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James Ellroy - Perfidia out September 2014


Boozy The Clown
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So any other thoughts on Bloods a Rover?

Having waited for this final chapter in the trilogy for 7 odd years I was actually pretty disappointed by the end result.

I really missed the involvement of Big Pete, even a cameo appearance would have been nice and I thought Wayne's end was a little bit abrupt and premature. The three character perspectives never really gelled as well as in the previous books. One of the outstanding features of AT and 6000 were the unexpected arcs & journeys each character went through. Theres nothing as startling as Wards development from looked over FBI agent to Mob destroyer to mob lawyer and civil-rights champion to a husk of a man for example.

Its been touched upon already, but that feeling you were reading about the "real" history of America, that historical weight that the previous volumes had. Its not really present in Bloods a rover. I thought it sprawled and lost focus and, and I NEVER thought I'd say this, was a little bit dull at times.

Maybe its because the two previous books were so fantastic and the expectation I had for this book had the time to grow and grow with each re-reading of the earlier novels but I can't help but be disappointed with this fairly unspectacular end to the trilogy

Am curious to know what others felt here though.

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I read Blood's A Rover while on holiday, and loved it. It's only the third Ellroy book I've read (the others being American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand, within the last few months) and possibly because I wasn't waiting seven years for it, I wasn't hit by the same disappointment.

It did feel quite different, since it was dealing with a more personal story and didn't entangle itself with iconic historical events so much, but this worked to its benefit, I thought. The Cold Six Thousand in particular left a very sour taste in my gut, morally speaking, despite having loved the book; the actions of the characters were heartbreaking evil even if they started out with the best of intentions. I found that Blood's A Rover was a more optimistic book, though this is obviously still couched in Ellroy terms so it's still very nasty and sickening. The fates of the main characters offered some kind of redemption or hope even in the darkest moments, and it worked very well for me as a capstone to the trilogy. The lack of Big Pete didn't stick out so much for me, possibly because I read the previous book only a month ago and so I've still got more than enough Big Pete in my system and his last appearance was a fitting send-off.

Looking forward to getting into more Ellroy. Black Dahlia next, I think.

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I read Blood's A Rover while on holiday, and loved it.

Ditto. I devoured it in two or three sunny afternoons and thought it was fantastic. I might have to back to the beginning someday soon, though - I could really do with some more Kemper Boyd in my life.

So after the LA Quartet and Underworld USA, where do you go next? Are the earlier works any good?

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  • 3 weeks later...

You lads might be interested in this interview with him from this week. He was on Irish radio discussing his memoirs and got a little peeved:

http://media.todayfm.com/podcasts

Go to 'listen back', the Last Word with Matt Cooper, Thursday part 2. He's on around the 53 minute mark.

Edit: here's another interview on the same day with a different station. It went a bit better: http://www.rte.ie/podcasts/2010/pc/pod-v-07101025m44stodaywithpatkenny.mp3

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  • 1 year later...

Late to the literary party as usual. I chanced upon a recommendation for Ellroy when I was browsing Amazon a few weeks back, took a chance and found his work to be revelatory.

I started with American Tabloid which easily features in my top five books, Cold 6000 was great and I'm just getting into Blood's a Rover now.

Already got the LA Quartet queued up and ready to go; just need a few non-rainy days so I can sit in the garden and rip through them double time.

Father's Day next week so I'll get fresh copies of the Underworld trilogy for the old man, he loves Raymond Chandler so would imagine this is right up his street as well.

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  • 2 years later...
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  • 2 weeks later...

Started Perfidia with my lunch. Dat first chapter. No spoilers below, just some character appearances:


Buzz Meeks! Lee Blanchard! I wonder how many characters from the other LA books we’ll meet in this one? I’d love to see more of Mal or Danny from The Big Nowhere. But at the same time I’m a little worried that there might be references stuck in just as colour.

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  • 1 month later...

Was there another post in this thread today that disappeared?

I finished Perfedia over the weekend and while I did enjoy it, it was missing something to elevate it to the level of the original LA Quartet. Maybe it was the limited time span but it felt like the whole thing was too densely condensed. Setting the whole story in a 4 week period made it all feel a bit rushed. But I think that was a style choice to mirror the post Pearl Harbour chaos.

BIG SPOILERS FOLLOW FOR THE WHOLE BOOK


The central murder mystery didn’t have the allure of the Black Dahlia or the Wolverine killings or the Nite Owl massacre but the resolution was amazing. When the whole murder is laid out for Whiskey Bill near the end I was totally onboard. I never saw that twist coming.

Kay Lakes diary entries were the weakest of the 4 POV character entries. I didn’t think her internal voice really suited the story and her romance with Bill seemed a bit forced.

Ashidas journey was great, his slow corruption by his circumstances and his surroundings. I’m really looking forward to reading more of his adventures in future.

My biggest criticism was that at times the whole thing felt like an exercise in James Ellroy fan fiction – pushing characters together from the LA Quartet and the Underworld Trilogy. Unless I wasn’t paying attention it was never mentioned in the other books that the Black Dahlia was Dudley smiths daughter! That’s a pretty big deal. I think I’ll re-read some of the LA Quartet over Christmas to see if I missed that detail.

A new James Ellroy novel is always a big deal and the first book in a second LA Quartet an even bigger deal. But while this isn’t up there with the best of this work it’s a hell of a ride over 700 pages.

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yeah that was me, my post didn't make much sense and I couldn't be arsed fixing it

I was quite surprised at Dudley being the daddy also, it's the kind of mad retcon you'd get in a spiderman comic but could lead to interesting stuff in the next 2 books, especially if they extend past the start of the LA Trilogy.

