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View Full Version : demon dog bites: the James Ellroy thread


The Raider Dr. Jones
05-28-2013, 03:19 PM
So as to avoid further jacking the other thing over in the movies forum.

I mentioned there that I thought L.A. Confidential might be the last time Ellroy drew heavily on his leftover issues with his mother and father, but upon reflection maybe not.

American Tabloid, you have Pete Bondurant consumed with guilt over his semi-culpability for his parents' death and his total culpability for the deaths of other innocent women; Kemper Boyd abandoned by his father and latching on to a surrogate family in the Kennedys; and Ward Littell the orphan rejected by an idealized father figure in Robert F. Kennedy and turning from there to the twisted abusive/controlling father figure of J. Edgar Hoover.

Then you have all of Wayne Tedrow's heavily Oedipal shit in the next book.

The bigger theme in the Underworld stories, though, I think is male insecurity and the lengths men will go to in search of tamping it down; the line that sums up the whole thing to me is in The Cold Six Thousand, when Barb says to Wayne, "It'll get worse. And you'll do worse things just to prove you can take it."

Evil Dead Junkie
05-28-2013, 03:30 PM
The thing I like about the Underworld Trilogy is that it is very nearly farce.

The series as a whole seems to me to be about power and the absolute unmanagability and randomness of people and events. The LA Quartet is filled with dark figures who use power and conspiracy ably to edify their dark appetites. The characters in Undrworld on the other hand try to shape the course of human events and have it turn into a giant clusterfuck instead. Even the most capable characters are so overwhelmed that they usually end up fighting for exactly the opposite side that they started on before switching back. The ones who actually set the conspiracies in motion end up so overwhelmed that they become pathetic caricatures. Until you have Howard Hughes shooting dope into the veins of his cock and J Edgar living in mortal fear of Archie Bell and The Drells.

There's none of the dark romance of the LA quartet. Instead it ends up A Mad Mad World with a body count in the hundreds.

The Raider Dr. Jones
05-28-2013, 04:15 PM
Yeah, I think one of the best things about Blood's a Rover is that, through the Don Crutchfield character, we suddenly see the other characters and all their crazy machinations through the eyes of somebody who doesn't have a stake in them and hasn't had his brain completely consumed by their obsessions yet. And suddenly we realize that guys like Pete, Wayne, and Mesplede are doomed, pathetic, and nine-tenths insane, even without Howard Hughes' and J. Edgar's excuses of massive drug abuse.

Like, Pete in The Cold Six Thousand looks at Mesplede and takes him completely seriously. Crutchfield in Blood's a Rover looks at Mesplede and basically sees the world's most dangerous gibbering street-corner panhandler.

There's none of the dark romance of the LA quartet. Instead it ends up A Mad Mad World with a body count in the hundreds.

I think you could get a blanket statement about the difference between history and fiction out of this.

The Raider Dr. Jones
05-28-2013, 05:47 PM
I don't know if it in any way leads to an answer to the question, but this is the longest statement I've seen Ellroy make about King:

Martin Luther King, the greatest 20th-century American, was a true hero of the 1960s. His promiscuity was directly related to, and served as a counterbalance to, the terror he experienced during his 13-year tenure as a marked man, from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the time of his death. King's social agenda expanded during the last 2 years of his life -- almost in the manner of a kamikaze attack on American society. He was physically and morally exhausted. His agenda was a shriek of self-martyrdom. He wanted to alienate as much as he wanted to heal. His long transit of courage brought him to the point of calling forth his own death.

He also has this to say about Bobby Kennedy, which kind of calls back to the relationship between Ed Exley and his father in LA Confidential:

RFK was the only male Kennedy who admitted to himself what an evil son-of-a-bitch his father was; he went at the Mob as Joseph P. Kennedy's proxy. The spellbinding irony: RFK's Oedipal drama got his brother Jack killed.

Incidentally, I recommend Sy Hersh's book The Dark Side of Camelot if you want some dish about how Joseph P. Kennedy was one of the most awful Americans of the 20th century.

Ample Vigour
05-28-2013, 05:50 PM
So this is who Nick Tosches wants to be when he grows up.

Ample Vigour
05-28-2013, 07:18 PM
I am completely lost on the radio symbolism in Black Dahlia. Can someone help me out here.

Evil Dead Junkie
05-28-2013, 07:29 PM
Hmmm... i'm afraid that detail has been lost in the mists of time, can you remind me?

Inspeaking of The Black Dahlia I just need to reiterate how much the film version annoys me. Mostly because if you asked me to hand pick someone to adapt the novel DePalma would probably be at the very of my list. Sexual decadence? Ultra violence? Violence against women? Hidden infinitely corrupt corridors of power? Period glamor? DePalma should have been able to do all that in his sleep.

And lets not even get into the abomination of the third act which takes one of the tensest grand guignol climaxes in crime fiction and turns it into forty minutes of bored looking people standing around because DePalma decided that the movie would be better IF THE KILLER WAS ALREADY DEAD FOR SOME FUCKING REASON.

I've seen worse films but there have been few I've been so bitterly disapointed by.

Ample Vigour
05-28-2013, 07:36 PM
There's a lot of attention paid to talking on the radio, then in Mexico the main character starts punching the dash of the car he's in because civilian cars don't have police radios.

