james ellroy's point of view is
sewer-rat Oliver Stone. Like Stone a paranoiac, he imagines hushed men in dark offices quietly turning the wheels of power, and American history being made at ground level by bent cops, damaged CIA agents and psychotics.
Imagine Stone's JFK from the point of view of David Ferrie, the zoned-out, conspiracy-freaked character played by Joe Pesci, and you have some of the flavour of Ellroy's latest, The Cold Six Thousand.In The L.A. Quartet -- The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential and White Jazz -- Ellroy concocted a secret history of post-second-world-war Los Angeles unearthed from scandal sheets and lurid fantasies of death, politics and sexuality. His latest epic, the Underworld U.S.A. trilogy, does much the same for American political history from 1960 onward.The first in the series, American Tabloid, led up to the Kennedy assassination. The Cold Six Thousand begins in Dallas on November 22, 1963, with the arrival of the protagonist, Las Vegas cop Wayne Tedrow Jr.
Ellroy's prose is rendered lethal by the stripped-down style he developed while writing The Big Nowhere and White Jazz. He has a way of building very long books out of very short sentences, a literary feat that resembles constructing a full-scale model of the Eiffel Tower out of toothpicks dipped in strychnine.
The fun part is the way his fondness for ancient hipster slang allows the blunt-force trauma of his prose to edge into the territory of beat poetry.
For people who've not read Ellroy, The Cold Six Thousand isn't the best starting point, since the prose might have been written by a tabloid headline writer who's been locked in an empty room for 15 years.
There are easier reads in the early novels featuring L.A. homicide cop Lloyd Hopkins (particularly Blood On The Moon) or the most famous of his novels, L.A. Confidential.
Ellroy's admirers will need no encouragement at all to acquire and devour his latest. He reads at Hart House Wednesday (May 30). See listings, this page .