Saturday, October 16, 2010

Blood's A Rover

Today I finished Blood's A Rover, after several attempts. It's the kind of book that you need a run-up for: it's easy to try and read it when you're not completely on your game, and just bounce off, flummoxed by Ellroy's staccato prose and bludgeoned by the sheer density.

Also, I'd been distracted ever after one of my Chinese colleagues asked me about the book, and inquired whether the eponymous Rover was a British car. No, really. I didn't singlehandedly orchestrate the collapse of the UK's last significant car manufacturer just for a cheap jibe about the title of a book.

But it is hard work, partly because Ellroy is on a mission, rather like Stewart Lee, to alienate everyone who he doesn't want to be one of his fans; hence the dense, dense paragraphs, the conspiracy-theory-grade interlinking of all these lives, and the oozing racist abuse.

This is definitely a problem when offering the book to others to read; there's so many n-words and c-words in there (and that's quite aside from the sexism and homophobia) that you might legitimately worry people thought you enjoyed it because of, rather than in spite of, that language. Ellroy is dealing with Klansmen, mafiosi and J Edgar Hoover, so there's going to be a lot of lamentable language in there. Think of it as historical accuracy. And given what bad things these people do, it's not as if Ellroy is suggesting these are good, plainspeaking Americans.

As to the plot, I wouldn't want to give much away. As ever, Ellroy is unafraid to kill people off, whether they've been a big part of the book or not. There's very little mercy for anyone. I was first struck by this when reading LA Confidential, but clearly I hadn't learned, because I was still surprised this time round. It's good to have somebody who's not overprotective of their characters. (Cf Stallone and the not-so-very Expendables...).

There's not so many important characters to juggle as in The Cold Six Thousand or American Tabloid, but I say that looking back from the end of the book; at the start, it's hard to get a handle on who's a bit player and who isn't - but like I suggested above, that's a strength, not a weakness.

It's also quite lovely the way that the first and last pages echo one another. I'd quite forgotten the opening until the ending reminded me of it, at which point rereading it so much of what was to come suddenly stood out again. So for a book that's best enjoyed with a bottle of cough syrup and a flask of black coffee, it's curiously beautiful.

I'd like something fluffier to read now though.


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