James Ellroy's Critical Criminology: Crimes of the Powerful in the Underworld USA Trilogy

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Abstract

This article argues for the criminological value of James Ellroy’s fiction, using his
Underworld USA Trilogy (the “Trilogy”) as a case study. I present the Trilogy as a critical criminological enterprise, understood in the sense of providing a convincing explanation of the cause(s) of social harm—specifically, those committed by various agencies of the American government from the late-1950s to the early-1970s. Ellroy’s Trilogy provides this explanation in two distinct ways, using literary devices first to establish a counterfactual vision of America during the 1960s and then to represent the lived experience of perpetrators of state-sponsored social harm. In conveying such criminological knowledge, the Trilogy constitutes an instance of critical criminology and demonstrates the exercise of the criminological imagination.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Criminology
Early online date2 Aug 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Aug 2019

Keywords

  • crimes of the powerful
  • crimes of the state
  • fiction
  • literary criticism crime
  • crime narrative
  • narrative
  • narrative criminology
  • racism
  • state crime
  • social harm

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