RARA-AVIS: Re: Ellroy & His "Hard Read"

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 13 Jul 2004

Chris wrote:

>The Ellroys that I've read -- and also "White Jazz"? -- have this
>tendency to lapse into telegraph-ese, into stacatto little sentence
>fragments whenever the action gets particularly fervid. I suppose
>that the intention is to convey "More Vivid Than Vivid" in these
>verbal outbursts that surpass mere phrase-making. To me, though,
>it's merely annoying. Rather than draw me in closer, all it does is
>get me angry at the guy who wrote 'em.
>So, basing my phrase on a line from Joe Orton's 'What The Butler
>Saw," I find myself repeating: "Subject! Verb! Object! It's a
>*fine* old tradition, and I *won't* be a party to its destruction

Just an interesting bit of trivia on Ellroy and his work habits:

According to comments made by Otto Penzler (a former editor of Ellroy's) at last year's Bouchercon, Ellroy was (and remains) one of the most heavily edited writers out there, every novel going through numerous major editorial revisions before being battered into shape for publication. I seem to recall him saying the Ellroy's first novel boasted one of the worst first drafts he'd ever read, but that there was something in it that Penzler felt was unique and could be developed into something really special.

So whatever Ellroy does (or doesn't do) for you, rest assured it's not some spontaneous literary style bursting out of nowhere, the result of unfettered genius, but a carefully worked out, studied and deliberate style, a lengthy and extensive process that requires a lot of reworking and laboring over the manuscript from both the author and the editor. Doesn't exactly play into the literary enfant terrible mythos, does it?

So while the Mad Dog may or may not be a "hard read," it sure sounds like it's a" hard write."


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