Wednesday, September 28, 2011

James Ellroy:Destination Morgue

Destination Morgue by James Ellroy. I really wanted to like this book. But no dice. It is a compilation of true crime pieces, personal essays and three novellas. Again, I really wanted to like this. I mean it's James Ellroy-- he's the "Demon Dog". It just couldn't hold my interest-- with the exception of his essay, Where I get my Weird @35$*. That was interesting because in his mixed up way, he talks about his inspiration for his stories which came from all of the crime novels he read and his environment which was 1950's LA in all of it's sleaziness. I guess I liked that one because I love to listen to writers speak about their influences both literary and other, and I like hearing them talk about the craft of writing. But the rest of the writing in this book was lost on me and here is why.

Ellroy, is famous for this short hand style of prose. In the case of novels like White Jazz  it works, in that the writing style becomes the character and is perfect for his antihero who is a dirty, and brutal L A Cop; it gives him a stacatto and rough voice and provides you with insight into how his mind works--simple and efficient.

Unfortunately, this technique doesn't work for his other novels and basically dry-gulched Destination Morgue. It was a real nuisance to read and looked like texting.

Again, I like Ellroy. And if you want to read some good stuff by him I would recommend my all time favorite of his, Brown's Requiem.   It's a straight PI novel written in the traditional style, but with all of the Ellroyesque flourishes we have come to know and love.

Along with this, read Hollywood Nocturnes, another compilation of novellas; my favorite being Dick Contino's Blues, about an accordion player who gets involved in  a government conspiracy. Hmm, sounds a little like Huey Dusk? Nah!

Anyway, I did not write this to pan Mr. Ellroy. I have the utmost respect for him in that he is a student of noir and crime fiction as well as the sun-baked mean streets of LA. I also appreciate his willingness to share with us his pain over his mother's murder(read his memoir My Dark Places, I have an autographed copy). He is a man with still  many demons to excorcise and contines to influence alot of fledgling writers such as myself. I just wish he would get away from this "LOL shorthand style" he invented and move onto something more readable.

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