The James Ellroy Reading Challenge – An Update

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I am making my way through the James Ellroy books that I’ve not read yet – I promise this is true!

Blood’s a Rover took me a week to read and whilst not quite up there with the previous books in the American Tabloid trilogy it was still bloody excellent and proved a fitting end to it. A fuller review will be posted on here in due course.

I’m currently reading My Dark Places which I first started some seventeen years ago and was defeated by. I’m obviously older and wiser now and have already progressed way further than I did back then!

My aim is to finish it and then do a review of both books so far.

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A Book Review: Cal Moriarty – The Killing of Bobbi Lomax

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I know, I know – I promised a lot of things for this blog a few weeks ago and they are on their way I promise but first up I want to rave about a book that I read over the weekend.

Cal Moriarty is a screenwriter and a former private eye and The Killing of Bobbi Lomax is her first novel which is getting rave reviews all over the place. Sometimes I come to books with hype or incredible amounts of high praise behind them and having finished them come away feeling slightly underwhelmed – I will name no names – but this isn’t the case with The Killing of Bobbi Lomax  – or if you don’t mind, TKOBL.

As the book begins two people including Bobbi Lomax the young wife of a older local businessman Alan have been killed by bombs and the local police are struggling to work out the reasons behind the bombings. A third bomb has just gone off and detectives Marty Sinclair and Al Alvarez are heading to the scene where they find the third victim Clark Houseman still alive and he manages to whisper a name: “Hartman” before he is whisked off to hospital. With that we travel back a few months to Vegas where Houseman has travelled to conduct some business away from the prying eyes of “The Faith”.

This is where TKOBL got me hooked and led me spend a large part of my weekend crashed out of the sofa and in bed reading – The Faith isn’t given a name but with mentions of prophets, scared texts dictated to the prophet and his wife, polygamy and illicit alcohol drinking you don’t have to have a doctorate in religions of the world to know that we’re talking about Mormonism here and quite simply I loved this aspect of the book. The Faith permeates every aspect of the story, from the way in which the local police function to the everyday lives of every single character in the book, The Faith is invasive and leads people to do stupid and illogical things and to behave in what their leaders would deem to be immoral ways – TVs are hidden away as are drink cabinets on wheels, people vanish or leave and are never heard from again but at the same time one of the protagonists – the latest victim is seen in the flashbacks – is using The Faith’s faith to plot against them. By using his particular skills he exploits their need to keep their faith sacrosanct and pure and in doing so aims to further his own needs and social standing.

I really enjoyed this book; I liked the lead detectives’ relationship, the delicate reveal of Detective Sinclair’s backstory is subtle and all the more believable because of that. All too often damaged cops’ reasons for being damaged can be shoehorned in with the sound of a klaxon sounding but not in this instance and having been tweeted by Cal Moriarty over the weekend about her next book I really hope that this is explored further in her future work.

The details of the sting enthralled me, not just the practical details of how a forger works and how he creates his pieces but also the research that goes into it all and the sacrifices he makes, the risks he takes and how a man can be blinded by greed when initially his reason for conning The Faith are deeply personal.  It’s important to say that the level of detail contained in these passages is never overwhelming and it always convinces, it feels like it could have – and possible has – happened.*

It was however the aspects of the book that dealt with The Faith that intrigued me and drew me deeper into the story. There’s something about Mormonism that fascinates me, I’ve read a lot about their history and it’s genuinely a thought provoking story which continues to develop as they expand across the globe. The sections of TKOBL that dealt with The Faith and their meetings with Houseman reminded me of the HBO series Big Love and this really isn’t a bad thing as that was a wonderful show that really deserved a bigger audience over here in the UK.

As the story progresses we see the leaders of The Faith and their Supreme Leader seemingly blinded by their desire to own their history and in doing some becoming prepared to acquiesce to the demands of Houseman so that they can remain the one true faith whilst at the same time destroy their enemies.

The Killing of Bobbi Lomax is a book about faith, love, criminality, revenge, family, loss and the all-encompassing  panoramic experience that is the American Way.** It more than lived up to the online hype that has been growing over the last month or so and I highly recommend that you read it!

*This was only re-enforced when having finished the book I went on the BBC News website and saw a story about a first edition of Peter Pan that’s just gone on sale – when you read the book it’ll make sense why I said “No way!” to myself.

** I’m so sorry – I have serious doubts about the end of that sentence but I’ve gone with it.

My James Ellroy Reading Challenge

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Five years ago at a Waterstones in Bristol I bought the paperback of Blood’s a Rover by James Ellroy. I’d read a lot of his books over the years preceding its release in paperback and I really liked a lot of what I read and if I’m going to be honest some not so much but I did consider myself a fan.

I never read Blood’s a Rover – it’s still on my to read list over on Goodreads but this evening having sorted out the books on my Kindle I made a decision to undertake a blog reading challenge which I have given the following snappy title:

“Gruffsdad Goes Back to Ellroy and Reads the Books by Him That He’s Not Read Yet.”

First up will be the aforementioned Blood’s a Rover just as soon as I’ve finished Garnethill by Denise Mina* who is also another author whose back catalogue I’m currently making my way through.

I don’t know how long this challenge will take but I know that you my loyal and patient blog readers will wish me luck and I’ll report in to let you know how I’m getting on. As a bonus to get you back here, over the next few weeks I will post the following things:

  • A review of Denise Mina’s Garnethill
  • A review of a Super Furry Animals gig
  • A review of a Belle & Sebastian gig
  • A restaurant review

So that’s it for now but please come back soon.

* I’m on course to finish it tomorrow – parenting got in the way of my reading today.