James Ellroy, the self-described demon dog of American crime fiction, has been pulling the same literary-Crazy-Eddie schtick for years -- he was doing it, for instance, way before Jim Cramer borrowed the act for Mad Money. The schtick is at once a useful mask and, at base, exactly what it appears to be: a meticulously cultivated, nakedly needy, vastly narcissistic self-promotional vehicle whose sole purpose is the further economic enrichment of James Ellroy. He can get away with it because his cult audience eats it up, and because of a talent that very nearly eclipses his bullshit, and, most importantly, because he really just doesn't give a fuck what you think.
DOWNLOAD: James Ellroy reads from Blood's A Rover (Brattle Theater, September 2009) [mp3]
So if you've heard an Ellroy reading, some of this will be familiar to you: the howling enunciation, the compliment-fishing, the over-the-top self aggrandizement. Since the release of The Cold Six Thousand, his selling point has been more-fully-realized female characters -- perhaps because he's been so mean to women, both in the books and outside of them, over the years -- and, for BLOOD'S A ROVER, he's added a shill for his characters' idealism and redemption. Huh.
All of which is less a criticism than a disclaimer -- Ellroy's one entertaining motherfucker, even when he's mouthing off with irredeemable Luddite cantankerousness about how teh internets are threatening the bedrock of American literacy. He was egged on to flip the bird to the Kindle, and happily obliged. He still maintains that he owns no television, blurbs more books than he actually reads, and affirms that he's hoping to outlive Bill Clinton so that he can add Bubba to the vast list of American historical fuckups who have become pawns in the symphonic Ellroyan pantheon. Mostly, he instructed the audience to buy his fucking book, which, like the other two "Underworld USA Trilogy" books, is an exercise in imagineering "the private infrastructure of big, public events" -- in this case, the Nixon years.
The Washington City Paper recently went on an ill-advised fishing expedition to try branding Ellroy a racist, and although Ellroy did not respond directly, he gave several impassioned defenses of his tabloid-powered slanguage. He also mentioned that he just last week delivered to Alfred A. Knopf his second memoir, The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women, which is due next year, already being excerpted in Playboy, and is either a deepthink analysis of his relationship with his dead floozy mom through the lens of his romantic entanglements, or else a tell-all book about all the pipe he's laid out in LA since ascending the ladder of American letters.
By the end of it, we'd been bludgeoned into submission -- the bastard has conned us into believing he's written yet another masterpiece. Fuck. But first we're gonna go re-read White Jazz for the three millionth time.