Blood’s a Rover
This concludes the Underworld USA Trilogy, which began with American Tabloid and continued through The Cold Six Thousand. Flashbacks and recapitulations permit the reader to begin with this volume and catch up. A brutal armored car heist in the prologue provides a gradually unfolding mystery that unifies a story that takes place in a dizzying variety of locations. (Las Vegas, Los Angeles,Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, to name a few.) The mob, the CIA, the FBI, the Ku Klux Klan, anti-Castro fanatics, Howard Hughes’s Mormon employees, militant Blacks and others interact to create history and then conspire to cover their tracks. The point of view is often that of a neophyte private detective, usually referred to as the peeper, who becomes obsessed with mysterious beauties with radical left-wing pasts. Many of the characters interact with an increasingly senile J. Edgar Hoover, but he is far from the motivating force of their actions. Once conspiracies are set in motion, they take on a life of their own, with greed, idealism, vengeance and romance all contributing to the course of events.
Ellroy uses casually racist and routinely homophobic language to create an imagined underworld. For example, a “fruit shake” means entrapping and shaking down homosexuals. Descriptions of shootings are frequent and vivid: “Dwight spat blood in his face.Scotty pulled up his vest and gut-shot him. The air was cloud-thick. The cordite fumes stung.”
Chapters are short narratives, sometimes mixed with transcripts of wiretaps or newspaper headlines. In this unusual historical novel, we see the basic chronology of public events, but we are let in on the secret story behind the scenes. If you like your fiction hard-boiled and brutal, this is recommended.