Monday, November 2, 2009

October's Best Reads

Recommended Reads from October, in the order I read them:

The Friends of Eddie Coyle
, George V. Higgins – A seminal book. Few crime fiction writers since have been unaffected by Higgins’s work, and this is the book that got him noticed. Should be on a shelf with Chandler, Hammett, et al for crime fiction writers, and anyone else interested in how the gerne has evolved.

Chasing Darkness, Robert Crais – Possibly the best Elvis and Joe novel. The story sizzles, and Crais has a keen sense of how a PI can never really put things right, but has to be satisfied with explanations. Pike has been humanized by his solo turn in The Watchman, and all the other bit players in Crais’s repertory company are used to best advantage. This book kept me away from the bar the night before Bouchercon so I could finish it.

Blood’s a Rover, James Ellroy – The final volume in his American Trilogy, after American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand, and definitely not for everyone. Ellroy writes with a disdain for convention and good taste to pull the reader into his alternate universe of the Sixties and Seventies. Not as nihilistic as TC6K, and a slightly easier read. Oscar Levant once said there is a line between genius and insanity, and he had crossed it. Ellroy straddles it. You’ll love this book or hate it, or you won’t be sure which. You won’t be indifferent, and you’ll never forget it.


Charlieopera said...

I owe my writing butt to George V. Higgins. Try his next two (Digger's Game and Cogan's Trade) ... equally as good.

Dana King said...

Thanks for stopping by, Charlie. I'll add them to the list.

Charlieopera said...

Dana: What did you think of the Cold 6,000? I couldn't get through it and had started it several times.

On the other hand, I thought American Tabloid one of the best crime novels ever.

Dana King said...

I thought The Cold Six Thousand was the most unpleasant reading experience I'd ever had, and looked forward to Blood's a Rover with mixed emotions. I read the whole book, partly because I'm stubborn that way, but I can't say enjoyed any of it at the time.

I'm going to go back and start reading Ellroy's older work, maybe starting with Tabloid, then reading the LA Quartet in order. There's a visceral energy in his writing no one else has. But the Cold Six Thousand left me cold.

Charlieopera said...

Interesting. I couldn't get through it (50 or so pages before I gave up). Someone in LA told me there's a cadence to it (they had seen Ellroy read it) and that once you're familiar with the cadence it works, but I couldn't find it.

I've been following Rover in Playboy and have this to say (still haven't finished the last installment this month): Enough arlready. It's the same story ... over and over.

Hey, that reads like me breaking Dusty's shoes over at his blog about politics ...

That said, like I said, Tabloid is one of my favorite ever crime novels. I like his earlier stuff a lot more than the last few. He does have manic energy, though ... and one hell of a vocabulary.

Dana King said...

You're not alone in your assessment of TC6K. Adrian McKinty is a huge Ellroy fan, and had a discussion on his blog a while back about TC6K, gave me props for finishing it. I guess the usual reactions are either to love it, or put it down. Like I said, I'm just stubborn.

I understand the comment about a rhythm to his writing. I never found it in TC6K, but I think I did in Rover. I'd like to hear him read sometime.

Charlieopera said...

I read a little more of Rover in Playboy this morning while on the throne before heading to the gym. I put it down to look at the pictures ... I had read My Dark Places a long time ago and I guess it's just reading too much the same for me. And I don't care about his personal life enough, I suppose. The guy is uber talented and has penned some classic noir, but his personal stuff just doesn't do it for me. Rover is a big disappointment for me (glad I didn't pay for it) ... The Playboy Forum was more interesting.

Charlieopera said...

Dana, I appreciate your comments at Dave's place but do yourself a favor and stay out of it because this guy knows no bounds (seriously). I was waiting for his acceptance of an apology until 11:00 a.m. and thought it was time to respond in kind (I did at my place:

Again, I do appreciate your kind words. I actually like Dave and I'm kind of shocked at how much I upset him. I wish he'd put the post back up so others could see just how vicious he got straight away (he likes telling people they have their heads up their asses and then expects no return volley).

Anyway, I do try to be fair and lord knows I'm wrong at least as often as I'm right (probably much more) but so it goes.

Mike Dennis said...

Dana, I'd like to jump in here if I could. I'm an admirer of James Ellroy, and I believe his LA Quartet was one of the great accomplishments of American crime fiction. His Underworld USA Trilogy was even more ambitious, but not quite as successful, IMHO.

A few weeks ago on my blog, I posted a piece called "Waiting For James Ellroy", in which I said that I loved "American Tabloid" and was looking forward to "Blood's A Rover". However, when it came to "The Cold Six Thousand", I had committed a capital crime: I read it all the way up to seven pages before the end, and then...put it down.

Anyway, I finished "Blood's A Rover" and recently reviewed it on my blog, but it doesn't come close to "Tabloid".

Regardless of one's personal opinion, it can't be denied that Ellroy stirs the emotions.

Dana King said...

Thanks for stopping by. I read your Ellroy post and largely agree with it; my comment is there.

If anyone is interested, I also reviewed THE COLD SIX THOUSAND, for New Mystery Reader. It can be found at

Charlieopera said...

Mike, please post the address of the review. I couldn't access it from your name above.

I just read your review, Dana. Boy was I off the cliff on my read. I had thought Rover (from reading some of it in Playboy) was an extension of Ellroy's "Dark Places" ... which proves one shouldn't partially read anything (for better or worse). I guess I have the Dark Places cadence still in my head. I was never able to get the 6K cadence right.

Mike Dennis said...

Charlie, the address of the review is

Charlieopera said...

Thanks, Dennis. I posted there.