Review: Brown’s Requiem by James Ellroy

This is the first crime novel by James Ellroy and it has been written with a decent slice of Ellroy himself inserted into the story. The style is very much the same as his later works and features the violence and staccato delivery that many readers will recognise. It is set in Hollywood and introduces an ex-cop named Fritz Brown who also occasionally takes on jobs as a PI.

The book was a finalist for the 1982 Shamus Award for Best Paperback Original PI Novel.

Book Details

Title: Brown's Requiem
Author: James Ellroy
Pages: 256
Published Date: 1981
Publisher: Avon
Series Details: Non-Series
Author Website:

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Publisher's Synopsis

In James Ellroy's first novel, a PI investigates a deadly conspiracy at one of Los Angeles's most exclusive country clubs

It would be a stretch to call Fritz Brown a detective. A PI in name only, he washed out of the police force at twenty-five, and makes a cash living doing under-the-table repo work for a sleazy used-car dealer. It's an ugly job, but Fritz is not one to say no to easy money. That doesn't mean he won't take a case now and then.

A caddy visits his office, asking Fritz to dig up dirt on the golf-nut who's dating his sister. Convinced by the caddy's suspiciously fat wad of bills, Fritz agrees to investigate, hoping for a chance to meet the girl. Instead he finds himself embroiled in a tangled world of country club intrigue, where wealth can buy innocence and murder is not half as rare as a hole-in-one.

From the Dustjacket

Fritz Brown's L.A.--and his life--are masses of contradictions, like stirring chorales sung for the dead. A less-than-spotless former cop with a drinking problem--a private eye-cum-repo man with a taste for great music--he has been known to wallow in the grime beneath the Hollywood glitter. But Fritz Brown's life is about to change, thanks to the appearance of a racist psycho who flashes too much cash for a golf caddie and who walked away clean from a multiple murder rap. Reopening this case could be Fritz's redemption; his welcome back to a moral world and his path to a pure and perfect love. But to get there, he must make it through a grim, lightless place where evil has no national borders; where lies beget lies and death begets death; where there's little tolerance for Bach or Beethoven and deadly arson is a lesser mortal sin; and where a p.i.'s unhealthy interest in the past can turn beautiful music into funeral dirge.

Reviews From Other Sites


Fritz Brown is the P.I., and his client is a crazy caddy named Fat Dog who flashes hundred-dollar bills and wants Brown to keep an eye on his sister, an aspiring cello player living with an elderly Jew named Kupferman who is now in the fur business.

In a way, the whole book is just as slightly looney as this may sound, which is part of its cockeyed charm… - Read Full Review

Robert’s Reads

If hard-boiled PIs and time warps are your forte, and you don’t mind early Ellroy where he’s still refining his craft, then you might find yourself enjoying the ride. Just make sure you hold on tight and occasionally squeeze your eyes shut… - Read Full Review

Nevada Roadkill

Brown’s Requiem was written by a man still honing his craft. If you look carefully you will see it in the plot, which at times seems jumbled and is prone to wander. There is a lot of the author’s own life mixed in here too; his love of golf and classical music are to the fore throughout and it can feel a little like you are being force fed with Ellroy’s self indulgence… - Read Full Review

What Are You Reading For?

Brown’s Requiem is James Ellroy’s first novel, but one already indicative of the passions and obsessions he would explore in later books. Debating whether to borrow it from the library (I had the usual stack of books awaiting my attention at home) it was Ellroy’s introduction that swung it. Written in 1995, 14 years after Brown’s Requiem was first published, it contained all the swagger, the confidence… - Read Full Review

Goodreads Reviews

I've had Brown's Requiem, his 1980 debut, on my "unread" shelf for nearly a decade, and I just grabbed it on a whim and dived in (via audiobook). From page one, Brown's Requiem reads like a trial run for every other book Ellroy has written.... - Read All Reviews

At the time of writing there are 113 reviews posted to the GoodReads website for an average of 3.5/5 stars. You can read these reviews by visiting the GoodReads website.

What a trippy, indulgent, coming of age (at age 33) wild tale. Mystery, romance, violence, culture, and lots of strains of philosophy woven in, some I disagree with, but not overbearing. The story kept me wondering and turning pages and I appreciate that… - Read All Reviews

At the time of writing there are 58 reviews posted to the Amazon website for an average of 3.7/5 stars. You can read these reviews by visiting the Amazon website.

Other Shamus Best Paperback Original PI Novel nominees - 1982