Thursday, September 21, 2023

More Stephen King

 Stephen King

  1. Carrie (1974) - good with even better movie made from it
  2. 'Salem's Lot (1975) - my favorite vampire book 
  3. The Shining (1977) - his best, with nary a wasted word
  4. The Stand (1978) - two times I tried but couldn't finish. bloated and surprisingly dull in parts. The beginning, though, man, oh, man.
  5. The Dead Zone (1979) - very good - how do you make Lee Harvey Oswald the hero? also, challenge me if you like, but Cronenberg's movie is the best King adaptation 
  6. Firestarter (1980) - disposable
  7. Pet Sematary (1983) - way overrated
  8. The Talisman (1984) w/Peter Straub - good enough
  9. IT (1986) - good parts mixed with very bad parts and waaaay too long
  10. The Tommyknockers (1987) - he can't remember writing this which I think is for the best
  11. The Dark Half (1989) - very good
  12. Insomnia (1994) - goodish but long and a little pat with its human villain
  13. The Regulators (1996) - not good
  14. Bag of Bones (1998) - solid if, again, pat in its villains
  15. Dreamcatcher (2001) - nuts and not really good, but big, stoopid fun
  16. From a Buick 8 (2002) - very good
  17. The Colorado Kid (2005) - infuriating fun about an unanswerable mystery 
  18. Cell (2006) - goodish, but feels like a over-long short story 
  19. Lisey's Story (2006)  - I found it more interesting than good, but decent enough. some very good non-fantastic parts of loss
  20. Duma Key (2008) - eh, but only because I still expect more 
  21. The Outsider (2018) - very good
  22. Revival (2014) - very good and the bleakest of his books. It makes Pet Semetary, which I admittedly feel meh about, look like a Sunday School picnic
  23. Later (2021) - sure, talking to the dead's been done, but King handles its very well. Mixed together with his hardboiled tendencies from the last twenty years equals good results
  24. The Institute (2019) - What if Firestarter wasn't crappy and it the plot had world-wide implications? This is what you'd get. His prose smooth and effortless without being dumb or simple. 
  25. Mr. Mercedes (2014) - A thriller, pitting a psycopathic young killer against a fat, retired police detective with suicidal thoughts. It's not anything new, but, like with The Institute, King's writing - the prose, the characters, the plot - are very good and there's real tension and surprises. I'm looking forward to getting the two sequels, Finders Keepers (2015), and End of Watch (2016) in the mail next week.
  1. Night Shift (1978) - perfect
  2. Skeleton Crew (1985) - close to perfect
  3. Four Past Midnight (1990) - okay
  4. Nightmares & Dreamscapes (1993) - some good stuff 
  5. Hearts in Atlantis (1998) - as a longtime hearts player, I love this
  6. Everything's Eventual (2001) - okay
  7. Full Dark, No Stars (2010) - not bad at all
  8. If It Bleeds (2020)  - I only read the title story, which features Holly Gibney, and it's terrific

  1. Danse Macabre (1981) - important look at horror as a genre 
  2. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000) - helpful
King is the writer who almost single-handedly turned horror into a marketable genre. It wasn't by accident: his early works mix pulp roots with literary aspirations and eyes wide-open on the bestseller lists. He wasn't the first person to do this, but he was the most industrious and simply better than most of his rivals.

His first five novels (as much as I don't like The Stand, its importance to his career and the genre are undeniable. Most people I know who've read it totally dug it.) and first two story collections are forces that any examination of modern horror has to address. If you read horror and have somehow missed them it's best to rectify that.

There's a definite drop off in quality in the eighties due to addiction troubles (supposedly he has no memory of writing The Tommyknockers, though that just might be wishful thinking). As good as I think some of his later books are, they lack the immediacy and novelty of those first six books. Those early ones, though, man, oh, man are they fun.

PS: I just recently read his last novel, The Outsider, and it cooks. More than any of his other books that I can think of, it feels very much a part of the horror paperback original scene of the seventies and eighties - done really, really well. In these days of glittery vampires and torture porn gore, it's a real standout.

Still, it's not as much of a punch to the gut as his early books. I attribute that to the effect of decades, and decades of horror written by divers hands. When King kicked things off over forty years ago, if not the first explorer, he was definitely the most important conquistador in the lands of horror. The trails he opened and styles he conquered have long since been traveled and done to death. It's incredibly hard for new horror book to strike with the same potency of King's earliest books, even his own.

