Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The forgotten author

It's funny what happens to our reading habits, and those favourite authors who we read religiously, hunting down every new release the moment it hits the shelves.

I was reading Nick Stone's blog earlier - Nick wrote the ultra-cool Max Mingus thrillers Mr Clarinet and King of Swords - and he mentioned that he was reading the new James Ellroy, Blood's a Rover, the final installment in his American Underworld trilogy.

Ellroy has fallen off my radar. Having devoured everything up to and including his utterly brilliant LA Quartet - The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential and White Jazz - I bought American Tabloid, the first in the Underworld trilogy, but struggled to get into it.

In his early novels, and the trilogy featuring brutal cop Lloyd Hopkins, Ellroy had a sparse writing style, but it flowed beautifully. As the LA Quartet progressed, that style changed, until by White Jazz he was writing in what has been termed 'telegraphic prose', omitting all connecting words and using short sentences.

White Jazz, while a great book, had grated on me slightly, and I was coming off a run of particularly stylishly written books when I picked up American Tabloid. I read a few pages and put it down, aiming to return at some point in the future. That never happened, and I don't think I can find a reasonable answer as to why; Ellroy just slipped off my must-read list.

But Nick's post has rekindled a fire. I dismissed American Tabloid far too easily, and Ellroy's back catalogue deserves more. I've retrieved Tabloid from the bookshelf and dusted it off. It now sits with new friends, in a pile of to-be-read books. It's a fair chunk of a size, and the second in the series - The Cold Six Thousand - is even bigger. So this could take some time.

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