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Destination: Morgue!: L.A. Tales Paperback – September 28, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Demon Dog is back with a second volume of previously uncollected works (following 1999's Crime Wave), most published during his stint as a writer-at-large for GQ. The essays "Where I Get My Weird Shit" and "My Life as a Creep" chronicle his childhood: the 1958 murder of his mother; a West Hollywood upbringing by his sex-obsessed father; a '60s and '70s coming-of-age replete with Benzedrex binges, "Nazi antics" and superheroic feats of breaking and entering. Young Ellroy obsesses over the femme fatales of pulp and porn, whose images he projects onto murder victims and probation officers alike. In "Stephanie," a grown-up Ellroy tags along with the LAPD when a 40-year-old homicide case involving a girl from his old neighborhood is reopened. Ellroy's greatest hits go on—Mexican boxers, dirty cops, D-list celebrity murders—and devotees will especially welcome the return of lecherous muckraker Danny Getchell. The newest additions, three novellas spanning 200 pages, are told from the perspective of rhino-skin-sporting LAPD dick Rick Jenson, who's got a sore spot for a tough 'n' tumble Hollywood actress. Ellroy's punchy, lingo-laden prose and caustic edge are as sharp as ever, but readers unaccustomed to his penchant for alliteration may not be able to stomach the newer stuff, where sentences like "Crime crystallized crisp in my cranial cracks," interspersed with Dragnet-like reportage, are the order of the day.
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From Booklist

Dig him, hepcats: James Ellroy, demon dog, narrator of nocturnes, alliterative all-star of the caper canon. His Quartet pegged L.A. with coffin nails. He flash-bulbed bad cops unflinchingly. Sin fans salivated. But Ellroy had bigger fish to batter. He went national, notching Bad-Back Jack Kennedy (American Tabloid, 1995) and his brother Bobby the K (The Cold Six Thousand, 2001). The demon dog disdained L.A. Hard-core fans howled. Ellroy editorialized for GQ. Ellroy bipped them big bones. Random House reprints selections. Nonfiction files first. "Where I Get My Weird Shit": My Dark Places (1996) redux. "Stephanie": a 16-year-old girl's '65 snuff case. "Grave Doubt": Ellroy investigates a capital crime--and changes his mind about the chair. "My Life as a Creep": he mines his memoirs some more. "I've Got the Goods": why scandal rags were superior to today's supermarket tabs. He falteringly fulfills fiction fans. "The Trouble I Cause": Hush-Hush hack Danny Getchell peers into pervy politics. "Rick Loves Donna": a previously unpublished, three-part novella. Detective "Rhino" Rick Jenson and actress Donna Donahue visit violent vortexes. Ellroy riffs. Ellroy rhapsodizes. Ellroy monologues monosyllabic. He digs detectives. He adores authority. But is Ellroy's routine reductively redundant? Is his telegraphic typing a toxic tic? Is he traveling tired turf? Has his macho moralizing metastasized? Do his stooge studies stultify? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and YES. Remember readers, you heard it here, off the record, on the Q.T., and very hush-hush: Die-hard fans will dig this--day-trippers will think it's a dud. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Original edition (September 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400032873
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400032877
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #603,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Lee Harrell on October 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
First off, I am a huge Ellroy fan. I've read all his stuff and honestly regard him of one of our great writers.

However, for whatever reason, he has gone way too far with his use of the language, especially in this book. Alliteration every once in a while is one thing, but lately, especially I would say since American Tabloid, it is starting to make his work unreadable. It seriously gets in the way of the story he is trying to tell.

