruscating corruption, pervasive paranoia, and of sin and redemption with nothing in between. Here is James Ellroy in savage quintessence. Freddy Otash confesses--and you are here to read and succumb.

30 review for Widespread Panic

  1. 4 out of 5

    Blaine DeSantis

    He may be 73, but James Ellroy keeps cranking out wonderful hard-nosed LA Noir crime novels. For a few years he seemed to have lost his edge, but this 3rd installment of his 2nd LA Quartet is a wonderful read, a book that is hard to put down and for fans of his style of writing it makes us look forward to his next effort. Once again Ellroy features infamous LA cop Freddy Otash to give us the scoop as to the happenings in the early 1950’s in this fictionalized look at varied topics. We have polit He may be 73, but James Ellroy keeps cranking out wonderful hard-nosed LA Noir crime novels. For a few years he seemed to have lost his edge, but this 3rd installment of his 2nd LA Quartet is a wonderful read, a book that is hard to put down and for fans of his style of writing it makes us look forward to his next effort. Once again Ellroy features infamous LA cop Freddy Otash to give us the scoop as to the happenings in the early 1950’s in this fictionalized look at varied topics. We have politicians, movie stars, wannabe actors, Communists, pornography, murders, muscle, drugs, and so much more. But much of this book is built around the Caryl Chessman kidnapping/rape/murder trials that rocked Los Angeles for a few years. Otash tells his story as a confession as to his part in much of this, since the book begins over 20 years since Freddy has died and he is in Purgatory and has been told he can move on from there if he tells the truth about what really happened in these affairs. In real life Otash was a fixer, and with that background it allows Ellroy to spin story that is part fiction, part Otash memoir and is able to give us a lot of “dirt” on what really went on in LA. We meet a young James Dean, aspiring actress Lois Nettleton, Marlon Brando, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, and Senator Jack Kennedy. All come in Freddy’s orbit and each has as part to play in this saga, one in which Otash makes things happen and is there when things fall apart. Being close to Ellroy’s age, I know the names, the movie scandals, the tattler sheets that Freddy helps along the way. Younger readers might not know the names, but his style of writing will keep one and all burning the midnight oil to keep up with the action as only Otash can tell it in a slang/hipster voice. A voice of one who was not at all adverse to doing bad deeds himself, and then using his ill gotten money to try and make things right if that is possible. Freddy Otash is a complicated person, a person who knows evil when he sees it and acts on it (sometimes for tabloid magazines and other times for personal reasons). It is the heyday of the hard-boiled LAPD. Movie studios demand results (can’t let public know Rock Hudson is gay), tabloids pander to readers who love the lurid tales that only Hollywood seemingly can provide, and Freddy Otash was there, was a part of it, made a lot of it happen and gives us a first-hand, birds eye look at one the most corrupt yes fascinating periods in the history of Los Angeles. Hold onto your seats, James Ellroy takes us for one wild ride, yet again, thanks to Freddy Otash’s desire to free himself from Purgatory! This review was first published on www.mysteryandsuspense.com

  2. 5 out of 5

    OutlawPoet

    I’m kind of going back and forth on this one. Ellroy’s style is wonderfully in evidence here – his rapid fire patter, the oh-so-cool turn of a vintage phrase, the sheer nonchalance of violence with a smattering of unfortunate but right for its time racism and homophobia (his characters, not him) that blast you straight into a very hard-boiled past. The thing is that I thought I was excited to hear Freddy Otash’s story from the man himself…until I wasn’t. The book is equal parts glorious and exhaust I’m kind of going back and forth on this one. Ellroy’s style is wonderfully in evidence here – his rapid fire patter, the oh-so-cool turn of a vintage phrase, the sheer nonchalance of violence with a smattering of unfortunate but right for its time racism and homophobia (his characters, not him) that blast you straight into a very hard-boiled past. The thing is that I thought I was excited to hear Freddy Otash’s story from the man himself…until I wasn’t. The book is equal parts glorious and exhausting. Freddy’s narcissism and braggadocio swing from humorous and endearing to irritating in a lightning flash. His stories of the sins of the Hollywood vintage elite are fun and trashy until they get a little tiresome. Eventually, they’re no longer scandalous sleaze – they’re just…more stories. Yet, every time I thought of just stopping the read, a turn of phrase or a situation would draw me right back in. I’d say that I enjoyed the read overall and I think that Ellroy fans will be glad they’ve read it, but I also ended it just kind of glad that Otash was done talking. *ARC provided via Net Galley

