Ellroy bleeds for Hopkins

Book covers

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

– apocryphal, Ernest Hemingway


The Lloyd Hopkins trilogy is not Lee Earle ‘James’ Ellroy’s first work, nor his best.  But I can see that he sat his typewriter and bled to produce it.  Perhaps he just didn’t bleed quite enough.  It seems that Hopkins is Ellroy’s fictional alter ego: tall, energetic, nervy, intuitive.  A genius cop who breaks all the rules.  A womaniser who ruins his marriage that way.  A dark past that hovers over him.

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Underworld USA: America unimagined

Ellroy’s homecoming in three movements

American Tabloid

Look at the Prez … look at the clown car. There they go, pretending to be real people. There they go, pretending to be running the world. Can’t be! Those people? No way!


Waaaaaaay back.

1990s … 1970s … 1950s.


Look at them now. No. Not the ones in the foreground. Zoom past them. Zoom below the popular cast. Sharpen the focus on what’s underneath.

See the unfamiliar faces? See them talk and move about. See them hate and love. See them get it right and fuck it up. See them project the shadows that are the familiar faces and events.

That’s what James Ellroy wants in ‘Underworld USA’. Three books. American Tabloid (1995), The Cool Six Thousand (2001), Blood’s a Rover (2009).

American history 1958-1973. Told the way it never was, with characters that never were, who explain the characters we always knew, and how things really were.

Ellroy channelling Will Graham from the Hannibal fiction? Immersed so deeply in the subject he comes out transcribing a Zeitgeist mind-set of that era. Like it’s an unhealthy obsession. Like it’s an alien psychology. Like it’s a sickness?

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