“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Burke’s A Rover


Off with me yesterday to Belfast to interview James Ellroy, who’s on the circuit promoting BLOOD’S A ROVER, and a marvellous day it was too. Mr James Ellroy was charm personified, an elegant, erudite and self-effacing interviewee who also understands the worth of a mutually beneficial stand-out quote or ten. I liked him a lot, which was nice, because it’s not always a good thing to meet your heroes, and I think Ellroy is one of the best writers on the planet. Hence the irrepressibly smug demeanour of yours truly above, although Mr James Ellroy doesn’t seem to be enjoying the occasion anywhere as much, despite his protests of ‘Man, I’m digging it,’ to the contrary. Oh, and I probably shouldn’t have worn my favourite shirt, the one with the hole in the elbow …
  Anyway, I bumped into Gerard Brennan of CSNI going into the Waterfront gig where Ellroy was appearing, and he seems a pretty nice bloke too. He’s less evil-looking in person than he is in his blog pic, which was a relief. He had some bad news during the week, by the way, so pop over to CSNI and cheer him up.
  Afterwards I met Andrew Pepper. I’d met Andrew earlier in the year, at the Bristol CrimeFest, and a nicer guy to while away a couple of coffees you won’t meet in a country mile. He has a new novel coming out next February, the fourth in the Pyke series, called THE DETECTIVE BRANCH. I’ll keep you posted …
  In between, Stuart Neville interviewed James Ellroy, and did a very fine job (kudos to Dave Torrans of No Alibis, who not only arranged the gig, but provided yours truly with a couple of free tickets). Ellroy did a reading dedicated to (I paraphrase) ‘all you perverts, peepers, panty-sniffers and pimps’ in the audience. I’m pretty sure he uses the same dedication every time he does a reading, and that his performance is similar wherever he goes, because there’s an compelling sense of theatre to what Ellroy does in a live context. He does perform, and he just about stops short of howling at the moon in the process. It’s all very polished and effective and damn near electrifying. Having said all that, it’s worth bearing in mind that the most important part of the performance are the words themselves. What Saturday night taught me is (1) it’s no harm for a writer to get in touch with ancient tradition of bardic poetry when performing a reading; and (2) it’s no harm for a writer to make sure his words are worth hearing out loud if he’s going to stand up on a stage and start reciting them.
  Off with us then (I was with an old college mate, Big Joe Lindsay, who works for BBC NI, and whom every second person in Belfast seems to know) for a Pimms or two, fetching up in the wee hours in a beautifully ramshackle club run by David Holmes, whom one or two of you might remember as the man on soundtrack duties for Steven Soderbergh’s movie Out of Sight. Given that that soundtrack is one of my all-time faves, it was nice that Big Joe (naturally) knew David Holmes, and made the intros. Big Joe plays some tunes on BBC NI himself, by the way, which is well worth checking out ...
  The evening ended shortly after I started waving my mobile phone around and showing pictures of the Princess Lilyput, which is always a sign that I’ve had one Pimms too many.
  Sunday morning I got up and read my review of James Ellroy’s BLOOD’S A ROVER, which I loved (the novel, not the review). I wrote the review two days after finishing the novel, though, and at this stage (three weeks on) I think it’s an even better novel than I gave it credit for – more subtle than I appreciated at the time, I think, and a more elegant, enduring work than either of the ‘Underworld USA’ books that preceded it. Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s my two cents
  Finally, here’s David Holmes’ ‘Rip Rip’ from the Out of Sight soundtrack. “Tighten up yo panties, boy …” Roll it there, Collette …

7 comments:

bookwitch said...

Haven't read him.

Please get your wife to dress you in future.

Dana King said...

Sounds like big fun. Will your interview be available online?

Declan Burke said...

Ms Witch - Dressing myself is one of the few tiny independences I have left at this point ... Don't begrudge me a holey elbow.

And you owe it to yourself to read at least one James Ellroy. He's wonderful.

Dana - Hopefully I'll have said interview up on ye blogge once it's published, which should be by Thursday or Friday ...

Cheers, Dec

bookwitch said...

Which one?

Declan Burke said...

I'd start with LA Confidential, ma'am ... although others might make other suggestions. If you get past the first 10 pages, you'll be hooked for life.

Cheers, Dec

fmk said...

I once made the mistake of reading all his books - up to and including American Tabloid - over the course of one Summer. Talk about lit indigestion. But American Tabloid really did impress me that much and I wanted more just like it.

While I hated The Cold Six Thousand have to confess that Blood's A Rover's a stonking read, with a real plot that keeps you turning the pages.

For anyone new to Ellroy, I would say American Tabloid's the best place to begin - it's his best book by a mile.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I saw and heard Ellroy read in Philadelphia on Sept. 30. He was ebullient, bouncing off the walls, getting the crowd eating out of his hand. He looked a bit grumpy during the signing lineup, though.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
“Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”
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