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Mystery & Thriller

    WIDESPREAD PANIC is not so much a reading experience as an immersion into a time (the 1950s) and place (Los Angeles). The events described by author James Ellroy become more real by virtue of his (occasional) exaggeration in a work that is ostensibly historical fiction. Even the prose that he spits out staccato-style is more than what it appears to be. His sentences are usually short and loaded with alliteration, even as they are cringe-inducing in content and description, designed to elicit eno WIDESPREAD PANIC is not so much a reading experience as an immersion into a time (the 1950s) and place (Los Angeles). The events described by author James Ellroy become more real by virtue of his (occasional) exaggeration in a work that is ostensibly historical fiction. Even the prose that he spits out staccato-style is more than what it appears to be. His sentences are usually short and loaded with alliteration, even as they are cringe-inducing in content and description, designed to elicit enough cuts and bruises to exhaust a giant box of wholesale club bandages. In WIDESPREAD PANIC, they trample readers and then merrily drag them along. Those expecting the third volume of the Second L.A. Quartet (after PERFIDIA and THIS STORM) will instead find the posthumously written (and fictional) autobiography of Fred Otash narrated as the man himself resides in Purgatory, where he is intermittently visited and violated by those he wronged during his life. As with most of Ellroy’s characters, Otash actually existed in what we like to call our real world. He ran a detective agency that did investigative work for Confidential magazine, which printed tawdry and scandalous stories about the glamorous, rich and famous. Readers of Ellroy’s previous work will remember Otash from THE COLD SIX THOUSAND and BLOOD’S A ROVER, both of which were a part of his Underworld USA trilogy, as well as SHAKEDOWN, a novella that is the basis for the first third of WIDESPREAD PANIC. As expected here, Otash is given to full, ungoverned vent. The book is written by Otash in 2020, but aside from a vignette on the day of his death in 1992, it takes place primarily between 1952 and 1960. We follow Otash as he demonstrates a proclivity for using virtually every illicit opportunity he can as an LAPD cop; he has a variety of outside income streams ranging from extortion and procuring to drug dealing and strong-arm robbery. Otash is ultimately bounced from the force by a new police chief who has vowed to clean up corruption, but is barely out the door before he acquires a private investigator’s license by using a shortcut. He then picks up where he left off before hooking up with Confidential. However, Otash is haunted by a murder that he committed while with the LAPD, so much so that he anonymously pays the victim’s widow a monthly stipend while worshipping her from afar. When she is murdered and the case remains unsolved, Otash begins his own investigation, even as he digs up dirt on the rich, famous and worshipped in politics and show business, which causes the circulation of Confidential to reach stratospheric heights. The stories --- particularly those that never saw the light of day --- are graphic, stunning and in many instances hilarious, especially if one is familiar with politicians and film stars of the 1940s and ’50s. There might have been a problem publishing these pieces when the principals were alive. As far as Ellroy and his book are concerned in the here and now, the stories appear in a work of fiction in which everyone mentioned is deceased, from John F. Kennedy to John Wayne, James Dean to Caryl Chessman. The language and topics seem shocking in this era of woke, but I doubt that Ellroy cares. WIDESPREAD PANIC is just over 300 pages but seems longer and deeper (yes, I phrased it like that on purpose) in all of the best ways. No punches are pulled, and no literary expense is spared. Just to prove that too much of a good thing does not exist, Ellroy is working on a sequel to this book. Please, sir. Write quickly. And don’t forget Bob Crane. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Shepherd

    In the world of ‘Widespread Panic,’ Hollywood is a cesspool and we are all invited in for a swim. James Ellroy has made a pretty good living mining the depths of human depravity. He is hard-nosed, hard-boiled, and uncompromising. By comparison, he makes Dashiel Hammett and Mickey Spillane look positively effeminate. Mike Hammer’s got nothing on Freaky Freddy Otash, except maybe some professional integrity and a few yards of unshredded human decency.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    Ellroy's just going to keep playing the hits, isn't he? -Alliteration, alliteration, ALLITERATION! -Red-headed reds who also may or may not be feds -Celebrity name vomit (this time with Joi Lansing, Marlon Brando, and Natalie Wood. Thankful that poor Joan Crawford got a break.) -LA, drugs, booze, broads. -JFK, Billy Parker, etc. I will say that while this reminded me a bit of White Jazz in that it focused on one perspective, it did have a plot and had some satisfying moments. The running gag of Orson Ellroy's just going to keep playing the hits, isn't he? -Alliteration, alliteration, ALLITERATION! -Red-headed reds who also may or may not be feds -Celebrity name vomit (this time with Joi Lansing, Marlon Brando, and Natalie Wood. Thankful that poor Joan Crawford got a break.) -LA, drugs, booze, broads. -JFK, Billy Parker, etc. I will say that while this reminded me a bit of White Jazz in that it focused on one perspective, it did have a plot and had some satisfying moments. The running gag of Orson Welles doing the Black Dahlia murder made me laugh. But it's typical Ellroy. And lesser Ellroy.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jason Allison

    It’s Ellroy, and he gives exactly what you came for. This was a brisk read by his standards, and I enjoyed it, but didn’t get the odd “Purgatory Confession” conceit, which he abandons halfway through. A good time, but I’d have rather he written the third book of his second LA Quartet.

