To conclude his first LA Quartet, James Ellroy goes back to his roots a little: the entirety of this book is told in the first person as opposed to the shifting points-of-view we usually get from his other stuff. The result is as my headline says: an entertaining mess.
When reading the first few chapters, I was relieved to only have to follow one character’s motives instead of three or four. But as with the rest of his books, the plotting here is dense and having it filtered through the POV of only one character, it becomes unwieldy. Too many characters to keep track of and some function to sprout exposition and nothing else. Ellroy’s novels will never be described as “tight” or having a good flow but this one in particular is a rocky follow.
The story is so similar to LA Confidential, that it almost seems like Ellroy’s only inspiration for this is to ape himself. Big overarching conspiracy involving cops, the mob, politicians, and the usual exploitation of black and brown people. It stands as unique on its own until near the end, where there are a lot of callbacks to its prequel, particularly the continued rivalry between two cops who survived the events of that book. Nevertheless, Ellroy’s writing style gives this enough gas to finish.
So why do I like Ellroy now? Why do I read something that confused and confounded me to no end and put up with awful characters designed to draw my ire? There’s an interesting subplot following the actual historical event of the eviction of Mexican-Americans who lived in Chavez Ravine, which Ellroy covers with his usual cynicism. Instead of celebrating the new Los Angeles Dodgers, everyone in the book has their hands out looking to make a buck. Depressing though it is, it reminded me of why I stick with these books despite their characters brazen racism and misogyny: they are real about the world they inhabit and real about how they deal with one another. There was a time when such a cynical view held little appeal for me but we live in cynical times.