Monday, December 14, 2009

Long-lost James Ellroy story found ...

... in an anthology I'd had for some time without knowing the Ellroy tale, "Gravy Train," was in it. The book was in the bathroom, too, just like that first edition of Origin of Species.

Back in the fall, I was surprised how funny Ellroy was in print and in person. Had I read "Gravy Train" at the time, the humor would not have surprised me.

The story, published in Armchair Detective in 1990, is over the top, a full-out spoof of '40s and '50s hard-boiled P.I. stories. It's full of lines like "My trigger finger itched to dispense .45 caliber justice" and "I ran up and bashed his face in with the butt of my roscoe." There are also blackmail, a shady lawyer, and an inheritance scam.

Oh, yeah: There's hot girl-girl sex (it's relevant to the plot), an allusion to Ellroy's own reputed sordid past, and the protagonist falls in love with a dog. And, unlike most stories by the authors whose chains Ellroy yanks here, this one has a happy ending.

"Basko attacked; the schmucks ran for their car; one of them whipped out a cylindrical object and held it out to the hot pursuing hound. A streetlamp illuminated the offering: a bucket of Kentuck Colonel ribs.

"Basko hit the bucket and started snouting: I yelled "`No!' ... "
© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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19 Comments:

Blogger seana said...

I think "spoof" is a very good word to associate with Ellroy's body of work. It's not that there's no serious intent, but the irreverence is very much part of his attitude.

v word=nerver

December 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Irreverence is very much a part of The Cold Six Thousand, but I'm not sure any parts of the book are out and out spoofs in the manner of "Gravy Train." Of course, it's easier to sustain a spoof in a shorter work. And Ellroy doesn't just exaggerate conventions; he has an idea of what makes them work, and he does what he can to reinfuse them with a bit of the old edge.

The story is in the Hard-Boiled anthology, edited by Bill Pronzini and Jack Adrian, if you'd care to take a look.

December 15, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

Thanks, Peter--I'll keep an eye out for it.


...or maybe not--my v word=peril.

December 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Is it cheating if I log out before posting a reply to you just to see if I'll get a v-word as good as yours? Too bad; I did it anyway. And if you have any qwethtions, my v-word is anthewr

December 15, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

I don't think it's really possible to cheat with the v word. It's more a 'spin again' type of situation.

December 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't know; I think a v-word ought to be spontaneous.

December 15, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

I think cheating would be if you made one up and said it was google's doing. Luckily, I'm not tempted because my fake ones could not possibly be as good.

This time, for instance, mine is 'fledle'.

December 15, 2009  
Blogger David Hamburg said...

There's a James Ellroy podcast of a live reading at Authors on Tour...

December 15, 2009  
Anonymous solo said...

I take it the bathroom in this instance is a euphemism for the toilet. I have a brother-in-law like that. He keeps magazines, newspapers and lengthy novels in his toilet. I've always found this slightly bizare. If I was going to keep any reading material in my toilet it would be a couple of haikus, at most. And, please forgive my ignorance, but what the f*** is a v-word?

December 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo: Let's say it's the WC, which more properly conveys the suggestion of an enclosed space rather than just a receptacle.

The book containing that Ellroy story was a collection of short fiction -- not quite haiku, but nothing that requires long or intense concentration.

A v-word is the characters that some sites will ask you to type before posting your comment to ensure that you are a real person and not an automatic spam generator.

December 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, "fledle" is pretty good, something Sr. Seuss might have invented.

December 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Mr. Hamburg, and welcome. Have you ever seen Ellroy read? The man puts on quite a show.

December 15, 2009  
Anonymous solo said...

Vuck Me. You learn something every day!

December 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Of all the things you learn this week, that will be one of the less useful, I suspect.

December 15, 2009  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter
BTW I'm disappointed that my original comment was allowed appear with the word bizarre spelt in an r-deficient manner! I noticed the error shortly after I hit the post comment button and I thought of alerting you to the fact but then it occured to me, hell, the man's a copy editor, he'll correct it himself. I assume your negligence was due to delicacy on your part, not wishing to point out my spelling errors! Vanks, in advance.

December 15, 2009  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

But that ss can't hold a candle to several others in the collection, including Hammett's "The Scorched Face" and W.R. Burnett's "Round Trip." I don't know, I've just never developed a taste for the Ellroy Kool-Aid, I guess.

December 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo, I couldn't tell which r was missing, the first or the second.

December 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Also, comments are an all-or-nothing proposition. One cannot edit them, and I would not stifle your voice for the sake of one letter.

December 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, I very much like Norbert Davis', David Goodis' and, maybe most of all, Andrew Vachss' contributions. I wouldn't say Ellroy's story demonstrates that he's a great crime writer, but it does show that he understands hard-boiled conventions. The piece is a spoof, after all.

One highlight of the collection is the occasionally critical introductions to each story. The editors have some rather pointed things to say about Ellroy's weaknesses as well as his strengths.

December 15, 2009  

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