James Ellroy's L.A. Confidential is film noir crime fiction akin to Chinatown,Hollywood Babylon, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Jim Thompson. It's about threetortured souls in the 1950s L.A.P.D.: Ed Exley, the clean cut cop who lives shivering in the shadow of hisdad, a legendary cop in the same department; Jack Vincennes, a cop who advises a Police Squad like TV show and busts movie stars for payoffs from sleazy Hush Hush magazine; and Bud White,a detective haunted by the sight of his dad murdering his mom.Ellroy himself was traumatized as a boy by his party animal mother's murder. (See his memoir My Dark Places for the whole sordid story.)So it is clear that Bud is partly autobiographical. But Exley, whose shiny reputation conceals a dark secret,and Vincennes, who goes showbiz with a vengeance, reflect parts of Ellroy, too. L.A. Confidential holds enough plots for two or three books: the cops chase stolen gangland herointhrough a landscape littered with not always innocent corpses while succumbing to sexy sirens who havebeen surgically resculpted to resemble movie stars; a vile developer based (unfairly) on Walt Disney schemes to make big bucks off Moochie Mouse; and the cops compete with the crooks to see who can bemore corrupt and violent. Ellroy's hardboiled prose is so compressed that some of his rat a tat paragraphsare hard to follow. You have to read with attention as intense as his and that is very intense indeed. Buthe richly rewards the effort. He may not be as deep and literary as Chandler, but he belongs on the sametop level shelf.