Dig. The Demon Dog gets down with a new book of scenes from America's capital of kink: Los Angeles. Fourteen pieces, some fiction, some nonfiction, all true enough to be admissible as state's evidence, and half of it in print for the first time. And every one of them bearing the James Ellroy brand of mayhem, machismo, and hollow-nose prose.
Here are Mexican featherweights and unsolved-murder vics, crooked cops and a very clean D.A. Here is a profile of Hollywood's latest celebrity perp-walker, Robert Blake, and three new novellas featuring a demented detective with an obsession with a Hollywood actress. And, oh yes, just maybe the last appearance of Hush-Hush sleaze-monger Danny Getchell. Here's Ellroy himself, shining a 500-watt Mag light into all the dark places of his life and imagination. Destination: Morgue! puts the reader's attention in a hammerlock and refuses to let go.
The Demon Dog is back with a second volume of previously uncollected works (following 1999's Crime Wave), most published during his stint as a writer-at-large for GQ. The essays "Where I Get My Weird Shit" and "My Life as a Creep" chronicle his childhood: the 1958 murder of his mother; a West Hollywood upbringing by his sex-obsessed father; a '60s and '70s coming-of-age replete with Benzedrex binges, "Nazi antics" and superheroic feats of breaking and entering. Young Ellroy obsesses over the femme fatales of pulp and porn, whose images he projects onto murder victims and probation officers alike. In "Stephanie," a grown-up Ellroy tags along with the LAPD when a 40-year-old homicide case involving a girl from his old neighborhood is reopened. Ellroy's greatest hits go on--Mexican boxers, dirty cops, D-list celebrity murders--and devotees will especially welcome the return of lecherous muckraker Danny Getchell. The newest additions, three novellas spanning 200 pages, are told from the perspective of rhino-skin-sporting LAPD dick Rick Jenson, who's got a sore spot for a tough 'n' tumble Hollywood actress. Ellroy's punchy, lingo-laden prose and caustic edge are as sharp as ever, but readers unaccustomed to his penchant for alliteration may not be able to stomach the newer stuff, where sentences like "Crime crystallized crisp in my cranial cracks," interspersed with Dragnet-like reportage, are the order of the day.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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September 27, 2004
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Excerpt from Destination: Morgue! by James Ellroy
Blood sport declawed and reregulated. Cockfights for aesthetes and wimps.
Boxing is microcosm. Boxing baits pundits. Boxing rips writers and rags them to riff.
Boxing taps testosterone. Boxing bangs to the balls. Boxing mauls and makes you mine meaning.
Mexican boxing is:
Boxing distilled. Boxing stoicized. Boxing hyperbolized.
Mexican boxing is machismo magnified. Mexican boxing is bristling bravado. Mexican boxing means you die for love and live to impress and subjugate your buddies.
Vegas boxing is:
Lowlife pomp. Westminster West. Best-of-weight class as best-of-breed.
Vegas boxing is Rome revived. Gladiators divert high rollers. Imperial goons exploit muscled maxi-men and mainline their money.
I got the word:
Erik Morales meets Marco Antonio Barrera.
Junior featherweights. Title tiff. Vegas.
I had to go.
I love boxing. We go back.
My folks divorced in '55. My dad got me weekends. We holed up. We watched the fights.
We had a bubble-screen TV. We snarfed Cheez Whiz. My dad rooted on race and "heart."
He liked white fighters best. He liked Mexicans next. He liked Negroes last.
Heart eclipsed race. Heart mitigated race. Heart gave Mexicans White Man status.
"Mexican" meant all Latins. Mexican meant some Italians. Mexican meant the Cuban Negro Kid Gavilan.
My dad fucked up race and geography. He was a Wasp. He hit L.A. and learned Spanish. He dug inclusiveness. He knew the White Man ruled. He knew the Brown Man craved in.
He wanted him in. If he kicked ass to his specifications.
Race. Heart. My early education.
I lived in L.A. I watched TV fights. I watched fights live.
The Olympic. The Hollywood Legion Stadium.
Smoke. Ceiling lights. Beer and crushed peanuts.
My dad took me. We sat with Mexicans. We watched Mexicans kick triracial ass.
My dad went chameleon. My dad gestured wild. My dad Mexicanized.
He talked to Mexican men. He slapped their backs. He translated for me.
Male-speak. My early education.
Headhunter. Go to the body. Cut off the ring.
Pendejo. Cojones. Maricon.
My dad divided Mexicans. Illegal immigrants were "wet-backs."
Wetbacks had heart. They swam the Rio Grande. They sought trabajo.
They scuffled. They worked hard. They craved White Man
Hoodlums were Pachucos. Pachucos lacked heart.
They oiled their hair. They overbred. They packed switchblades.
They shivved cops. They smoked mary jane. They disdained White Man status.
I met two Mexican kids. Reyes and Danny. They came from T.J.
They saw T.J. fights. They saw the mule show. They loved Art Aragon and Lauro Salas.
We smoked mary jane. I was ten years old.
I got dizzy. I punched the air like a maricon.
My mother died. I bunked full-time with my dad. We watched fights. We snarfed TV dinners.
Welterweights. Title tiff. Don Jordan versus Virgil "Honeybear" Akins.
Jordan wins. Jordan's a Dominican negrito.
He's mulatto. My dad digs him. My dad grants him Mexican status.
He's psycho. He was a child hit man. He killed men at age ten. He killed thirty men in a month.
Mexicans were killers. My dad said so. My dad spoke Spanish. My dad saw the mule show. My dad knew his shit.
Light heavyweights. Title tiff. Archie Moore versus Yvon Durelle.
It's Armageddon. Moore wins. Moore's Negro. Durelle's Quebecois.
My dad upgrades Moore's racial status. Moore gets Mexicanized. My dad downgrades Durelle. Durelle gets Mexicanized.
Durelle "eats leather." Durelle "leads with his face."
Welterweights. Title tiff. Jordan bows to Benny "Kid" Paret.
Paret's a Cuban Negro. My dad hates him. My dad gets his race right.
Welterweights. Title tiff. Paret versus Emile Griffith.
Griffith's Negro. Griffith's island-bred. Griffith stomps Paret.
Paret trash-talked Griffith. Paret called him queer.
Sex hate. Revenge. My early education.
I went to fights. I watched TV fights. I read fight magazines.
I still lived in L.A. I bopped around. I dug racial stratification.
Negroes lived south. Mexicans lived east. Whites lived everywhere.
Negroes craved civil rights. Mexicans craved conflict and personal honor.
Mexicans grew small. Mexicans moved swift. Mexicans ran stoic and expansive.
Mexicans coveted. Mexicans aspired. Mexicans knew the White Man was El Jefe.
Mexicans hobnobbed with whites. Common tastes united. Common language flowed.
Chili con carne. Una cerveza, por favor. Hook to the liver.
I Mexicanized. I Mexicanized with Wasp circumspection.
I wore Sir Guy shirts. I provoked fights with little kids. I notched mixed results.
I lacked power. I lacked skill. I lacked speed. I lacked heart.
It showed. My defeats were ignominious. My victories were pathetic.
I was sixteen. I stood 6'2?. I weighed 120. My dad said I ruled the Toilet-Paper-Weight Division.