  7. 4 out of 5

    David C Ward

    Ellroy used to be a good, sometimes great, writer but that was several books ago. His hepcat POV stream of consciousness spiels oooooold and causes him to lose the narrative. There’s no plot here so issues (the Red Scare) and characters (USC basketball player/love interest “Stretch”) appear and disappear at random. And I know that public figures, especially dead ones and their estates, can’t sue for libel, but nearly all the real life characters in this novel, ranging from LA Chief Parker to Jam Ellroy used to be a good, sometimes great, writer but that was several books ago. His hepcat POV stream of consciousness spiels oooooold and causes him to lose the narrative. There’s no plot here so issues (the Red Scare) and characters (USC basketball player/love interest “Stretch”) appear and disappear at random. And I know that public figures, especially dead ones and their estates, can’t sue for libel, but nearly all the real life characters in this novel, ranging from LA Chief Parker to James Dean (who is accused of murder!) to Liz Taylor (and dozens more), have reasons to be aggrieved at Ellroy’s scabrous treatment of them. (Nearly every man has the size of his manhood man-checked which is just icky.) Writing a novel about sex n voyeur gossip magazines in the 50s tips Ellroy over into becoming his subject. It’s the literary equivalent of Gresham’s Law: bad culture drives out good.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sasha

    Not one for me, I’m afraid. The whole thing felt a bit pointless. The first main structural concept is that the protagonist, Freddy Otash, is dead and in purgatory. He must write his memoir to stand a chance of moving on. Why or how is never explained; and the concept disappears completely halfway through, so why bother? It adds nothing to the novel. The second main structural concept is that the prose is written in the alliterative, hyperbolic style of the trashy celebrity magazine which employs Not one for me, I’m afraid. The whole thing felt a bit pointless. The first main structural concept is that the protagonist, Freddy Otash, is dead and in purgatory. He must write his memoir to stand a chance of moving on. Why or how is never explained; and the concept disappears completely halfway through, so why bother? It adds nothing to the novel. The second main structural concept is that the prose is written in the alliterative, hyperbolic style of the trashy celebrity magazine which employs Freddy. It’s clever, but it’s incredibly wearing to read over a full-length novel. Also, it distances the reader from identification with Freddy, even though it’s in the first person and the reader’s understanding of his thoughts and actions is invited. There are two main narrative arcs, neither of which are coherent or satisfying, and there’s no real link between them. They seem more suited to two separate novellas than a single novel. The plots are driven by the premise that every Hollywood star of the 1950s was either sexually depraved, addicted to drugs, prostituting themselves, engaged in criminal activity, or all of the above. I’m sure there was plenty of misbehaviour around but the breadth and depth written here became very distasteful very quickly. In short, a victory of style over substance.

  9. 5 out of 5

    David

    If you ever wish to replicate the experience of being at an inescapable family dinner with a pompous bore who never gets tired of telling tales of how much smarter, stronger, more devious, more capable, and more sexually attractive than everybody else, read this book. Me, not so much – for that, I have actual family. I gave up on this book about half-way into it. This new book got a lot of praise. The author has been writing well-received novels for decades now. I haven't read any of them. This bo If you ever wish to replicate the experience of being at an inescapable family dinner with a pompous bore who never gets tired of telling tales of how much smarter, stronger, more devious, more capable, and more sexually attractive than everybody else, read this book. Me, not so much – for that, I have actual family. I gave up on this book about half-way into it. This new book got a lot of praise. The author has been writing well-received novels for decades now. I haven't read any of them. This book may be the work of someone past their prime – it doesn't seem to be covering any original territory. I think that praising this book may be a way for prestige book reviewers and mere mortals to show that they are courageously independent spirits and not prisoners of today's tedious liberal PC-correctness. The reviewer can show that his/her sophisticated taste by singing the book's praises as the tiresome narrator/private detective protagonist insults every group now considered sacrosanct, eventually sounding like he's mentally checking a list in his head (“Oh, wait, I haven't insulted Armenians yet”). I'm not mad at the character or the author for putting these insults between book covers – I just thought it was boring. I considered that the narrator's awfulness was actually intentional, since he DOES end up getting punished in the afterlife, which occurs at the beginning of the book, so is not a spoiler. Maybe so. A great writer might have made his awfulness entertaining, but it's a very difficult literary trick to pull off – I certainly couldn't do it. Read more fiction, they said. It'll be fun, they said. Phooey. Give me non-fiction any day.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Liam Green

