Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Ellroy - X-offender?

From: Kerry Schooley (
Date: 11 Dec 2002

>In my other post today I mention "Hacks see the clothes and mistake it for
>the man. Good writers see the surface stuff for what it is, and pick and
>choose from it." Unfortunately, Ellroy's so busy showing us HIS clothes,
>both in his fiction and his real life, that it distracts from his work.

Sorry Kevin, but I think there's more to Ellroy's criminal boasting than what you allow. It may serve promotional purposes (he is certainly an entertaining and amusing reader of his own works), but we also need to ask why flaunting a rap sheet would promote the sale of books. Some of it goes to credibility, veracity. In the same way that Hammett's experience as a Pink contributed to the credibility of his stories (yes, they're fiction, but do they have the ring of truth?), Ellroy's experience as a lowlife contributes to the veracity of his stories. This implies that genre themes have shifted in the decades between these two writers.

You mentioned in an earlier e-mail that Chandler's Marlow tried to maintain a code, despite its corruptions. The difference between Chandlers' era and Ellroy's is the acknowledgement of institutionalized corruption. Does anyone on this list seriously debate that there are different laws for different races, that the rich are not punished with the same severity as the poor, and that the powerful are seldom even prosecuted? The genre now accepts as a fundamental truth that the official code (the law) is itself corrupt, as much as its administration. There isn't much room for Marlow's
"bruised romanticism." This applies at all levels of society.

But it is more than this. In Ellroy's works corruption is the natural state of human existence. It is the aspiration to redemption, rather than its achievement, that is remarkable. In a corrupt world, the man who admits his corruption achieves not only credibility, but a perverse honesty.

That's one little boy's opinion, anyway.

Best Kerry

------------------------------------------------------ Literary events Calendar (South Ont.) The evil men do lives after them

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