The rest was pure Ellroy madness and I had a great time reading it, hate tracts, sap gloves, shrunken heads , dudley smith and dogs, leopards (I though Dali had an ocelot?) and wolves. JAAAAAPPPS.

I've got tickets to see the man himself in Glasgow next month. Should be interesting.

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  • 3 years later...

Sorry for the bump but there doesn't appear to be a general James Ellroy thread.

 

I have just started reading his books over the last two weeks, beginning with The Black Dahlia and I'm now halfway through The Big Nowhere.

 

I absolutely love the atmosphere and I know a little about the period, the real life events and people.  He manages to bring the whole place to life in my mind and I've fallen in love with the series.

 

It may help that this summer really feels like the long, humid period that the books are set in.

 

Are all of his books as good or are there any that I should miss?

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The good news is they all range from pretty good to excellent, and the even better news is that you're still in the 'pretty good' range. The style of the books changes quite markedly after Big Nowhere to the more extreme, clipped, staccato trademark Ellroy style, which gets more and more intense as he goes on, so be prepared to struggle with that for a bit - American Tabloid and particularly The Cold Six Thousand are so stylised that they're hard to get into at first (but only at first).

 

I would probably give Perfidia a miss, as it's a prequel and suffers from all the normal problems of prequels (i.e. all the characters reappear in chronologically later books, so nobody can die; characters from later books appear in unlikely and contrived ways; everything revolves around these characters, so the world of the book seems very small), and feels like Ellroy by the numbers anyway.

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I think the LA Quartet is his best work - White Jazz is my favourite out of the 4 but they're all fantastic books. The ultra stripped-back style of White Jazz can be hard to get into at first but I've read it a few times and it gets stronger every time.

 

The Underworld USA books are superior period-fiction, the first book in the that trilogy, American Tabloid, is the strongest of the 3. I found Bloods A Rover quite hard to get through. 

 

His memoir about his mothers murder, My Dark Places, is also very good. And shows what a messed up childhood he had.

 

The Lloyd Hopkins series is OK, you can see him starting to find his voice as the books go on. 

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I'd forgotten that he'd written any books before the Black Dahlia. Of his early books, Clandestine is well worth reading. It's never normally mentioned in context with the LA Quartet and seems to be ignored for the most part, but it's really good - written in the same style as Black Dahlia, it's less sophisticated but still a really compelling read, and full of all the usual Ellroy sicknesses and obsessions. It's set in the same world as the LA Quartet / Underworld USA books too, so quite a few characters from later books appear for the first time here, including Dudley Smith. The LA Quartet should really be the LA Quintet, as this makes a pretty good prelude to the series. Worth reading in conjunction with My Dark Places too, as in terms of the characters backstory, this is by far the most personal novel Ellroy has written.

 

His other early books I struggled with. The first Lloyd Hopkins book has an absolutely belting introduction, set in the Watts riots in the 1960s, but when it flashes forward to the present day (i.e., the early eighties when it was written) it falls apart a bit. Ellroy's style doesn't work as well in a contemporary setting, plus he was a much less accomplished writer at that point.

 

White Jazz and American Tabloid are definitely peak Ellroy. 

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  • 10 months later...

Despite finding Perfida a bit of a dud (bad pun intended) I started his new one, This Storm, over the weekend. It picks up shortly after where Perfidia ended, Pearl Harbour has just happened and the war effort is kicking into gear.

 

We meet a couple of new characters; a cop fresh out of the army who gets recruited by Dudley Smith to find and kill a guy, a forensic chemist hired to work with Ashida from Perfidia. These two newbies, Ashida and Dudley get dropped into the standard Ellroy mix of sleaze, politics and violence right from the first chapter. 

 

I had quite low expectations for this but I'm really liking it so far. There's a decent central mystery and I'm trying to pretend I don't know what's going to happen to a lot of the characters who go on to appear in later books. 

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I think I might be losing my James Ellroy reading ability. I'm about 30% into this and I genuinely don't have a clue what's going on. It feels like it's missing a central crime to move everything forward - there's no Nite Owl massacre or Black Dahlia killing, just a load of unconnected stuff happening. 

 

Dudley Smith is in Mexico for some reason, it feels like every woman in the book in called Jean or Joan or Jane so I can't follow what any of them are up to and the writing seems even more clipped than usual. Very frustrating but I will stick with it because I know he will pull it together by the end.
 

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  • 1 month later...

I'm reading the LA Quartet back to back (in the quality Everyman library edition).  I know I've read at least BD beforehand but don't really remember too many details.  The Big Nowhere has to rank as one of the single most brutal but most complete (satisfying sounds like the wrong word in the context) novels in the crime / mystery / detection oeuvre.  You have all the clues dribbled out, individual moments which pack a surprisingly sad emotional punch, and the major reveal at the end too :sherlock:.    Now onto LA Confidential.  

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I haven't read LA Conf or White Jazz, I hear they resemble the Underworld USA books in terms of machinegun prose? Gonna give them a go this summer I think. I've got BN/LAC/WJ in a super thicc collected edition is the only thing and it's a chore to hold above my face in bed before I go to sleep 

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@SM47White Jazz is probably Ellroy's best novel for me, although it's a close tie with American Tabloid. It's very much written in the style of the Underworld USA trilogy, albeit not quite as blunt and ugly as the Cold Six Thousand or Blood's A Rover, and you will definitely love it if you like the Underworld books.

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