    Ater the triumphs of BLOOD'S A ROVER and PERFIDIA (and the also entertaining if too-similar-to-its-predecessor THIS STORM), WIDESPREAD PANIC is a significant drop-off in quality for James Ellroy. It's as compulsively readable as his work usually is, but there is an unmistakable feeling that Ellroy is going through the motions with this one. There are many reasons for this. For one, the book is more or less an expanded version of a mediocre web-only novella Ellroy released back in 2012. Two, Ellro Ater the triumphs of BLOOD'S A ROVER and PERFIDIA (and the also entertaining if too-similar-to-its-predecessor THIS STORM), WIDESPREAD PANIC is a significant drop-off in quality for James Ellroy. It's as compulsively readable as his work usually is, but there is an unmistakable feeling that Ellroy is going through the motions with this one. There are many reasons for this. For one, the book is more or less an expanded version of a mediocre web-only novella Ellroy released back in 2012. Two, Ellroy has already delved into the ups and downs of this book's protagonist and narrator Fred Otash-- he appears in all three books of the Underworld USA trilogy and surfaces at least briefly in WHITE JAZZ. (He also created a far more interesting mostly fictional character based on Otash in Pete Bondurant of the aforementioned trilogy.) When we finally hear Freddy in his own voice, he sounds...well, like the trolling slang-drenched alliterative authorial voice Ellroy has largely stuck to since WHITE JAZZ. It's the most self-indulgent, unhinged version of that voice Ellroy has ever used, which is saying quite a bit. Even if it makes sense given that this book is largely about the real-life Hollywood scandal rag Confidential, it's just tiresome in this iteration. It's old news. The homophobia, racism and jingoism that permeates it is period-accurate and by all accounts in line with what Otash was like (not to mention 95% of L.A. cops in the 1950s and beyond), but at this rate it's mostly about Ellroy doing his level best to offend everyone he can because it amuses him to do so. Which is boring. Ditto his pathological obsession with skewering Hollywood sacred cows ranging from Nicholas Ray and James Dean to John Wayne. Ellroy isn't morally outraged by the hypocrisy and dirty deeds of movie stars and directors, he simply knows he'll get a reaction. Some of the stars' scandals and proclivities he highlights have been well-documented and will surprise nobody, others are made up out of whole cloth. (Which is fine, but it's worth noting the intent of such embellishment.) Freddy is also old news: Not in the sense that he's been in other Ellroy books, but that he's another rogue cop turned PI running extortion and blackmail rackets who has--get this--hangups about murdered women. It's the most done to death trope in all of Ellroy's work, and in this iteration there's none of the pathos present in past versions of this story. He does little to explore the humanity of the killers' victims. Though, in fairness, WIDESPREAD PANIC is at its most.compelling in the stretches where the killer plotline is most prominent. It's hard for me to review this objectively--not because I dislike Ellroy, but quite the opposite. The L.A. Quartet and Underworld USA series are both masterworks, in aggregate and as individual volumes. (The Second L.A. Quartet, when it's finished, may be another.) But WIDESPREAD PANIC is like hearing an ace musician play a hit song out of tune, or in the wrong key. It veers dangerously close to self-parody.

  11. 5 out of 5

    John McKenna

    Mr. Ellroy, is writing at the top of his L.A. noir game, as he details the sins of Fred Otash, the “Scandal Rag Scoundrel” and “undisputed autocrat of abusive alliteration.” In the novel—as in real life—Otash dies in 1992. Since then, he’s been locked away in cell 2607 of the Penance Penitentiary, where he suffers constantly at the hands of those whom he slandered or otherwise hurt in real life, as they drop by his cell with electric cattle prods. But now, as the novel begins, Freddy O’s been of Mr. Ellroy, is writing at the top of his L.A. noir game, as he details the sins of Fred Otash, the “Scandal Rag Scoundrel” and “undisputed autocrat of abusive alliteration.” In the novel—as in real life—Otash dies in 1992. Since then, he’s been locked away in cell 2607 of the Penance Penitentiary, where he suffers constantly at the hands of those whom he slandered or otherwise hurt in real life, as they drop by his cell with electric cattle prods. But now, as the novel begins, Freddy O’s been offered a deal . . . confess all of your sins in exchange for being released from Purgatory. It’s the proverbial ‘get out of jail free’ card and Otash goes to work at once, holding nothing back, nor leaving anything out. The result is vintage Ellroy as the confessions and the capers start early, last long and never end. Beginning in 1950, Otash goes from being a crooked LAPD cop to an even more disreputable Private Investigator who’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants. And what he wants is sleaze, as he dishes the dirt for his other gig . . . gossip columnist for Confidential, a lurid, libelous and licentious morally corrupt rag that exposes communist party members, interracial relationships and the goings-on after dark of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities. No one is safe and no one is spared from burglaries, illegal wiretaps or stalkings as Freddy O. creeps, crawls and slithers his way into the most intimate and sordid details of celebrity lives, then publicly exposes them. Rock Hudson, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Nick Adams, Jack Kennedy and the infamous ‘Red Light Bandit’ and stone cold killer Caryl Chessman—as well as LAPD Chief William H. Parker and many others are all featured in this late night romp down the seamy side of the street as James Ellroy puts his incredible writing talent on full display for all noir enthusiasts to read and enjoy. For those who do, it’ll be one of 2021s most memorable!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Steve Essick

    Hooray ! Everybody’s favorite purveyor of perv crime fiction, James Ellroy, is back with the sleazily seditious #Widespread Panic. It’s the 50’s and Freddy Otash, is going to tell all in exchange for an early release from the Crowbar Hotel. And does Otash have dirt to disseminate, for he’s an ex-cop who went on to pimp , strong arm, and write for Hollywood’s scummiest tabloid magazine, Confidential. Ellroy in the guise of Otash goes on to slander just about anyone who was famous or infamous in t Hooray ! Everybody’s favorite purveyor of perv crime fiction, James Ellroy, is back with the sleazily seditious #Widespread Panic. It’s the 50’s and Freddy Otash, is going to tell all in exchange for an early release from the Crowbar Hotel. And does Otash have dirt to disseminate, for he’s an ex-cop who went on to pimp , strong arm, and write for Hollywood’s scummiest tabloid magazine, Confidential. Ellroy in the guise of Otash goes on to slander just about anyone who was famous or infamous in that glorious era. #WidespreadPanic is a book not necessarily read for it’s story, but for the verisimilitude of it’s vernacular. Have a ball kiddies.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence Sordo

