Blood’s a Rover
James Ellroy, 2009
This is such a big topic. Very personal to me. I’ve been absorbed in this world for the better part of year. American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and this one. Ellroy has very much shaped me as a writer with these. Short sentences, machine-gun staccato that builds and swirls and goes in and out and becomes this rough romantic style overall.
I love this world that he has built. The other side of the New Frontier and the dark conspiracy that the Love Generation was too stupid to know what was happening. A world of the hyper-masculine and mega-competent. Everybody is at the top of their game but all susceptible to being one upped. Everyone knows everything but never what the next guy is thinking. Pulling a fast one is all on luck and getting out alive ends up being reward enough. Life is lived at the highest of most stunning highs and descends to shit-maggot lows–but with always a way to get back if one has the wherewithal. Redemption is always possible here but out of 10 narrators in three books…only 2 make it to the end of the finish line.
Hate. Hate becomes the inexorable influence on everything. It’s steeped all around in people, the people who hate, who concentrate their hate, learn to, not live with it, but channel it. The hated who, as presented, deserve their derision. Haters who almost learn about their hated and fall short by way of death–my god.
If Tabloid was about creating the conspiratorial world, and Six Thousand was about laying down the hate, then Rover is about…Love? There were romantic interests in the other books but they never amounted to much of anything at all. These books are really dick-swinging contests du jour. The women in this one have narrative force, personality and a say. They drive the destinies of the men all throughout. That said they aren’t really different from the men for the most part. They share that mega-competence, that ability to compartmentalize that is so fucking important here. Of course it never works does it? They all break down these compartments these men build. They come tumbling down, flooded, destroyed.
So what? Rover is Hate being destroyed by Love? It works, you wouldn’t think it would be Ellroy’s cuppa and some of it comes off kinda wonky but it does work. That’s the charm of Ellroy’s work here is that alot of it should come off as silly or over-the-top. The idea that he reverses the racism of the last book by putting his characters in contact with competent or sympathetic black people seems like it should be trite. But Ellroy’s commitment to his terse prose and…it never feels like he’s trying to con you into buying into this. Everything is acceptable because it’s presented as matter of fact. Everything just is and everything that isn’t known to the characters, isn’t known to us, is a lack of facts available not the writer playing false or misdirection.
I’ve been working on this post little bits at a time now for months now. It’s been months since I’ve finished the last book and it never felt like I was saying enough here and I’ve done what I can for right now.
-Daniel Von Egidy, 2011