Thursday, 8 December 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - Blood's A Rover - James Ellroy

James Ellroy is probably best known for the LA quartet of novels that included LA Confidential. By the end of that series of novels with their myriad of complex characters and labyrinth plots, Ellroys' writing had developed an almost free form jazz like quality, where short sharp statements and dialogue made no sense in isolation but meaning came from an almost improvisational flow.

The Blood's a Rover is the third novel in a trilogy that paints the LA Quartet's theme and style on a much wider canvas. Through 3 main characters Ellroy takes us to the diseased heart of a whole country. Fact and Fiction are merged and conspiracy is over layered on conspiracy to an extent that would have Oliver Stone blushing.

Bloods a Rover finishes a story started in American Tabloid that had the Bay of Pigs and JFKs assassination at it's core , and continued with the Cold Sixty Thousand that delved into Vietnam and the assassination of Martin Luther King.

The final book focuses on a struggle between Edgar Hoover, the Mafia and Howard Hughes for the dark soul of a county. Caught in the middle are  3 characters all of who have moral compasses that don't exactly point north. It is part of Ellroy's skill that despite doing some truly horrific things there remains a core sense of caring what happens to his characters and a sense of shock and sadness when the body count starts to rise

Ellroy has gradually toned down his more free form excesses with the story telling in this book almost linear.

What makes all 3 books work so well is how Ellroy manages to juggle endless characters that orbit around the central trio , a plot that has your head spinning with a pace that never lets up. It is an exhausting but extremely rewarding read  

Not quite the best in the series that goes to the Cold Sixty Thousand but a fitting end to a wildly ambitious trilogy in which Ellroy has created the polar opposite of the American Dream

You can buy book one American Tabloid here .. if you do stick wit it. The first few chapters may get you scratching your head but the rhythm of the writing soon gets you hooked.


  1. Loved this trilogy - just read Blood's A Rover a few months back.
    Looking forward to reading The Hilliker Curse soon.

  2. I went to a reading by Ellroy at a bookstore in Hampstead. It was just before the release of the movie 'LA Confidential; he'd just written a book 'My Dark Places'; the story of his own mother's murder 30 years previously.
    He was quite an imposing presence leaning over his lectern.
    At the end of the reading there was a Q&A session.
    A twitchy Irishman sitting next to me kept pushing Ellroy about his relationship with his mother; called it 'weird and warped' and suggested that the writer was 'capitalising' on his mother's death.
    Ellroy growled 'M*therf8cker'.
    Quick as a flash the Irishman said "well, that was going to be my next question"... end of Q&A, start of very quick signing with me and Frank Skinner at the back of the line. You always want to ask a smart question in these circumstances; I asked the grumpy genius what the worst thing about signings was. He answered "having to answer stupid f*cking questions".
    I wasn't sure if he was referring to me or the other 'm*therf8cker'...

  3. Hi Seamus

    I've only read this trilogy and the LA Quartet both of which I loved for different reasons

    - love the blog by the way hope you are going to keep it going in 2012 as your comments put mine to shame

    Hi Trev - I've learnt to say nothing in these situations ever since I thoroughly gushed at Iain Banks (stopping just short of a marraige proposal)
    For osme reason I keep combining this in my mind with your Julian Cope encounter - now here ewould have been an interesting meeting Ellroy and Cope


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