    Ellroy is a phenomenon. I approached Widespread Panic with misgivings as I disliked Perfidia and found This Storm almost unreadable. Fortunately Widespread Panic is stunning and wondrous. It’s only April but I can’t see anything coming close to this as my book of the year. The Cold Six Thousand took several attempts to get into with its innovative spare staccato style but turned out to be his best novel so far. Widespread Panic attempts something similar and new by presenting a story which at its Ellroy is a phenomenon. I approached Widespread Panic with misgivings as I disliked Perfidia and found This Storm almost unreadable. Fortunately Widespread Panic is stunning and wondrous. It’s only April but I can’t see anything coming close to this as my book of the year. The Cold Six Thousand took several attempts to get into with its innovative spare staccato style but turned out to be his best novel so far. Widespread Panic attempts something similar and new by presenting a story which at its heart is about ‘50s Hollywood scandals written in the style of infamous magazine, Confidential. I’ll admit the incessant alliteration and inventive slurs get on your nerves at first but it soon feels normal and suits the storyline perfectly. It’s probably Ellroy’s finest achievement as a novelist. Widespread Panic is written as the real Freddy Otash, the discredited cop who carved out a career selling scandal to Confidential magazine. In 2012, Ellroy published a novella called Shakedown: Freddy Otash Confesses which was revealing and enjoyable. Widespread Panic has expanded and refined it into a stunning novel that obliterates the myth of the glamour of Hollywood . Ellroy is referenced as one of his own characters as Otash retells an anecdote about Ellroy wanting to make a TV series about his life. Hope it’s true and he manages to pull it off. It won’t be difficult once Widespread Panic hits the stores. If Mad Men was huge, then with the right casting this ought to be even more popular. HBO should snap it up. Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Peter Ackerman

    Though I expected the 3rd and final installment of his current trilogy I was happily surprised to see this offering which takes the reader back to Ellroy’s version of the CD 1950s in Los Angeles. Freddy Otash was an LA cop in Private Eye his reputation still precedes him and whether truth fiction or parts of both Ellroy brings Otash to us through some of the circumstances he likely found himself connected . What the reader wants more of will depend on how this book sits with said reader. This is Though I expected the 3rd and final installment of his current trilogy I was happily surprised to see this offering which takes the reader back to Ellroy’s version of the CD 1950s in Los Angeles. Freddy Otash was an LA cop in Private Eye his reputation still precedes him and whether truth fiction or parts of both Ellroy brings Otash to us through some of the circumstances he likely found himself connected . What the reader wants more of will depend on how this book sits with said reader. This is only a slight linear tail the Otash saga from start to finish jumps around in time frame , it ebbs and flows like a memory that keeps the reader on his or her figurative toes but still provides a satisfying journey . Where the author seems to take great delight is in his now classic jarring jive alliterative speak which for me a little of it goes a long way. Still, this title is pure Ellroy. If you love reading him , there is a lot to love here. If you want to start, this book as a standalone might be a good way before jumping in all Ellroy in two longer tones or series. Regardless, as always, this author offers the reader an opportunity to move into another wonderfully literate space and time.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    It’s James Ellroy, and he fucking delivers.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burke

    The ghost pepper is rated 400 times hotter than tabasco sauce. Bite into a one and blame only yourself when you flame out. If you walk straight into a James Ellroy novel you should already know what is going to hit you. I love film noir and I loved the "L.A. Confidential" film, so I jumped at the opportunity to read "Widespread Panic".   Midway through I could hardly wait to get it over with and slam it as the worst thing I have read all year. The main character, Freddy Otash, is a dirty ex-cop n The ghost pepper is rated 400 times hotter than tabasco sauce. Bite into a one and blame only yourself when you flame out. If you walk straight into a James Ellroy novel you should already know what is going to hit you. I love film noir and I loved the "L.A. Confidential" film, so I jumped at the opportunity to read "Widespread Panic".   Midway through I could hardly wait to get it over with and slam it as the worst thing I have read all year. The main character, Freddy Otash, is a dirty ex-cop now reporting for the sleazy tabloid Confidential. The first half is set on spreading every kind of slander, factual or not, on any recognizable celebrity of the time. Only sleazebags, addicts, perverts and rapists roam the landscape and Freddy has the dirt and has a free pass to murder or bed anyone of his choice. When there are no restraints, no limits, it gets wearying to wade through. After finishing "Widespread Panic" I tracked down some of his interviews and found that this novel was pretty typical of his style. When asked about the way he treated Orson Welles in a previous novel, Ellroy said he trashed him because he never liked him much "...and he's dead... he's not gonna sue me!" The second half of the book actually came around to a plot, tying things together by slapping the case of serial killer Caryl Chessman into it. It was at this point that I just accepted the writing approach and tried to follow Ellroy's path. It did seem to come together a little at that point with a finish line to focus on. I rate "Widespread Panic" two stars. If you are familiar with and savor Ellroy's body of work you may appreciate it. Thank you to Knopf Doubleday Publishing and Netgalley for the advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. 

