The LA Times has a puff piece on James Ellroy, occasioned by a four-part memoir that's being published in Playboy, about - yet again - his mother's unsolved murder and its distorting influence on his relationships with women. I just finished the third part, and it's not very good. Ellroy began his career as a competent, somewhat skillfull writer of hard-boiled crime novels, but his style and sensibiity have long ago imploded into an alliterative, rat-tat-tat minimalism that is totally wrong for autobiographical nonfiction. Frankly, I don't think Ellroy can create convincing characters, including his presentation of himself in the Playboy series. His first memoir, My Dark Places, was an unsatisfying book, basically a padded magazine article. His Joe Friday recreation of the police investigation of his mother's death was a bust. The only interesting portion was his account of his ill spent adolescence and adulthood. He's revisited this period a couple of times for articles published in GC and he's mined his past thoroughly by now. He keeps going back to the well, but it's dried out. Ellroy has an amazing personal story that makes him a publicist's dream. It's ironic that his literary exploitation of it have been so disappointing.
Labels: James Ellroy