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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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 GraffCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved