RARA-AVIS: Thoughts on James Ellroy

John & Carrie (johncarrie@sprynet.com)
Thu, 16 Sep 1999 00:46:53 -0400

Have recently finished reading two of his novels: American Tabloid and Killer On The Road. The first left me cold and disappointed, while the second was exhilariting.

In regard to Tabloid, while I enjoyed the stacatto prose and the the direct hits of the writing, I found it ultimately unsatisfying, pointless, and even sloppy. For example, there's a mention of certain evidence in the possession of Jimmy Hoffa which would purportedly violate several anti trust laws. This is absolute nonsense...nothing described amounts to anti trust violations, and moreover, labor racketeering (or the sundry other crimes Hoffa was purported to have committed) never violate the anit trust laws. Likewise, the Spanish used by the some of the characters was substantially grammtically incorrect.

I know this sounds like quibbling....but in a book like Tagloid, which is suppossed to be paint and underground US history, factual things like that are important I think.

On the other hand, the characterizations of the main characters in Tabloid are so well done. However, it seems to all come to naught in this pointless narrative.

Killer,though, is frightening!!!! It's on a par with Thompsons' The Killer Inisde Me, and although Ellroy has dissed Thompson in interviews, I have to believe that the Anderson (cop) character may be based somewhat on the main character of The Killer Inside Me.

The plot in Killer (Ellroy's Killer) is riveting...the prose is not so gut punching as in Tabloid, but still no frills enough to make it straight for the jugular and exciting. In addition, the lack of the pop psychological analysis of a serial killer was sort of refreshing in that the main character is just simply an amoral shit who just is, who just exists. The inner dialogues of the killer with the mental processes are incredibly believable.

It's an amazing novel.

Will have to wait to read My Dark Places after my wife finishes it, and will set LA Confidential aside. I think I'll tackle some of Willeford's stuff next.


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