Since writing this, we've had a plague and I've read three more King books, all new, and all very good. The first, best, and most brutal is Revival. It's dedicated to Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, HP Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Donald Wandrei, Fritz Leiber, August Derleth, Shirley Jackson, Robert Bloch, and Peter Straub, as well as Arthur Machen. To the latter-most, King writes that his "short novel The Great God Pan has haunted me all my life." It draws much of its inspiration from the sort of cosmic horror those authors all worked with and mixes it with King's own more human-scaled concerns.

Much of the novel is concerned simply with the life and times of its narrator, Jamie Morton, as he moves from the sixties to the present. The hororor elements only emerge gradually, and their slow emergence through Jamie's story lets the atmosphere build gradually before coming together in a furious burst of dark electricity that leaves him and the reader feeling gutted. Of all the newer King I've read, this might be the one to stand alongside his best early books.

Later is the third of his Hard Case Crime releases. The others are The Colorado Kid and Joyland. I like the first a lot and own but still need to read the second. It's a good, decent supernatural thriller mixed with a crime story involving police corruption and drug dealers. It isn't groundbreaking, but King's tight storytelling, and the ease with which the narrator's voice captures the reader makes for a good, quick read.

The Institute is a book I can't totally explain. Not the plot, that's straightforward enough. What eludes me is exactly why I plowed thru a 650-page book in only three or four days for the first time in a very long time. I guess he just knows how to grab me. It's really all I can say. He builds up the suspense, knows how to throw me off kilter every time I think I know where things are going, and creates characters that are captivating, be they heroes, villains, or someone in betwee. When I find myself staying up to all hourse because I've "only" got 150 pages left, I can only conider the book a massive success. That said, it's less a horror story than a paranormal thriller that recalls his own Firestarter and John Farris' The Fury. It's much (much!) better than both and much more disturbing, drawing on the torture scandals and black sites of the War on Terror.  

Most times when I read a Stephen King book, I find myself compelled to pick up another one. That's what I've done right now. I've finally put Mr. Mercedes (2014) on my nightstand and will probably jump right into Joyland (2013) afterwards. If Mr. Mercedes is any good, and from all I've read, it is, I'll follow up with its sequels, Finders Keepers (2015) and End of Watch (2016), and then his latest, Holly.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Battle of Olustee: Road Trip During the Plague, Pt 2

Olustee Battlefield, Feb 2021

We've been going to St. Augustine for about ten years and I always wanted to take the hour-and-a-half drive to the Olustee battlefield. Finally, in 2021 as we hit the road west, I got the chance. 

With five thousand troops on each side, Olustee was the biggest battle fought in Florida during the Civil War. Most of coastal Florida had fallen to the United States by 1862, but the interior remained under Confederate control. In Feburary, 1864, against orders, General Truman Seymour launched an expedition against the Florida state capital, Tallahassee. On February 20th he came up against rebel forces in a marshy pine forest.

Seymour believed he'd only be facing state militia, troops he'd had little trouble with in the past. Unknown to him, the militia had been augmented by several thousand veteran troops sent down from Charleston. Confederate commander, General Joseph Finegan, tried to lure Seymour into attacking an entrenched position but this failed. Instead, both sides fed their reinforcements into the battle until ultimately the Union line broke. Despite the small size of the battle, based on the proportion of casualties, Olustee was one of the fiercest fights in the Civil War. The Union lost over 200 men killed, over 1,000 wounded, and 500 missing or captured out of about 5,000 soldiers. The Confederacy lost almost 100 killed and about 850 wounded.

Finegan made a final effort, sending troops against Seymour's retreating force but was held off by the  54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment (the regiment featured in the movie Glory (1989)) and the 35th United States Colored Infantry Regiment. Later, the 54th pulled a broken down train with wounded on it over three miles. Then, with the aid of horses, they towed it another ten miles back to Jacksonville.

