[By Nic Lindh on Friday, 22 October 2004]
Destination: MORGUE!, like its predecessor Crime Wave is a collection of articles James Ellroy wrote for GQ Magazine together with three new novellas.
As is Ellroy’s trademark, the articles are brutally honest and direct, chronicling his twisted youth, the sickness of Hollywood and the attendant culture of star gazing, how L.A. is in his bones, as well as his continuing obsession with unsolved crimes–especially sexual murders of women. As always, the writing is fantastic and Ellroy pulls no punches. For such an obsessive and tormented individual to open himself up as much as he does, and to offer absolutely no apologies for his depravities is bracing to say the least in this climate of homogeneity and manufactured rebellion. That being said, though, there’s not that much new here and there’s a whiff of rehash.
The three interconnected novellas are collected under the rubric of Rick Loves Donna. Their titles pretty much say it all: Hollywood Fuckpad, Hot-Prowl Rape-O, and Jungletown Jihad. You would not be wrong in surmising that we’re dealing with full-on undiluted noir like only Ellroy can bring it. The novellas are good and interesting but alas far from his peak in the L.A. Quartet (which isn’t very harsh criticism as those four novels are arguably the finest crime writing ever produced). The novellas also suffer from the style–they are written in the alliterative style of Hush-Hush, which gets tiresome. A sample:
The living room: bleak, blank-walled, and bereft of furniture. The kitchen: cleaned out completely. The bathroom and bedroom: bug-sprayed, Lysol-lapped, and furniture-free.
It starts to hurt after a while.
Nevertheless, if you’re an Ellroy fan, Destination: MORGUE! is well worth a read. If you’re one of the unfortunates who haven’t yet descended into his particular version of Hell, The Black Dahlia is the best point of entry.
Here’s the opening paragraph from Hollywood Fuck Pad:
My promotion/transfer slip arrived–Hollywood Patrol to Hollywood Homicide. Holly_weird_–rectal-raped runaways, cocaine killeristas, fag-in-the-bag body dumps. I was 31. I had four years in patrol. I was testosterone-torqued and pumped. It was fall ‘83. Ray-Gun was Prez. Gates was Chief. _Dragnet_ still reran. O.J. was a Westside splib. Rodney King was a cannibal couched in the Congo. LAPD was King!!!!!
Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood it ain’t.