I finished L.A.Confindential today. It was an intricate, compelling book that I can't say I liked very much.
Here's the thing. I'm a sensitive gal, and even in this age of gangsta rappin and recalmation and irony irony irony, I fucking can't stand hearing the word "nigger." Same goes for its more dated antecendants. This book is full of that word and others, so much so I felt abused after a certain point. To me, there is nothing more ugly and hurtful than a mind full of hatred and fear, especially one with a cop's mouth attached. Rapid-fire racial epiteths take the joy out of reading/hearing any work for me, no matter how well crafted, or well observed it is.
Yeah, yeah, I get that Ellroy was going for authenticity-- 50s cop slang is a varied and colorful languauge, and I can see why it would be amazingly attractive to an author to immerse himself in it, flog it for all its exciting quaintness- the "real" side of the Bogie coin. I'm sure cops talked that way, and do today in some places. I know he wanted the brutality of a cops life in a famously white-washed time to come through for the reader. But let me tell you folks, in the end I just couldn't dig it.
Ellroy rockets the story along with greatly nuanced POVs-- his celebrity gossip rag prose is some seriously well-crafted shit. It was a good ride through a world of mobsters, crooked cops and politicans, diners, dive bars and whorehouses, but something was just wrong. For all its smarts, L.A. Confidential was missing, uh, let me get a little B-movie here: heart. You can't write a love letter (even if its a love letter to violence and a time long past) without love. Instead we get a feeling that Ellroy was trying to out-write his demons and purge himself of a world that held only despair*, by spewing out all the hate he could muster, and giving hmself a total boner in the process.
*James Ellroy's mother was murdered in Hollywood when he was a little boy. Her killer was never found. I look forward to reading his memoir, My Dark Places, about it. Thanks to Ms. Void for reminding me about that book...