  17. 5 out of 5

    Leigh Farina

    I received a copy of this novel through netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This brought me right back into the gritty world of James Ellroy and his unforgettable characters. I found myself unable to put this novel down and was sucked in from page one. Many of the characters from previous books came out again and threw this story into hyperdrive. Ellroy has once again won my heart with his story telling and his ability to make you feel the emotions and the suspense his characters are faci I received a copy of this novel through netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This brought me right back into the gritty world of James Ellroy and his unforgettable characters. I found myself unable to put this novel down and was sucked in from page one. Many of the characters from previous books came out again and threw this story into hyperdrive. Ellroy has once again won my heart with his story telling and his ability to make you feel the emotions and the suspense his characters are facing. Absolutely loved it and will be recommending.

  18. 4 out of 5

    H Anthony

    Ridiculously sleazy and enjoyable tabloid-style smear rompfest.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Todd Glaeser

    I liked this book much more than his last. Freddy O was a more interesting protagonist and there was less faux- nazi politics to slog through.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michael Fredette

    A rare stand-alone novel by James Ellroy, is narrated by Freddy Otash—former Marine Corps D.I. and L.A. cop—from his cell in Purgatory (a dubious literary conceit that provides the story’s frame). Otash was a corrupt cop—a shakedown artist, womanizer, speedfreak, and juicehead. His narrative covers the years 1949-1957 and unfolds in episodic fashion. After being kicked off the force for moral turpitude, Otash goes to work for Confidential, a scandal tabloid, plumbing the depths of L.A., depicted A rare stand-alone novel by James Ellroy, is narrated by Freddy Otash—former Marine Corps D.I. and L.A. cop—from his cell in Purgatory (a dubious literary conceit that provides the story’s frame). Otash was a corrupt cop—a shakedown artist, womanizer, speedfreak, and juicehead. His narrative covers the years 1949-1957 and unfolds in episodic fashion. After being kicked off the force for moral turpitude, Otash goes to work for Confidential, a scandal tabloid, plumbing the depths of L.A., depicted as a cesspool of criminality, vice and subversive politics. The novel charts the rise and fall of Confidential, and includes a subplot about the making of Rebel Without a Cause. Cast members were goaded into engaging in felonious activities, in search of juvenile delinquent verisimilitude. Otash is convinced the picture is a “teen turkey” destined for drive-in theater obscurity (in “Dogdick, Arkansas”...LOL). Meanwhile, Dean is fixated on performing a sadistic sex predator in anti-death penalty message movie, the plan for which is scrapped after Dean’s untimely death ( and the real life inspiration huffs gas at Q). In my estimation, Ellroy’s best book in decades.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Gunther

    Classic Ellroy - 50's and 60's LA and the Hollyweird scene as experienced by legendary fixer Fred Otash. A bit of a breather from Ellroy's last book, "Perfidia", which someone referred to as "The Finnegan's Wake of crime fiction." But few can measure up to him in this genre. Classic Ellroy - 50's and 60's LA and the Hollyweird scene as experienced by legendary fixer Fred Otash. A bit of a breather from Ellroy's last book, "Perfidia", which someone referred to as "The Finnegan's Wake of crime fiction." But few can measure up to him in this genre.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ward Howarth

    Dig it, hepcats -- Ellroy is at it again, plumbing the depths of depravity even deeper while simultaneously slumming in his own sin-tastic stories for more of the same old shit! Seriously, at this point, I don't know whether to appreciate that he mines his own characters over and over again for roughly the same effect or to wish that he wouldn't try something new. In Widespread Panic, we get Freddy Otash, the notorious cop/PI/fixer with a yen for romance and uncovering truths about dead women, b Dig it, hepcats -- Ellroy is at it again, plumbing the depths of depravity even deeper while simultaneously slumming in his own sin-tastic stories for more of the same old shit! Seriously, at this point, I don't know whether to appreciate that he mines his own characters over and over again for roughly the same effect or to wish that he wouldn't try something new. In Widespread Panic, we get Freddy Otash, the notorious cop/PI/fixer with a yen for romance and uncovering truths about dead women, but really, for Ellroy die-hards, Otash comes off like a mish-mash of Bud White, Buzz Meeks, and Pete Bondurant. There's even a nod to his own short story, 'Since I Don't Have You,' a great tale from Hollywood Nocturnes that features Meeks. If I didn't know any better, I'd say the guy doesn't have a lot of new ideas. And yet, I haven't had this much fun reading Ellroy in years. Perfidia and This Storm are so dense and so intricately plotted that, while compelling, they just aren't that much fun to read. But here, you get Ellroy's signature short-dose sentences so packed with creative wording that you can just tell he's having a fucking blast with it all, even if he is treading in the same murky waters he's swam in before. That all being said, Ellroy does two things better than any crime writer I've ever read. One, he writes about obsession better than anyone (because really, isn't that what we're here for? To follow a dark man's quest into a dark world?) and two, he writes about duplicitous men and women with more command, insight, and aplomb that any other writer I know. Those two things keep me coming back every time, even if he is just rehashing some of his old stuff in new ways.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Patrick Boyer