We took a walk around the site, and had to take a couple of serious detours and get a bit soaked. As I said, it's a marshy area and the storms that had devastated Texas had dumped serious rain on Florida for several days. The problem with the Olustee Battlefield is that while still undeveloped and relatively unchanged terrain, the vegetation has changed. The battle was fought in open spaces in a pine forest near the swampy shore of Ocean Pond. Today, that same are is covered with saw palmetto. If I remember the park ranger's talk correctly, fires took out the pines and the saw palmettos moved in and took over. Still, walking the quiet, empty woods around the same time of year as the battle, it was possible to imagine what it must have been like when it was taken over by rifle and cannon fire, the shouts of attacking troops and the screams of the wounded. 

We spent an hour of so walking around the site, got back in our car and headed west. This was the first of seven battle sites we'd visit on the Great Road Trip of the Plague Year.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Road Trip During the Plague, Pt 1

In the canyon
Two and a half years ago, well into the Plague, my wife, the luminous Mrs. V, decided a short invitation to stay at someone's place in St. Augustine should be turned into the first leg of a massive road trip. We were both out of work with no clear indication of when we'd resume. It might be our only chance for a long time to take such an undertaking. 

The original plan was to drive to St. Augustine, then drive west to the Grand Canyon. Coming back, we'd swing a little further north and hit a string of Civil War sites and the Laura and Almanzo Wilder house in Mansfield, Missouri (Mrs. V is a huge fan. We've been to Mansfield before and it was something to see her and several other women almost in tears the first time they realized they were standing on the same linoleum Almanzo had put down and Laura had walked on). 

As soon as we hit St. Augustine, our plans fell apart. An ice storm had devastated Texas, knocking out the power grid across much of the state. Driving overland through Texas in the midst of that disaster was not going to happen. This was also pre-vaccine, so some states were still being obnoxious towards out-of-towners.

Mrs. V quickly came up with an alternate plan. First, we'd fly out to Phoenix and then drive up to the Grand Canyon. After flying back to St. Augustine, we'd drive west through Mississippi and Arkansas, loop back eastward at Mansfield, and come home thru Tennessee and West Virginia. It's what we did, and it was the best and longest road trip we've ever taken.

After a few days in St. Augustine, we flew out of Jacksonville. With masks on the entire flight, it was only slightly uncomfortable. It was pre-vaccine so many people were still overly nervous and the airlines were being hardcore to make . The flight was short and sweet and the view of Galveston and the rest of Texas from the air was fascinating. What we saw of Phoenix was soulless and desiccated. Lots of new buildings and dreary old concrete ones on great, wide, empty streets. 

The drive up to Grand Canyon Village was very nice. I'm not sure I'd ever realized how striking ochre and beige landscape could be. Flagstaff was mostly hotels, motels, and shopping plazas, but most of the drive was through largely unblemished plains and rocky escarpments. The horizon seemed further than it had ever seemed before and the February sky was a shocking azure.

We finally arrived at the Grand Canyon at dusk. We weren't sure where our hotel was, so we pulled into the first parking lot we encountered. I stepped out of the car and wondered where exactly the canyon was. Suddenly, as I turned around and my eyes adjusted to the evening's light, I realized it was fifteen feet beyond the front of our car. If you haven't seen it, imagine something carved jaggedly into the Earth's crust over ten miles across. Its walls are an array of colored layers, stretching out for miles and miles in both directions. Looking over the parking lot wall, we could just make out the bottom, thousands of feet below, in the fading light.

Now, I am not a hiker and I especially don't like hiking up elevations. Mrs. V's plan, though, had us hiking way down the canyon, twelve or thirteen miles along the floor, then back up. To say I was dubious of this plan is insufficient. My brain was shouting repeatedly that this was insane. Nonetheless, I acquiesced, out of love and out of one of my occasional flashes of a "why the heck not?" attitude.

To prepare a little, the next day we drove down to Sedona where we intended to take a hike onto and around a butte. It was a beautiful day and away from the touristy main part of Sedona, the land was beautiful, too. To be honest, it reminded me of some of the rides from Knotts Berry Farm I took when I was a little kid - and that was very cool. 

Rising out of the side of the butte is the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Built in 1954, the chapel was commissioned by rancher/sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude. It wasn't open to visitors that day, but the parking lot was. The only thing was, at 5:00 the lot was going to be locked and our car would be trapped if we hadn't returned by then. We had two and a half hours, though, so we were sure we could make it around and back in time. Ha!

The hike was unpleasant, Mrs. V got us off the often poorly-marked trails and lost two or three times. Fortunately, we managed to get back on track each time, but the clock was counting down. 

