Freddy Otash

Created by James Ellroy

“Ellroy’s a dipshit. I knew him in my waning months alive. I’ve been granted tell-all telepathy. I will know that cocksucker cold.”
— Freddie nails Ellroy to the wall, in “Shakedown”

According to Wikipedia, FREDDIE OTASH was “a Los Angeles police officer, private investigator, author, and a WWII Marine veteran, who became known as a Hollywood fixer, while operating as its ‘most infamous’ private detective; he is most remembered as ‘the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s character Jake Gittes in the film, Chinatown.”

But according to James Ellroy, he’s “a corrupt cop turned sleaze hustler, extortionist, pimp, and an actual historical figure who made the 1950s magazine Confidential the go-to source for the sins of the rich and famous.”

Ellroy used a fictionalized version of the real-life Otash as a basis for supporting characters, mostly,  in several of his novels and stories, and Otash himself in The Cold Six Thousand (2001) and Blood’s a Rover (2009), but he really swung for the fences in his 2012 novelette “Shakedown. 

In this digital-only release, Freddie suffers a massive heart attack in 1992, and finds himself sent to Hell (well, Purgatory, really), where he has to confess his sordid sins and spill the slime on the likes of Liz Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Jack Kennedy, Montgomery Clift, Robert Mitchum, Burt Lancaster, Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean and more if he wants to get to heaven. 

It’s an audacious read; an unapologetic, cheesy, cynical name-calling wallow in sleaze, like a tabloid feeding frenzy, narrated by Freddie himself. And Ellroy jams himself into the proceeding as well.

And now, nine years later in 2021, we’ve got Widespread Panic, a full-length novel, a reheated and expanded version of the tell-all from “pervert purgatory” of the crooked cop–turned–extortionist private investigator. Expect even more sleaze.

If that’s possible…


James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. His L.A. Quartet novels—The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz—were international best sellers. Other bestsellers include American Tabloid (1995); his memoir, My Dark Places (1996) and The Cold Six Thousand (2001). He’s also written about private eye Fritz Brown in Brown’s Requiem (1981), forties gumshoe Spade Hearns and 1950’s scandal sheet editor Danny Getchell, a character not unlike Freddie. Ellroy lives in Los Angeles.

Ellroy is known for setting his stories in the 1940s and 50s, which allows him to be as racist, homophobic and misogynistic as he wants, and for his impressionistic, always alliterative Morse code writing style, which spits out sentence fragments like broken teeth. Ellroy calls himself the “Demon Dog of American crime fiction,” and his rabid fans lap it up.


  • “It’s a delirious thrill ride through the tabloid underbelly of Tinseltown, though it runs out of gas before providing much of a climax. Relentlessly rabid, for those with a taste for the seamier.”
    — Kirkus Reviews on Widespread Panic
  • “Ellroy’s total command of the jazzy, alliterative argot of the era never fails to astonish. This is a must for L.A. noir fans.”
    — Publishers Weekly on Widespread Panic



Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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