Cold Case

James Ellroy Book Bag

James Ellroy shares with The Daily Beast why these novels of bloody and infamous crimes are his favorites. His new book, 'Blood’s A Rover,' is out.


by Don DeLillo
480 Pages

"The metaphysical treatise on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, largely seen through the eyes of the most eloquently persistent loser in American historical fiction: Lee Harvey Oswald. DeLillo posits a tripartite whack-JFK conspiracy: the Mob, right-wing Cuban exiles, and renegade CIA contract goons. This is not Jack’s death as watershed American doom or loss-of-innocence hoo-haw. This is the Jack-whack as the world’s most overscrutinized and overglorified business-dispute killing. And you’ll root for the assassins—DeLillo details their rationales that adroitly."—Ellroy


by Meyer Levin
412 Pages
Carroll & Graf

"A 1956 novel about the 1924 Leopold-Loeb case. You’ve got psychoanalysis reaching back three decades, to the Roaring ’20s. Two rich kids kill a 14-year-old boy for kicks. Clarence Darrow defends them and saves their lives. Compulsion is a brilliant one-two punch of history meets pathology. Chicago ’24 lives, incendiary."—Ellroy

The Choirboys

by Joseph Wambaugh
416 Pages

"It’s 1975; it’s a book that only a brilliant ex-cop could have written. A group of off-duty Wilshire Division bluesuits hole up at Westlake Park, with booze, pills, and whores. The traumatic underpinnings of their lives are slowly, inexorably, and tragically revealed. It’s a heart-stoppingly great work of police fiction."—Ellroy

True Confessions

by John Gregory Dunne
352 Pages
Da Capo Press

"The 'Black Dahlia' case retold in a phantasmagoric 1940s Irish-Catholic L.A. The most raucous and profane humor ever expressed in a major work of American fiction. A time machine back to an L.A. that never—but should have—existed."—Ellroy

Red Harvest

by Dashiell Hammett
224 Pages

" A 140-page blood bath, pertaining to the Anaconda copper wars. The most staggeringly high body count in short fiction. The Continental Op plays off numerous criminal and political factions as the corpses pile up. Martial law is declared in the end. Hammett at his deadpan best."—Ellroy