Nostalgic masculinity: Homosocial desire and homosexual panic in James Ellroy's This Storm

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The second volume in James Ellroy's ‘Second LA Quartet’, This Storm (2019), offers a complex miscellany of war profiteering, fifth column sabotage, and institutional corruption, all of which is starkly projected against the sobering backdrop of the internment of Japanese-Americans. Whilst presenting Ellroy's most diverse assemblage of characters to date, the narrative is, nonetheless, principally centred on the intersecting bonds between men. Although the prevalence of destructive masculine authority in Ellroy's works has been widely discussed, what has often been overlooked are the specifically ‘homosocial’ dimensions of these relationships. Whilst these homosocial bonds are frequently energised and solidified by homophobic violence (both physical and rhetorical), this paper will argue that they are simultaneously wrought by ‘homosexual panic’; the anxiety deriving for the indeterminate boundaries between homosocial and homosexual desire. This panic is expressed most profoundly in This Storm in the form of corrupt policeman Dudley Smith. Haunted by a repressed homosexual encounter, Smith's paranoid behaviour and increasingly punitive violence derives from his inability to establish clear boundaries between his intense homosocial bonds and latent homosexual desires. Thus, whilst Ellroy's ‘nostalgic masculinity’ attempts to circumscribe the dimensions and inviolability of male identity, the paranoia and violence that underscores the various machinations of Ellroy's crooked cops ultimately exposes the fragility of such constructions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-236
Number of pages15
JournalCrime Fiction Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2020

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