four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
44-Jan-Feb-2010
By: 
James Ellroy
user_rating: 
0

A-Bloods a RoverThe final installment in noir master James Ellroy's Underworld USA Trilogy, Blood's a Rover (whose title is taken from a poem by A. E. Housman) follows American Tabloid (1995) and The Cold Six Thousand (2001) in its bleak reimagining of the social and political upheaval between 1968 and 1972.

The Story: In 1964, an armored car heist in South Los Angeles goes terribly wrong. Four years later, this crime and its aftermath reverberate through the lives of three men poised on the brink of history: Wayne Tedrow Jr., an ex-cop-turned-hired gun; Donald Crutchfield, a voyeuristic private eye working for the Mob; and Dwight Holly, an FBI agent and a favorite of J. Edgar Hoover. As conspiracies churn around the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, Howard Hughes vies for control of Las Vegas, and the government cracks down on the Black Power movement, ideologies collide, allegiances dissolve, and the gathering storm leaves no one unscathed.
Knopf. 656 pages. $28.95. ISBN: 9780679403937

Dallas Morning News 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Blood's a Rover commands your attention from the first page and, thanks to its heft, makes reading in piecemeal fashion daunting. Ellroy's latest is American fiction at its finest, a dexterous, astounding achievement." Preston Jones

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"The author's machine-gun style sentences and gimlet-eyed vision of the back streets, back alleys and back rooms of America hit all the right notes as he brings his Underworld Trilogy to a bravura ending. ... It's a high-water mark in the career of one of America's best historical novelists." Dorman T. Shindler

Minneapolis Star Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"Blood's a Rover is not for those who like their fiction--or their history--to impose an order and a moral authority on the world. Ellroy appears to decry both (as would Hammett). Instead, Ellroy gives readers a view of America's immediate past--the ‘dream aftershock'--that's crazy bad and, well, pretty believable." Carole E. Barrowman

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Verdict: so absorbing and satisfying that it's exhausting. ... And even having inhaled the previous two like a paint-huffing junkie, I sometimes felt like I was hanging on by my fingernails to keep everyone and everything straight in the big cast of characters and sprawling story that spans Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, Florida, Haiti and the Dominican Republic." Mark Rahner

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Ellroy's bleak, brooding worldview, his dense, demanding style and his unflinching descriptions of extreme violence will almost certainly alienate large numbers of readers. But anyone who succumbs to the sheer tidal force of these novels will experience something darker, stranger and more compelling than almost anything else contemporary fiction has to offer." Bill Sheehan

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The characterization is thin, the conspiracy jigsaw perhaps a little too familiar by now. ... Blood's a Rover concludes an epic fictional project that has been wild and brilliant, dazzling and funny, and even, let's admit it, repetitive and hectoring." Richard Rayner

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3 of 5 Stars
"As in the earlier book, Ellroy hasn't lavished enough attention on character, a deficit his stylistic razzle-dazzle can't paper over. ... The novel, which can bring on headaches because of Ellroy's celebrated, but wearying, staccato style, finally becomes a largely fascinating, patchwork meditation on politics, race and gender." Carlo Wolff

Critical Summary

With Blood's a Rover, Ellroy completes his epic of revisionist history, and critics agreed that it is a worthy finale. Action-packed scenes, narrated in Ellroy's trademark staccato prose, hurl the reader along towards a shocking conclusion, but this is no conventional thriller. Ellroy dissects people and events familiar to history buffs and reinvents them within the sordid underbelly of the mid-20th century, interspersing the narrative with invented police statements, transcripts, and FBI reports. While some critics complained of flat characters and repetitive plot twists, nearly all enjoyed this conspiracy- and carnage-filled tale of power and corruption. Ellroy's blunt language, raw depictions of violence, and relentless pessimism may not be to everyone's taste, but those with stronger stomachs will be amply rewarded.

First in the Series

American Tabloid (1995): This first installment of the Underworld USA Trilogy examines the seedy American underworld during the Camelot years.