Re: RARA-AVIS: Ellroy

Date: 22 Nov 2002

In a message dated 11/21/02

<< Can anybody here quote a paragraph from Ellroy
>that, to them, shows him a great writer? >>

    I've been trying to be a dutiful word producer and stick to my lurking, but the Ellroy discussion has pulled me in once again. The seesawing that's been going on in this thread appears to center on what makes a "great" writer, and whether Ellroy has the goods. The challenge to produce a "great writer" paragraph from one of his books suggests that he does not.
    Yes, he is crude and arrogant and his writing frequently is self indulgent. He's a showoff, and he has a childish need to shock. At times he seems to enjoy rolling in dreck and slurping blood from an oversized spoon.
    Like everyone else, he has stood on the shoulders of giants, but he has certainly carved out new territory in atmosphere, pacing, syntax, and style. He's an original with a marked disdain for nuance, and although his prose is rarely beautiful, it is unrelentingly powerful. He moves at breakneck speed through storylines as complex as the piping diagram for a nuclear submarine, and he gives us an assortment of fascinatingly flawed characters whom we eagerly follow for hundreds of pages.
    He may not be as great as he thinks he is, but I can't imagine why anyone who enjoys the genre would pass him by. Here are a couple of paragraphs from the Prologue to LA Confidential that exemplify some of the reasons I enjoy and admire Ellroy.

    An abandoned auto court in the San Berdoo hills; Buzz Meeks checked in with ninety-four thousand dollars, eighteen pounds of high grade heroin, a 10 gauge pump, a .38 special, a .45 automatic and a switchblade he'd bought off a pachuco at the border-right before he'd spotted the car parked across the line: Mickey Cohen goons in an LAPD unmarked, Tijuana cops standing by to bookjack a piece of his goodies, dump his body in the San Ysidro River.

    Meeks grabbed the 10-gauge, started kicking in doors. One, two, three, four-cobwebs, rats, bathrooms with plugged up toilets, rotted food, magazines in Spanish-the runners probably used the place to house their spics en route to the slave farms up in Kern County. Five, six, seven, bingo on that-Mex families huddled on mattresses, scared of a white man with a gun.
"There,there," to keep them pacified. The last string of rooms stood empty: Meeks got his satchel, plopped it down just inside unit 12: front/courtyard view, a mattress on box springs spilling kapok, not bad for a last American flop.

    Ellroy puts you right into his moment, and then pulls you along by your necktie.

                                        Jim Blue

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