If you want good, classic the L.A. Quartet. This later stuff is getting to be a pain to read. Come on James, enough already. (Lee Harrell)
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Scott Bradley on October 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
I'm a big James Ellroy fan from way back, but this new collection frankly tried my patience (it just BARELY earned the second of the two stars I'm giving it). The selection of non-fiction pieces (which originally appeared in GQ magazine) is pretty impressive, as the Demon Dog examines Robert Blake, Los Angeles DA Steve Cooley, and the author's own self-proclaimed "Life as a Creep"; on the other hand, the fiction is just dreadful. The Danny Getchell/HUSH-HUSH alliteration/rhyming/wordplay thing is writ large and awful here (it's like Dr. Seuss meets Charles Bukowski, and I DON'T mean that as a compliment), with an unusually large dollop of racism & homophobia that goes far beyond the usual good, dirty, non-PC fun of Ellroy's other books. Seriously - this stuff, especially the trio of novellas under the umbrella title RICK LOVES DONNA, would be unpublished (and unpublishable) if the byline weren't James Ellroy. Worth snagging, I guess, if you're an Ellroy completist like me (and, again, the nonfiction is overall solid), but I'd sure hate for the uninitiated to pick this up and think the fiction represents Ellroy's work. Here's hoping the conclusion of Ellroy's "Underworld USA" Trilogy is an improvement over DESTINATION: MORGUE.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By L. Alper on January 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
You probably found this book because you're a fan of James Ellroy's classic novels 'L.A.Confidential' and 'The Black Dahlia'. You may even have read his memoir, 'My Dark Places' and were looking for more great noir.

This isn't it.

'Destination: Morgue' was published in 2004, yet it is virtually the same book as his 1999 'Crimewave'. Sure, the stories have different titles, but here again he is covering the same ground about his early days that were discussed in more detail in 'My Dark Places' and the shorter magazine pieces published in 'Crimewave'. The fiction in both 'Crimewave' and 'Destination: Morgue' is also almost identical. Annoying alliterative novellas written from the viewpoint of "Hush Hush" reporter/publisher Danny Getchell. Riffs on the collusion between LAPD Chief Parker & Dragnet's Jack Webb. Novellas from the viewpoint of accordionist Dick Contino.

Although the similarity of the short fiction in both books is annoying, it's Ellroy's apparent enjoyment of debasing himself by continually retelling his years as a peeping tom/speed addict/ petty criminal that is a riff repeated too often. OK, the stories in 'Crimewave' were reprints of Esquire articles that were warm-ups for Ellroy's 'My Dark Places' so can be excused on those grounds. The pieces in 'Destination: Morgue' have no such validity. They seem to exist for the following reasons: (1) Ellroy gets some sort of perverted enjoyment out of exposing what a sleazebag he used to be (2) he made so much money & got so much acclaim for 'My Dark Places' that he keeps returning to the well whenever he needs pocket change (3) he's completely run out of ideas.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Oberding on December 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
I'm an Ellroy fan of long standing and was thoroughly entertained by Destination Morgue. Never shy about four letter words, or scenes that might make a lesser writer cringe, James Ellroy is that rare one-of-a-kind talent that outshines all others in his chosen genre. This book may not be for everyone. But those who revel in hardcore writing that doesn't pull punches will love it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Nippert on June 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
I really love James Ellroy's writing and subject matter. He has gotten me interested in old Hollywood movie stars, gangsters and unsolved murders. He has made his obsessions mine, but as several other reviewers have pointed out, his arching overuse of alliteration has gone way beyond self parody at this point. He is like someone making of fun of James Ellroy except that he is James Ellroy. My favorite piece here is the bit on Robert Blake's murder case. For once he is dealing with a b-list celebrity who is alive and a case that was current at the time. I like his childhood stories, although this cat was way more messed up than I could ever have imagined. I actually even like the overkill of alliteration because I think it is hilarious ,although it is not very good writing and he is capable of much better. To give you an example, in "Jungletown Jihad", his hero settles down to sleep with some friendly pit bulls in a shelter-"I shot to the shelter. Pit bulls pounced.A dog daisy chain developed.Donny De Freeze diminuendoed and disappeared. I setlled in for an eight-dog night." The whole thing is written that way. You can choose to be annoyed or amused. I chose the latter but I hope he breaks this trend or it will be very damaging to his reputation as a great writer.
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