Lee's car has a bootleg contraband police radio.

I get that this is obviously meaningful, but I'm having a hard time figuring it out.

The Raider Dr. Jones
05-28-2013, 08:22 PM
I've seen worse films but there have been few I've been so bitterly disapointed by.

all of your criticisms are valid but I still love the movie for the amazing scene of kd lang singing "Love for Sale" in heavy drag in Brian de Palma's demented acid vision of what a 1948 lesbian bar would be like.

meanwhile, I'm not sure on the radio thing, but I could stand to go read Black Dahlia again, it's probably been about eight years.

Evil Dead Junkie
05-28-2013, 08:32 PM
all of your criticisms are valid but I still love the movie for the amazing scene of kd lang singing "Love for Sale" in heavy drag in Brian de Palma's demented acid vision of what a 1948 lesbian bar would be like.

meanwhile, I'm not sure on the radio thing, but I could stand to go read Black Dahlia again, it's probably been about eight years.

The film also has William Finley's last appearance. But man I've never seen a film so bound and determined to get in its own way.

And Scarlett Johanson is Keanu in Dracula bad in it. I like her but she is just dire in period roles (see also The Prestige)

Matchstick
05-28-2013, 09:37 PM
I'll just do a drive-by here and say that I fucking love American Tabloid. The two-fisted, hard-driving storytelling and the batshit insane conspiracy stuff that EDJ talked about knocked me on my ass completely when I read it back when it came out. So goddamn good.

Matchstick
05-28-2013, 10:37 PM
Were you aware that there are two sequels to it?

Yeah, I've only read The Cold Six Thousand, though.

The Raider Dr. Jones
05-29-2013, 08:04 AM
The third one, Blood's a Rover is...actually I would be interested to hear what other folks here thought of it. I only went through it the once, just when it came out, and I was a little dizzied by the end of it.

The one thing I was pretty sure of is that the whole subplot with the emeralds didn't really work for me.

Ample Vigour
05-29-2013, 12:46 PM
Two Ellroys down in a long weekend. Both L.A.C and Dahlia have much stronger middles than they do endings, but I'm having a hard time figuring out why.

Evil Dead Junkie
05-29-2013, 03:13 PM
The third one, Blood's a Rover is...actually I would be interested to hear what other folks here thought of it. I only went through it the once, just when it came out, and I was a little dizzied by the end of it.

The one thing I was pretty sure of is that the whole subplot with the emeralds didn't really work for me.

I absolutely love Blood, though I can understand why it frustrates people. I love the way it just absolutely lets go of sanity and sense and fully embraces the kaledescopic nightmare that was America in the late sixties.

It features some of Ellroy's best writing (The opening armored car heist) and some of his funniest (J. Edgar's fear of Archie Bell And The Drells had me howling throughout). How can I help but love a book where Hubert Humphrey is dosed with acid?

AV: I can understand LA Confidential but God I love BD's gothic horror freakshow of an ending.

Pheeel
05-29-2013, 05:26 PM
Hmmm... i'm afraid that detail has been lost in the mists of time, can you remind me?

Inspeaking of The Black Dahlia I just need to reiterate how much the film version annoys me. Mostly because if you asked me to hand pick someone to adapt the novel DePalma would probably be at the very of my list. Sexual decadence? Ultra violence? Violence against women? Hidden infinitely corrupt corridors of power? Period glamor? DePalma should have been able to do all that in his sleep.

And lets not even get into the abomination of the third act which takes one of the tensest grand guignol climaxes in crime fiction and turns it into forty minutes of bored looking people standing around because DePalma decided that the movie would be better IF THE KILLER WAS ALREADY DEAD FOR SOME FUCKING REASON.

I've seen worse films but there have been few I've been so bitterly disapointed by.

Watching this great big disappointment of a movie recently caused me to ponder on the weird rise and fall of Josh Hartnett's career. God, at one point he was everywhere. There seemed to be a real push to make him the next big thing, despite him clearly being a mediocre talent at best. Then it was like the industry as a whole suddenly cottoned on to the fact that he was no good, and he practically vanished overnight.

Ample Vigour
05-29-2013, 05:30 PM
BD's cribbing from The Big Sleep goes from postmodern to pornographic in the last 50 pages or so, and that doesn't mix so well with the Bronte-sister plot twist right at the end.

I will say that writing a gothic noir murder mystery is a choice fucking accomplishment tho

The Raider Dr. Jones
05-29-2013, 05:38 PM
I dunno if Ellroy has ever talked a lot about Chandler as an influence but he once wrote this pretty cool essay (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/sep/29/crime.fiction) as a foreword to a collection of Dashiell Hammett novels.

Evil Dead Junkie
02-20-2014, 04:43 PM
Ellroy announces new quartet set in the 40's, that he is still insane. (http://www.avclub.com/article/james-ellroy-hates-the-wire-hipsters-lots-of-thing-201329)

The Raider Dr. Jones
02-20-2014, 04:52 PM
I am bummed this means we won't get the book he was talking about way back, I think it was supposed to be about Warren G. Harding?

and yes, any and all public statements from James Ellroy are carefully engineered to fuck with people. He's Dizzy on an internationally bestselling scale.