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James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. He is the author of the acclaimed L.A. Qurtet - The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential and White Jazz, as well as the Underworld USA trilogy: American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand and Blood's a Rover. He is the author of one work of non-fiction, The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women. Ellroy lives in Los Angeles.
The Underworld USA trilogy began in 1995 with publication of American Tabloid and covered events in the early sixties. Five years passed before readers could dig into The Cold Six Thousand. Blood's a Rover (title taken from a poem by Houseman) begins shortly after the King and Kennedy assasinations in 1968 and takes us through the Chicago riots and Nixon's elections. Like previous entries, the book delivers an alternate, underground history of the partnership between Hoover's FBI and various criminal elements. Ellroy entices us through the looking glass to demonstrate the impact of that unsavory alliance on modern political history. Characters from previous books abound (Dwight Holley, Wayne Tedrow) as well as public figures both significant (Nixon, Howard Hughes) and obscure (Sal Mineo)
Ellroy's Hoover is not much concerned with organized crime. Instead he is obsessed with student protesters, civil rights demonstrators, non-existant domestic Reds, and any politician he believes to be aligned with these groups. In this dark world, former cop Wayne Tedrow meets with mob heads after a drop off of cash to candidate Nixon and notices on the wall, a photo showing one of the gangsters playing golf with Pope Pius.
The author's style is stacatto, high-adrenaline narrative alternating with newspaper headlines and supposed excerpts from personal journals. A chapter begins: "Dwight read files. A radio spritzed the news. Nixon and Humphrey grubbed for votes and see-sawed poll-wise. Jimmy Ray and Sirhan Sirhan fermented in custody." Using this approach, Ellroy packs a great deal of action and emotional impact into a few paragraphs. Over hundreds of pages, the result can be exhausting.Read more ›
First off, I'll admit some bias here. I'm a big Ellroy fan, and American Tabloid is neck-and-neck with Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities for my favourite novel of all time. There appear to be a couple of Ellroy haters among the reviewers so far, and fair enough, he's a love-or-hate writer. If you don't like Ellroy, you won't like Blood's a Rover. If, like me, you do like Ellroy, then this book will fulfil yet confound your every expectation.
I won't bother with outlining the plot other than to say it's as tangled and propulsive as you'd expect from Ellroy. What some may want to know is how it compares to American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand. It's probably closer in tone to the former, lacking the latter's highly stylised presentation. It's a smoother read, in other words, but still requires some investment on the reader's part. That investment is rewarded many times over, however, and things barrel along at a wonderful page-turning rate.
There are two main distinctions between this and Ellroy's earlier work. The first is his portrayal of women. While there are some recognisable tics, such as the younger male characters' borderline oedipal fixations on older women, and a tendency for those same women to be physically or pschologically scarred, Ellroy this time gives his female characters more room to breathe and develop. They are more than objects of obsession there to torture the male characters.
The other difference is the heart of the piece; one could argue Ellroy's work perhaps lacked emotional depth, but not so with Blood's a Rover. Oddly for an author of his vintage, this is perhaps the most mature book of his career.
It's also his most personal novel since The Black Dahlia.Read more ›
In this final installment of the "Underworld U.S.A." trilogy Wayne Tedrow, Dwight Holly and the boys are back carrying out their portion of an American history that might have been. They have their hands in the cover ups of the Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations, Howard Hughes' purchase of Vegas casinos, and the mob's Caribbean connections. And that's just for starters.
The plot loosely centers around an armored car heist in Los Angeles involving emeralds and millions of dollars. Holly, L.A. police officer Scotty Bennett, and a young wheelman named Donald "Peeper" Crutchfield are all trying to figure out the robbery (when they are not carrying out CIA directives, mob directives, or trying to figure out the mysterious women in their lives).
I really liked "American Tabloid." I loved "The Cold Six Thousand." I cannot say the same for "Blood's A Rover." This novel just doesn't quite have the energy level of the first two. It is an amazing piece of work, but there is just so much going on and there is just too much repetition. (How many times does the reader have to be told that a character is getting amped up to read through their heist files one more time? My guess is that I saw that scene played out at least a dozen times.)
The characters even seem somewhat repetitious. Despite varying backgrounds and ethnicities, they all have the same amazingly vast vocabularies for people who are essentially self-centered, schemers who are prone to extreme violence.
Really, I wanted to like "Blood's A Rover," but it is just okay. I can only recommend this novel to those who have read AND enjoyed "American Tabloid" and "The Cold Six Thousand."