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An Ellrovian Journey

February 1, 2016

I have a piece in The Rap Sheet in which I discuss my new book on James Ellroy and my lifelong interest in the author. Here’s a taste:

It was a blurred image of the Kennedy motorcade which first brought my attention to the work of James Ellroy. I was in my mid-teens, on holiday with my parents on the south coast of England, when a leisurely detour through a local bookshop led me to spot a striking book cover that looked like it had been adapted from the Zapruder film: it was James Ellroy’s novel American Tabloid. I had never read Ellroy before, but a novel about the Kennedy assassination seemed interesting. Sure enough, a few pages in and I was gripped. Ellroy portrayed the assassination conspiracy from an Underworld perspective. His characters were brutal but sympathetic, the prose seemed both telegraphic and poetic. But what stood out more than anything else was Ellroy’s unapologetic determination to make the reader empathise with the characters who ultimately conspire to kill Kennedy. As he put it in the prologue, ‘America was never innocent. We popped our cherry on the boat over and looked back with no regrets.’

Of course back then I had no idea that I would one day write a book about Ellroy, but it was that chance discovery in a bookshop that was the genesis of what I like to call my ‘Ellrovian Journey’, a journey that culminated in the release last September of James Ellroy: Demon Dog of Crime Fiction, the latest addition in Palgrave Macmillan’s Crime Files series. Previous entries have included Barry Forshaw’s Death in a Cold Climate (2012) and Lee Horsley’s The Noir Thriller (2001). With this study of Ellroy, I have considered all of Ellroy’s major works, examining how his writing style has changed between novels. I have also analysed the role Ellroy’s Demon Dog of American Crime Fiction persona has played in his literary career.

You can read the full piece here.

Ellroy Powell

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