Writing in the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland compares events in and around the Murdoch empire – with ‘around’ including Westminster and New Scotland Yard – to the Danish crime series The Killing. I applaud the in-your-face Guardian-ness of Freedland’s analogy, but it seems to me that James Ellroy has a stronger claim than Søren Sveistrup to have pre-scripted Wapping Confidential. It’s partly a matter of the strongly noir-ish overtones to the Murdochs’ performances in front of the select committee on Tuesday, with James’s eerie mid-Atlantic/Pacific voice giving him the air of an Australian actor channelling Kevin Spacey as a serial killer, and Rupert evoking John Huston in Chinatown by way of Clive James. But there are similarities of plot and motif as well.
Each of Ellroy’s best novels – The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential and White Jazz – features some or all of the following ingredients:
An investigation into a serial killer that gets mixed up with a high-level conspiracy.
Interlocking power-plays and covert co-operations and cover-ups among politicians, police brass and tycoons.
Grudging resignations among same.
Excursions into the world of showbiz, especially that of glamorous female film stars.
Seamy private eyes and tabloid reporters, some of whom turn up dead.
A deeply screwed-up, colossally rich family, headed up by an immigrant patriarch and filled with rivalrous siblings.
An inscrutable redhead who’s viewed in a disturbingly sexualised way by the narrative.
The main difference is that, in an Ellroy novel, the serial killer will turn out to have been brutalised as a side-effect of the immigrant patriarch’s money-making schemes. Would it count if Levi Bellfield read the Sun or watched Sky Sports? Probably not, though some might disagree.