    [1.5 Stars, Rounded Down] James Ellroy's Widespread Panic is a sleazy, salacious noir slamming the hedonistic hell-hole that was '50s Hollyweird. Throughout, Ellroy paints all the players as pimps, prostitutes, homosexuals, communists and/or any other obscene amount of deviant designations. And he revels in his raconteur's repetitive retelling of his countless crass chronicles. It's all as inane as it is indecent as it is immature. Seriously, though, this book starts out strong. Ellroy's narrator [1.5 Stars, Rounded Down] James Ellroy's Widespread Panic is a sleazy, salacious noir slamming the hedonistic hell-hole that was '50s Hollyweird. Throughout, Ellroy paints all the players as pimps, prostitutes, homosexuals, communists and/or any other obscene amount of deviant designations. And he revels in his raconteur's repetitive retelling of his countless crass chronicles. It's all as inane as it is indecent as it is immature. Seriously, though, this book starts out strong. Ellroy's narrator has a singular voice, and the initial alliterative cadence of the prose is pretty pleasurable. Sadly, it all gets exhausting before long, and the meandering, poorly developed, and plodding plotting (paired with the quickly tiring, distracting prose) make all but the first act drag dreadfully. (Ugh, it's contagious, someone help.) It's as simple as this; the plot, here, is severely scattered and never delivers any moments that manage to bring everything/anything together in a satisfying manner, and with his nonstop, repetitive anecdotes about three-ways with movie stars and that damn photo of Brando with a d**k in his mouth, our narrator very quickly becomes as annoying as that creepy cryptkeeper dude at your gym who insists on airing his junk out in the locker room while asking everyone passing through if they caught 'the ass on that chick on the stairmaster'. Or, more simply and colorfully, it's all completely unnecessary. 2.5/10

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lance Polin

    I began this book worried. For a long time James Ellroy has been at the top of my favorite authors consideration. (A long time, back to the 1990s). This book began, for me, like a few excised scenes removed from The Big Nowhere and LA Confidential. I don't know. Maybe they were. Now of course this doesn't have to be a bad thing, a few slimy edits out from great books. It flows and is very entertaining. Then something . . . . . . changes. Somehow a compassionate heart breaks amidst all the horrible I began this book worried. For a long time James Ellroy has been at the top of my favorite authors consideration. (A long time, back to the 1990s). This book began, for me, like a few excised scenes removed from The Big Nowhere and LA Confidential. I don't know. Maybe they were. Now of course this doesn't have to be a bad thing, a few slimy edits out from great books. It flows and is very entertaining. Then something . . . . . . changes. Somehow a compassionate heart breaks amidst all the horrible, vicious, gossipy sleaze, all the thumping violence, all the parallel pathways through the unknowable cover-ups of official history. In the brazenly, arrogantly poetical tome, something different emerges from James Ellroy's grayed over heart. Surely not his best work, but a great, fast read nonetheless. Simmering somewhere in a near corner of Ellroy's . . . multiverse, is it?--this novel fills in a few unconsidered gaps of the larger lived world within his opus. A marvelous addition once you grow accustomed, then addicted to the pap-pap-paphony prose of the particularly profound confession.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Todd Hogan

    James Ellroy is my guilty pleasure. I'm amazed by his inventive writing and bold descriptions. He invents verbs to cover unusual situations. His stories don't progress they plow forward. He challenges the reader with his stories. BUT, I was disappointed by this most recent work. It starts slow (slow! in a James Ellroy novel!) and is often pointing in the wrong direction. It wasn't until the last half of the book that the novel came to a boil, trying to solve a mystery that was worthy of the novel James Ellroy is my guilty pleasure. I'm amazed by his inventive writing and bold descriptions. He invents verbs to cover unusual situations. His stories don't progress they plow forward. He challenges the reader with his stories. BUT, I was disappointed by this most recent work. It starts slow (slow! in a James Ellroy novel!) and is often pointing in the wrong direction. It wasn't until the last half of the book that the novel came to a boil, trying to solve a mystery that was worthy of the novel. Too often, I felt like I was listening to the obnoxious kid in grade school that has learned a few dirty words and situations, and has to trumpet them, usually inappropriately. In this novel, the author shovels dirt on lots of celebrities, but they are all dead celebrities now, and not able to defend themselves. Kind of a one-sided argument. Actually, there was not much new in this novel, no growth as an author, just a retread of old tricks. So, I was disappointed. The book is redeemed by the last half, but before that point, it's a waste of space in my view.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    A return to the top for Ellroy after the so-so last two books. The usual cast of scummy actors and enabling Californians focuses on the narrator, Freddy Otash, and the people making movies in the mid-1950's who had things to hide. From homosexuality, to comsymps, to petty burglars, to rape, this one encompasses the full range of what still makes Hollywood (and politicians) despicable. The only decent human being among the main characters is the actress Lois Nettleton, whom most readers have like A return to the top for Ellroy after the so-so last two books. The usual cast of scummy actors and enabling Californians focuses on the narrator, Freddy Otash, and the people making movies in the mid-1950's who had things to hide. From homosexuality, to comsymps, to petty burglars, to rape, this one encompasses the full range of what still makes Hollywood (and politicians) despicable. The only decent human being among the main characters is the actress Lois Nettleton, whom most readers have likely never heard of, largely because she spent her career mostly on Broadway. I had to wait to the second-to-last page of the novel before seeing the one obscure fact I know about her, that the man she married, "a playwright who has his own radio show" was Jean Shepherd, known to all as the narrator and author of A CHRISTMAS STORY which plays all day long on December 25.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Denise Mullins

