An empty space where James Ellroy’s 1990 novel L.A. Confidential should have been. I was shocked. I don’t know whether it was the crime or Ellroy’s style. I started putting the case together.
The phone rang. Jonny F, hankering for the skinny on Ellroy.
“Major crime writer, popular yet loved by literary types, now get out of here, shitbird,” I said, and hung up.
‘Blue’ M knocked. A suspicion, Blue shows up just after the book gets stolen. So I told him the story, just to see what would happen. A story of disparate crimes stretching over nearly a decade, running deep into the dark underbelly of L.A., smut, dope, prosts, and extortion rackets – investigated by men unified only by their hate for each other. Blue stared at me, bug-eyed, ready to crack.
“Scared?” I said, “you should be. This is ambitious stuff. Makes other crime novels look like kiddy stuff.” Go in hard? No, he wasn’t ready yet.
“T-t-tell me about the characters,” he said, the sweat rolling off his forehead. I told him. Some remarkable characters played off against each other for fireworks. Occasionally the supporting cast is blandly sketched, but it’s barely noticeable. The dialogue is especially well done. Pitch perfect speech, every character with their own distinctive tone.
Blue made excuses and left. No time to think. Grab my piece and tail him. The whole time Ellroy’s style was on loop in my head. Vicious, short, sharp sentences that put the onus on the reader to keep up. So direct it’s physical. It’s good – once you get used to the rhythm. Until then it can be a hellish ride, but once you’re there, digging the flow like the novel hepcat you are, it’s like nothing you’ve read before.
Blue stopped and waited. A familiar figure arrived and there was an exchange. A much-loved, big, heavy book changed hands. JONNY AND BLUE WORKING TOGETHER! I pulled out my piece and rushed out.