Saturday, February 9, 2013

Roadkill Review: Brown’s Requiem by James Ellroy.

Everybody knows James Ellroy right? His L.A. Quartet provides the hard-boiled benchmark that defines a genre for many. Even if you haven’t read him, you will at least be aware of the movie L.A. Confidential, based on his novel of the same name.

This work pre-dates that movie by some sixteen years and is in fact Ellroy’s first novel.  Set in contemporary Los Angeles it follows the trials and tribulations of a hard bitten PI, Fritz Brown in his attempt to unravel a complicated case of arson and blackmail.  These old school noir staples are put to good use by an emerging Ellroy and the same wonderful spare prose and clipped dialogue that mark his later works are here in spades.

Brown’s Requiem was written by a man still honing his craft. If you look carefully you will see it in the plot, which at times seems jumbled and is prone to wander. There is a lot of the author’s own life mixed in here too; his love of golf and classical music are to the fore throughout and it can feel a little like you are being force fed with Ellroy’s self indulgence. That said this is still James Ellroy and Brown’s Requiem is a novel worthy of his name.

If you only plan on reading one Ellroy book then it’s hard to look past the big four. Choose The Black Delilah of my personal favorite The Big Nowhere. But if you want an enjoyable and interesting look at how he came to write them, start here.

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