Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"Ellroy’s a dipshit"

I'm not always a fan of self-reference in crime writing, but I found this bit hard to resist. It's from James Ellroy's Shakedown: Freddie Otash Confesses:
"They want to prime my prose and mold my moral vision. They’ve put me in telepathic touch with an earthling writer named James Ellroy.

"Ellroy’s a dipshit. I knew him in my waning months alive. I’ve been granted
tell-all telepathy. I will know that cocksucker cold." 
The real-life Otash was a police officer, private eye, and affiliate of the Hollywood scandal sheet Confidential, and Ellroy used him as a character in several of his novels. This novella-length book is useful and even illuminating as a companion to Ellroy's novels, with their conflicted cops and low-down losers:
"A fragmenting frustration set in. I had the dirt. It would take an armada of shakedown shills and photo fiends to deploy it. I racked my brain. I knocked my noggin against the bruising brick wall of unknowing. Extortion as existential dilemma. A confounding conundrum worthy of those French philosopher cats. 

"My cop life could not compete with the lush life. I was a double agent akin to that Commie cad Alger Hiss."
or how about this, which bespeaks an empathy readers may not associate with Ellroy:
"I scanned for boosters and looked down at legions of the lost.

"Their pathos pounded me. Bit actors buying stale bread and Tokay. Six-foot-two drag queens shopping for extra-long nylons. Cough-syrup hopheads reading labels for the codeine content. Teenage boys sneaking girlie mags to the can to jerk off. I watched, I peeped, I lost myself in the losers."
Or this:
"Confidential presaged the infantile Internet. Our gobs of gossip were repugnantly real. Today’s blowhard bloggers and their tattle texts? Pussyfooting punks all. We stung the studios and popped the politicians. We voyeur-vamped America and got her hooked on the devilish dish. We created today’s tell-all media culture."
© Peter Rozovsky 2015
 Read about Fred Otash and other interesting subjects in Ellroy's 2010 discussion with that other challenging and immensely entertaining novelist David Peace.

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Blogger seana graham said...

Whatever else you want to say about Ellroy, his writing has tremendous energy.

Compassion in him doesn't surprise me, though. It's just that he's usually bouncing around so much that people don't notice.

July 16, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I just finished reading The Big Nowhere. As he often does, Ellroy displays considerable sympathy for characters who do bad things but are tortured by them. That tendency has long been present in Ellroy's writing, but people probably don't notice it much because of antics.

I bought two more of his earlier books today, so I should be able to follow the roots of this even deeper.

July 17, 2015  
Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

Oh, gosh, your title tricked me. I was all prepared to say "But ... but ...."

July 17, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Go argue with Ellroy; he said it.

July 17, 2015  

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