    Disgraced cop, disbarred PI, and informant for sleazy tabloids of the 50s, Fred Otash was a true bottom feeder among the scum of the pond. In this weirdly fascinating but often repetitive and crass first-person narrative, Otash describes an imagined flashback account of his life while he currently resides in Purgatory, a sentence he more than merits. Along with anecdotes annoyingly abounding in alliteration, dialogue is generously peppered with potty-mouthed phrased episodes involving heavy booz Disgraced cop, disbarred PI, and informant for sleazy tabloids of the 50s, Fred Otash was a true bottom feeder among the scum of the pond. In this weirdly fascinating but often repetitive and crass first-person narrative, Otash describes an imagined flashback account of his life while he currently resides in Purgatory, a sentence he more than merits. Along with anecdotes annoyingly abounding in alliteration, dialogue is generously peppered with potty-mouthed phrased episodes involving heavy boozing, pill-popping, and sexual interludes. It does get a bit tiresome despite name dropping of every mid-century celebrity and politician. While it's definitely not a book for all readers, it did make me curious enough to check out certain characters' purported past peccadilloes, so I guess Ellroy accomplished his goal.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Bowman

    This is James Ellroy's best book since L.A. Confidential. Ellroy's best work combines the darkest of dark humor delivered with alliterative rapid-fire aburdity. Reading Ellroy is like taking a roller-coaster into Hell and surviving. It can't be described, it must be experienced. It's also not for everybody. This book is some of Ellroy's best work, far superior to "Perfidia" and "This Coming Storm." It would be intriguing to read a Confessions of Fred Otash Trilogy, possibly with Fred meeting Sat This is James Ellroy's best book since L.A. Confidential. Ellroy's best work combines the darkest of dark humor delivered with alliterative rapid-fire aburdity. Reading Ellroy is like taking a roller-coaster into Hell and surviving. It can't be described, it must be experienced. It's also not for everybody. This book is some of Ellroy's best work, far superior to "Perfidia" and "This Coming Storm." It would be intriguing to read a Confessions of Fred Otash Trilogy, possibly with Fred meeting Satan himself and finding out that the Big S is actually Frank Sinatra. The Second L.A. Quartet has been a bit of a slog so far, so it would be good to see Ellroy doing something different.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Alex B

    Vintage Ellroy. Kind of feels like a half-assed cash-grab compared to his more ambitious recent work like Underworld USA and the Second L.A. Quartet. I wouldn't be surprised if had been sitting on this for a couple years and published it because SLAQ part 3 is taking longer than he expected. This one is also kind of strange in that it's the fictionalized life of Freddy Otash, the real life PI that inspired Pete Bondurant (not to mention Jake Gittes) and who also appeared in Underworld USA. All i Vintage Ellroy. Kind of feels like a half-assed cash-grab compared to his more ambitious recent work like Underworld USA and the Second L.A. Quartet. I wouldn't be surprised if had been sitting on this for a couple years and published it because SLAQ part 3 is taking longer than he expected. This one is also kind of strange in that it's the fictionalized life of Freddy Otash, the real life PI that inspired Pete Bondurant (not to mention Jake Gittes) and who also appeared in Underworld USA. All in all, new Ellroy is better than no Ellroy. It's got all the requisite Ellroy beats: sex, violence, sexual violence, Hollywood Babylon-esque celebrity debauchery, scumbag cops, fast dames, and of course the author's admitted oedipal fixation on the murder of his own mother.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ronald Koltnow

    For over four decades James Ellroy has been our premier crime writer. WIDESPREAD PANIC, a revision of his earlier e-book original novella SHAKEDOWN, has a postmortem Fred Otash, sleazoid P. I., explaining his life story from purgatory. The device worked better in the novella. Here, as in PERFIDIA and THIS STORM, he cannot decide if he is telling a crime story or some sort of wild Thomas Pynchon absurd comedy. His trashing of reputations (Nicholas Ray, Nick Adams, Natalie Wood, et alia) is downri For over four decades James Ellroy has been our premier crime writer. WIDESPREAD PANIC, a revision of his earlier e-book original novella SHAKEDOWN, has a postmortem Fred Otash, sleazoid P. I., explaining his life story from purgatory. The device worked better in the novella. Here, as in PERFIDIA and THIS STORM, he cannot decide if he is telling a crime story or some sort of wild Thomas Pynchon absurd comedy. His trashing of reputations (Nicholas Ray, Nick Adams, Natalie Wood, et alia) is downright offensive, as is his use of racist epithets where not needed. He spends too much time in Nazi metaphors. A failure.

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