From the modern master of noir comes a novel based on the real-life Hollywood fixer Freddy Otash, the malevolent monarch of the 1950s L.A. underground, and his Tinseltown tabloid Confidential magazine.
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.
This devious and delicious side trip into the life and exploits of real-life Hollywood fixer Fred Otash from MWA Grand Master Ellroy (The Storm) has a cool conceit: Otash dies of a massive coronary in 1992, but has spent the last three decades stuck in purgatory, and his only way out is a full confession of his lifetime of misdeeds; and confess Otash does. In the 1950s, Otash transforms himself from bent cop to even more crooked private eye, delivering the dirt on Hollywood celebs, outing communist party members, and exposing then-verboten interracial relationships. When puritanical Chief William Parker of the LAPD builds a righteous legal case against Otash, he strikes a deal to let the ex-cop slide in exchange for help in taking down the salacious tabloid Confidential. And so Otash embarks on a dangerous path of playing both sides against the middle. Numerous celebrities appear in suitably compromising positions, including Rock Hudson, Jack Kennedy, and a sizzling cast of Hollywood femmes fatale. The infamous rape spree of Caryl Chessman (aka the Red Light Bandit) adds another layer of sordidness. Ellroy's total command of the jazzy, alliterative argot of the era never fails to astonish. This is a must for L.A. noir fans.
It's James Ellroy...
...so what are you waiting for?
Tedious and Exhausting
I am a fan of Ellroy’s novels and always looked forward to his next. Widespread Panic was a major disappointment. While the alliterative prose is entertaining at first and it might work in small doses, it quickly drags down the story and becomes exhausting.