While promoting his new stand-up special, comedian Anthony Jeselnik explained that the only reason he’s able to get away with his particular brand of dark, defiantly non-PC humor in our politically-charged era is because he’s been doing it for so long that he’s been grandfathered in. That feels like a reasonable enough explanation for how celebrated crime novelist James Ellroy—who loves placing nasty, jazzy epithets in the mouths of his down-and-dirty characters—will escape scrutiny for his latest opus, This Storm. Ellroy has been writing like this for so long, and his prose is so great, that he’s been given a lifetime pass.

Ellroy sets This Storm in the months following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when President Roosevelt issued an order to send all Japanese Americans to internment camps. The casual references to “Japs” and “wetbacks” feel de rigueur for this early ’40s epic, and the racial paranoia befits the twisty breadth of the tale. Another prequel to Ellroy’s much-celebrated “LA Quartet” of novels that includes L.A. Confidential and The Big Nowhere, This Storm picks up where his previous novel, Perfidia, left off, spinning off in a dozen different directions from the jump.

One thread involves crooked police captain Dudley Smith using an army assignment in Mexico as his entrée into the heroin trade, while another follows a medical examiner and his assistant as they connect a body found in Griffith Park to a conspiracy involving pilfered gold and Nazi sympathizers. Throw in a slew of booze-swilling cops, Hollywood socialites, hate-spewing clergymen, and appearances from real-life figures like Jack Webb and Orson Welles, and This Storm becomes downright dizzying. How Ellroy ties up seemingly loose plot threads and sticks the landing with a satisfying flourish is as electrifying as the hep vernacular he delights in, (“Army brass. War-hire cop now. His luck holds. He’s serendipitous and fuckstruck.”)

Such is the strength of Ellroy’s status in the world of letters that this new book carries a provocative cover: four arrows, bent to form the shape of a swastika. Ellroy acolytes will shrug it off, but folks outside that circle might be less forgiving. Just ask the man who gently interrogated me when I was reading This Storm in the park. recommended