Re: RARA-AVIS: Scratch'n'sniff Ellroy

From: Kerry Schooley (
Date: 12 Dec 2002

At 03:37 PM 12/12/2002 -0800, you wrote:

>Ellroy was, he admits, a minor league punk, a B&E wanker at best, miles
>removed from the corrupt cops he so lovingly portrays. Most of his
>knowledge of the crime he writes about (and he's also admitted this, even
>in that puffpiece "documentary" I saw) is from books and newspapers and
>"third-hand, fourth-hand" gossip. Hell, a lot of the stuff he writes
>about, Ellroy was still sniffing his own diapers when it took place.
>>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.
>Uh, I'm not sure about the veracity of Ellroy's stories -- a lot of his
>stuff rings hollow to me. He writes a good story, but too often they're so
>overbearingly overwrought that they seem, to me anyway, closer to high
>opera than true crime. As for veracity, while it makes a good PR note,
>even Hammett's P.I. experience, even back then, never made his stories
>that much more believable than, say, the work of Raoul Whitfield or
>Chandler. Experience is always good, but imagination and empathy (and good
>writing) can easily match it.

It's not an "either/or" kind of thing. See your own statement above.

>Uh, no. Chandler often goes on about the institutionalized corruption of
>his day, just as surely as Ellroy does. Only Chandler takes a lot fewer
>pages to tell it, and Marlowe tries to keep his head above water. Ellroy
>dives right in.

Fine by me.

>But that's not new. The only thing new Ellroy brings to it (besides his
>own style, which is sometimes formidable, and sometimes just silly) is a
>willingness to wallow and revel in it. It doesn't make him a more
>realistic writer -- just one with a different point of view.

Not so much realistic as relevant.

>I dunno. I think there are still some people left with some decency in
>them. I think I saw one just last week. Portraying everything as corrupt
>isn't reality, it's cynicism. And a lazy, shuttered cynicism at that. Most
>of us are both good AND bad.

And the good in us (because surely when you speak of decent people you're speaking of us) means we aspire to redemption. The bad so pervasive that redemption is seldom achieved. That, I think, is Ellroy's point of view.

Anyway, I'm not going 'round this circle again. I've said my piece. I'm going to stop now. I swear I am. Anybody got a source for a good back-scratcher?


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

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