Thursday, October 29, 2009

James Ellroy: Blood's a Rover

As often happens nowadays, I'm busy, so I won't be writing long about James Ellroy's Blood's a Rover (out in Finnish as Levoton veri / The Reckless Blood, or something to that effect). It's a book, though, that could've - should've - deserved a lot lengthier review than I'm able at the moment. Suffice to say that I wrote a long piece on it for the Turun Sanomat newspaper.

On Facebook, I gave the book four stars out of five. Four, because the book rises to a very high level during the last 100-150 pages. Not five, because the book's first 200 pages pretty much failed to grap my attention. The mystery - or the mysteries, as there are many - isn't powerful enough and is pretty far away from such masterpieces of suspense as The Big Nowhere or L.A. Confidential. But four, because in those last pages Ellroy really makes the mystery shine - as they all twine together and we at last get to hear what it was all about Ellroy manages to create a mystery that bears a comparison to the statue of The Maltese Falcon.

One point more: Ellroy has been accused of being a racist, a sexist, a male chauvinist, a right-wing extremist. I know he's said all those things aloud (and he was part of a Neo-Nazi movement in his youth, but then again I just heard that one of Finland's most revered young novelists was, too, in his youth), but I think Blood's a Rover makes clear that Ellroy is on the side of the defeated. His heroes can be bad and sleazy, but they are also tragic and larger than life. More tragic are those who they stomp on, and in this book Ellroy makes the history of American Communism fascinating and tragic. It's clear that when one of the lead characters decides he's been tortured too much and makes a headturn turning against his former employers and friends, it's a picture of Ellroy himself.

What I didn't say here, Stuart Neville says much better in his review here.


Anders E said...

You know, I was never that convinced of Ellroy as this terrible reactionary. I always figured he was mereley writing about people holding these reprehensible opinions, not that he necessarily held them himself.

As opposed to Mickey Spillane, where I'm still not convinced that Spillane did not agree with Mike Hammer.

Anders E said...

Another thing, my regards to Finland for having a translation so early. This has not yet appeared in Swedish... What is it with you guys? How do you do it?

Juri said...

Anders: yeah, that's what I've always been thinking myself and have wondered why some people still find him a reactionary himself. That must have been about the interviews he's given - we don't know about them here in Europe. (And to tell the truth, from what I've seen I'm not that interested in seeing his interviews - his books are enough for me.)

As for the translation, I think his publisher here has just done a good deal - they also did Nick Cave's Bunny Munro when it came out in the USA and the UK. It's all about money, man.