Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Blood's a rover

By James Ellroy

I'm not sure what this book is meant to say. As the ending of a trilogy, it really ought to do just that, end the trilogy, but as I understand it took Ellroy a long time to actually get around to writing this book, I suspect what happened is he ran out of steam with the previous novel and in bringing it all back to life, he created a whole other story.

This was by far Ellroy's most disapointing book for me. I suppose he is getting old, and maybe the edge he had has become blunted, or maybe I just didn't get it, but for what ever reason, I felt somewhat cheated. The characters of the previous books morphed and atrophied for no apparent reasons, all of them becoming left wing radicals, all of them falling under the charm of a middle aged communist activist, whose only apparent charm is her grey hair and a knife wound on her arm.

I suppose it is not unlikely that a man who has spent his life working towards certain goals might suddenly have a change of heart and switch directions, but that several such people, orbiting each other in various degrees of seperation should all do, and should all fall for the same woman, independetly of each other, is amazingly far fetched, and certainly not in the spirit of the previous two books. That these men should all happily perish as a result of their sudden infatuations becomes simply absurd. These are human beings Ellroy is attempting to portray, not insects.

In 'Blood's a rover', many of the characters from the previous books are ignored, even primary characters whose personal stories formed the foundation for the overall plot. All the crime family heads are forgotten about, Pete Bondurant and Ward Littel (who are two of the main characters in the first two books) are ignored. Littel killed himself in the end of the second book but his actions (which have been considerable) carry no apparent consequences in the third book what so ever. Bondurant still lives but we never learn what has happened to him. Likewise Jimmie Hoffa. In a trilogy that seeks to explain all the mysterious deaths of the period, Hoffa's disapearance doesn't happen because Hoffa just stops being a character. Its like Ellroy simply fogot about him.

Then there is the man who shot JFK. A French merc named Mesplede who has been drawn into the story more and more. Suddenly he is killed off in the most horrific manner but with no fanfare or consequences for the story. Ellroy simply drops the character having no further use for him.

Essentially Ellroy betrayed the story he had begun in 'American Tabloid' and 'The Cold Six Thousand', and in doing so he demonstrates that even the best writers can get lost.

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