The views from the trail are impressive. I don't know how high up we were, but you could see all of Sedona and the surrounding mountains. We stopped several times to just look at the world moving below us. And the clock continued to tick.
During one of the periods of being lost, I told Mrs. V something I considered very important. I, from the bottom of my heart, from the depths of my soul, hated what we were doing. Despite the beauty of the butte, despite the wonderful views, I hated the hike. I hate all hikes. I do not and will not enjoy them. But, and this was important, I will do them because you want to.
I move slowly going uphill; it's just a fact of life. Years ago, hiking across Devon, Mrs. V would be hundreds of feet ahead of me as we climbed roads that felt damn near vertical. The same happened here. Increasingly, even as we knew we were near the end, it felt like we wouldn't make. With about fifteen minutes to go, she decided to take off and leave me behind. She made it, secured our car, and I wandered in about ten minutes later. It had been a near-run thing.

After the day's adventure, Mrs. V willingly cut down her ambitions for the Grand Canyon. We'd only go down to the bottom and then hike back up, a much more reasonable distance. We'd get up early, around six thirty, eat, then head off to the trailhead and begin our descent by seven thirty, or so. 

No proof against the cold
When we woke up it was freezing. It had been comfortable when we arrived at the Canyon, but it was late February and it gets cold out there. It was below freezing, ice had formed on the trails, and we had nothing remotely adequate to wear as you can see. 

We decided to hold off until it warmed up and do what we could do. In the end, we hiked about four miles from the Kachina Lodge along the South Rim to the South Kaibab Trail, ravens racing and swooping overhead. Once there, we hiked down the switchback trail along the Canyon wall about a mile and a half down and then back up again.
The amazing engineering feat of the trail, the stunning vistas it afforded us, the quiet, only occasionally broken by bird calls, and the very cool mule trains we had to step aside for several times, almost made me like hiking.

Mules looking askance
Actually, I did love the hike. There are many wonderful natural places in America and I've been lucky enough to see some of them - the coast of Kauai, Glacier National Park, the Adirondacks - but I had never been to the Grand Canyon before. If you ever have the chance, go. 

From that first view from the parking lot to the last glimpse as we drove away, I remained stunned by the immensity and beauty of the place. None of my pictures do the least justice to those qualities, but here are a few for some sense of the place.

We left the Grand Canyon, drove back to Phoenix, and then flew to Jacksonville. After a few more days in St. Augustine, we hit the road for the third, and longest leg, of our trip.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Easy Rawlins by Walter Mosley

Just as I was diving into James Ellroy's twisted version of Los Angeles in the post-war era, along came Walter Mosley's first novel, Devil in a Blue Dress (1990). I grabbed it probably after hearing it reviewed on NPR. It was presented as a hardboiled LA crime story, but told from the perspective of someone who was never the protagonist in any of the classic stories; a black man. It's a good book and a terrific debut novel. It led me to read six more Easy Rawlins books as they came out as well as the first Socrates Fortlow book, Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned (1997). The latter is an absolutely fantastic book, disappointingly filmed by Michael Apted and starring Laurence Fishburne. 

Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins is a WWII veteran and aircraft factory worker when he falls into investigating the location of a white woman who frequents black bars. Worried about paying his mortgage after losing his job, Rawlins agrees. Along with the expected twists and dangers from a hardboiled mystery, Mosley delivers plenty about race and class in post-war America. It's not a perfect book - there's a bit too much deus ex machina via a certain character - but it's a damn good one. The movie, starring Denzel Washington as Easy and Don Cheadle as Mouse (which is the first time I noticed him and he blew away everyone else on the screen and in the theater), is solid, too. 

The first five books - Devil in a Blue Dress, A Red Death (1991), White Butterfly (1992), Black Betty (1994), and A Little Yellow Dog (1996) - are an absolutely terrific addition to the hardboiled canon. The speed of those five books' appearance is reflected in the headiness and urgency in Mosely's writing. Part of their goal is to open wide the genre and expand its purview beyond the same old white heroes. Nonetheless, they remain true to the tropes and forms. In the foreword to the 30th-anniversary edition of Devil, Mosely wrote:

