Sunday, November 27, 2005

Nor the nails of the cross nor the blood of Christ can bring you hope this eve

Do you like your novels dark and bitter, like your shriveled, decaying soul? Then you have probably already started reading James Ellroy. Ellroy has become synonymous with a number of things including: near dystopian depictions of American life in the 20th century; violence; small crimes tied to larger conspiracies driven by corrupt politicians and cops; a world where everyone is corrupt; epic length novels; experimentation in language and heavily damaged heroes who often are killed. Given this wealth of association, when you hear that a new novel reminds someone of James Ellroy you have to ask, in what way?

Michael Simon's Dirty Sally is set in Austin in the 80s. OK so Ellroy is all about LA in the 50s and 60s. There are brutal killings, a corrupt police force composed of homicidal rednecks and a few lonely outsiders. The local civic leadership is implicated in some nasty business that gets our hero, properly damaged and lusting after his dead partner's wife, into the shit. So yeah thematically it is much like Ellroy. The language isn't as good, but it is this guy's first novel. It is also much more brisk, capable of being consumed in a long evening. Ellroy will wear you out before that happens. I think his future books will be even better. That is often review code for "don't read this one, wait for later ones." In this case, if you like darkly toned mysteries, I say pick this one up.

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