This is an excellent collection. There is only one thing wrong with it: it is missing what should be the first book in the series, "Clandestine," in which the Dudley Smith character makes his first appearance. This trio, however, gives Smith full range to demonstrate his villainy and brutally sadistic nature (his appearance in "Clandestine" is more of a cameo role than that of a major figure.)
These three novels are among the finest James Ellroy has written, on a par with anything by Hammett, Chandler or Ross McDonald. They are certainly better than anything by Jim Thompson, and at least as good as the novels and stories of David Goodis or James M. Cain. I consider them some of the best noir fiction that has been published since the form first appeared..
For those who have only seen the excellent 1997 film of "L.A. Confidential," the novel will offer a number of surprises. Not the least significant difference between the two is that the film version takes place in a relatively brief period of time, while the novel transpires over a number of years. In addition, the ending of the film bears only the slightest resemblance to that in the film.
While this collection of novels is presented as a series, there are actually three different ways the Dudley Smith stories could be offered: in this "trio" format, as the Los Angeles Quartet (these three novels and "The Black Dahlia," and the trio plus "Clandestine." No matter how the Smith stories are offered up, however, there is little question that Smith is one of the all-time great villains of modern fiction. To my mind, if you read none of Ellroy's works but the Dudley Smith stories, you will have certainly read the best books he has written to date.
-- William E. Wallace