Easy is not afraid of death. He cannot but follow his understanding of what is right and wrong. And he knows that the LAPD, the mayor and governor, the congress and president are not, in so many ways, reflective of his values. Every case he takes on is defined by his personal understanding of honesty and justice. In this way Easy is an inheritor of the mantle of the hardboiled private detective genre that started with Philip Marlowe and the Continental Op. He must make up his own mind as to what is legal and not legal, fair and balanced, in a world where corporate interests eclipse the individual nine times out of ten.
I read seven of the series before drifting away after Bad Boy Brawly Brown (2002) as the stories became a little too familiar (I was also at the beginning of a push to read more new fantasy, so picking up some doorstoppers meant less time for crime stories).  A  major problem with any long series, though, is it's easy for the author to fall into a rut. It's got to be brutal to keep up the quality with a single set of characters who keep falling into extraordinary circumstances again, and again. I gave up on Joe Lansdale's Hap & Leonard series after Vanilla Ride (2009) and I'm not sure I'll go back to Michael Connelly's Bosch books anytime soon. The only similar things I've stuck it out with are James Lee Burke's Robicheaux books and John Connolly's Charlie Parker series, both largely because they're brilliant prose writers.

It's been ages since I reread Devil in a Blue Dress and it's definitely time for a revisit. The thing is, I stopped with book seven and now there are fourteen. If I start, I'm curious how much, if any, further, I'll get this time. The thing about ditching on a series is you never know what you're missing out on.  For all I know, the best Easy Rawlins book is one I never got to.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Film Noir Los Angeles


A Neighborhood Far Afield (previously post on my other blog in 2009)

In the heart of downtown Los Angeles is the neighborhood of Bunker Hill. Once it was a steep hill covered with Victorian mansions and shops and reached by seemingly impossibly steep trains tracks.

Over time their wealthy owners moved to the suburbs in places like Pasadena and the mansions became apartments and flophouses. The whole area became a giant filming location for film noir movies.

In 1955 the city decided the neighborhood as is stood impeded the city's development. They declared it blighted (which of course, once such a determination was made, only led to area becoming truly blighted), eliminated the 150 foot height limit on new buildings, and leveled the district. Literally. 

About a hundred feet were shaved off the hill, tearing down most of the old buildings and making way for the steel and glass skyscrapers that dominate the downtown today.

I don't know anything about LA and I can't say much about the rightness or wrongness of what was done six decades ago (though I will say I find the look of downtown LA ugly as sin). But I can provide a link to an amazing site (On Bunker Hill) put together by local LA historians and aficionados in order to document the old, and long lost, Bunker Hill. 

(2023) Additionally, there's a movie about American Indians who moved to the are in the late fifties. Most of actors were non-professionals. The movie's plot was derived from documentary interviews. Shot in the Bunker Hill neighborhood, it's got some amazing footage of a neighborhood long gone.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

the Lloyd Hopkins Covers

My first experience with James Ellroy was completely unknowingly when I watched the movie Cop (1988) with James Woods. It wasn't until I started going through Ellroy's catalogue a few years later did I realize his early book, Blood on the Moon (1984) was the film's basis. 

It's been ages since I've seen the movie, but my memory is it's alright. It's pretty brutal and maintains a modicum of the book's weirdness and creepiness. Still, against the book, it's a pale shadow. 

The Lloyd Hopkins Trilogy - Blood on the Moon, Because the Night (1984), and Suicide Hill (1985) - is Ellroy's first series. It's been ages since I've read these, but I remember liking them a lot. Hopkins is too brilliant and the plot's insane, but these are short and fast, and an intimation of greater things to come.

Monday, April 3, 2023

COUGAR BLOOD BOIL! - James Ellroy's First L.A. Quartet

Ellroy's mugshot
My one encounter with James Ellroy came in the mid-nineties (probably 1994) at New York Is Book Country. He was hawking his books and asked me to buy the latest, Hollywood Nocturnes. I told him I already had it and everything else as well. He seemed pleased. Then he offered to sign the balloon my friend was carrying. She, of course, let him. With a flourish, he wrote: Cougar Blood Boil! No one could have asked for anything better.

I found James Ellroy during grad school (1989-1991) when I was in the middle of an obsession with true crime. Right after I had seen something about the murder of Liz Short, aka the Black Dahlia, I remembered seeing a book in the mystery section of the mall bookstore called The Black Dahlia (1987). With no idea of the author's name, I had to go through the shelves, book by book. And then I found it, the author someone I'd never heard of before: James Ellroy.

The first sentence just hinted at the dark obsession that the novel would quickly emerge as the core of one of the most intensely haunting and brutal books I had ever read.

I never knew her in life. She exists for me through others, in evidence of the ways her death drove them. Working backward, seeking only facts, I reconstructed her as a sad little girl and a whore, at best a could-have-been - a tag that might equally apply to me.

Narrated by LAPD detective Bucky Bleichert, The Black Dahlia is the story of his friendship with another cop, Lee Blanchard, and his girlfriend, Kay Lake, and the real-life murder in 1947 of Elizabeth Short. Solving Short's murder displaces everything in Bleichert's life, dragging him deeper and deeper into circles of corruption and depravity that would make Caligula blush.

Ellroy took the 1940s Los Angeles of the great film noirs and Raymond Chandler and turned it into a psychotic fantasy hopped up on violence, booze, sex, and racism. Chandler famously wrote : 

down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.

This is not the case for Beichert or any of the protagonists in Ellroy's books. They are brutal, liars, drunks, and abusers. Still, some of them still have something buried away that still lets them grasp for justice or deliver vengeance in its absence.

The Black Dahlia changed my attitude toward crime fiction. While I had grown up watching every mystery show imaginable (from the brilliant Rockford Files down to the ridiculous Quincy and anything in between), but I had never developed a taste for crime and mystery novels. This book changed all that. 

Once I had plowed through all of Ellroy's available catalogue I turned to the two best-known hardboiled writers, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. I still have to read some of their novels, but I quickly burned through all their short stories. Hammett's Continental Op stories and Chandler's Marlowe stories are brilliant. The Black Lizard editions of their books led me to the Black Lizard editions of Chester Himes' series of novels about two black NYPD detectives; Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson. Those books, all read over 1990 and 1991, set me on the path of reading crime fiction for which I'll be forever grateful.

The Black Dahlia was followed by three more books; The Big Nowhere (1988), L.A. Confidential (1990), and White Jazz (1992). Together, they were called the L.A. Quartet. Each weaves together fictional and historical figures and sets them against the great economic engines of L.A., first home building, then Hollywood, and finally Disney. Ellroy's L.A. is a bottomless-gulletted monster that devours innocence and pukes up sin and corruption. The latter is mere political shenanigans, but the Biblical, soul-destroying stuff. It's not for the timid - it's epically harrowing - but the reward is one of the greatest undertakings in crime writing. (If you like the movie L.A. Confidential - which I do - just know that it eliminated an entire subplot involving a child killer who happens to be the son of a Walt Disney stand-in)

Ellroy's writing is akin to Chandler's but hopped up on speed and booze. As the quartet proceeded, the writing became increasingly elaborate and the storytelling complex and complicated. With White Jazz, he flipped the table. Supposedly in response to his editor's request to trim the book's length, instead of excising sub-plots, he eliminated any words he could. White Jazz is the memoir of a corrupt cop on speed and it reads that way:

Robbery, sweet duty: jack up heist guys and boost their shit.

Work the Commie: phone calls.

Fred Turentine, bug man-yes for five hundred. Pete Bondurant-yes for a grand-and he'd pay the photo guy. Pete, Hush-Hush cozy-more heat on the smear.

 The Women's Jail watch boss ower me; a La Verne Benson update cashed her out. La Verne-prostituion beef number three-no bail, no trial date. La Verne to the phone-suppose we lose your rap sheet-yes! yes! Yes!

Antsy-my standard postmurder shakes. Antsy to itchy-drive.

After not having read anything by Ellroy all the way through in a long time, I'm thinking it might be time for a revisit. At some point, I overdosed. I was exhausted after I finished American Tabloid (1995), the first of the Underworld USA trilogy. I bought the second book, The Cold Six Thousand (2001) and never read it. I never bothered buying the final one, Blood's a Rover (2009), and eventually sold the first two. He'd abandoned the crazed experiment of White Jazz and crafted something too-similar to the Big Nowhere and L.A. Confidential but amped up a million white-hot degrees. It just wasn't worth it. 

That was over twenty years ago, so it might be time to revisit Ellroy. I never reneged on my love for the L.A. Quartet. When they came out, I bought copies of Perfidia and This Storm, but I before I go at them, I really think I need to go back to where it all started in The Black Dahlia.