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The Early Word: New Books for the Week of September 21, 2009

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With some of the important and intriguing books out this week, it's beginning to look a lot like… no, no — I just can't say it…

Blood's a Rover
by James Ellroy 

Blood's a Rover completes James Ellroy's Underworld U.S.A. trilogy, an historical recapitulation of American crime and social upheaval – Ellroy calls his series of novels "a study of politics as crime." The first book, American Tabloid, covered 1953 to 1958; the second, The Cold Six Thousand, spanned 1958 to 1963; and Blood's a Rover delves into the combustible years of 1963 to 1972.

But we’re not talking about the Summer of Love: Plots and counterplots. International conspiracy and conspiracy theories and theorists. The shooter on the grassy knoll. Hippies, Black Panthers, and the CIA. Castro. Papa Doc. Hip Nixon. Vampiric Howard Hughes. Paranoid Hoover. Dead Kennedys. "The late 1960s were a period for paranoia," Ellroy says. "It was a time for shifting allegiances, conspiracy theories, getting stoned, and looking for something else out there."

Ellroy impels us to look at this entertaining political noir – though he also calls it an historical romance — even if it means deciphering subplots about Wells Fargo heists that constitutes a kaleidoscopic catalyst, and characterizations that mix among the big names secondary figures such as Donald Crutchfield, an L.A. peeping Tom private eye, and Left-wing radical Karen Sifakis, out of Smith and Yale, striking and tough enough to transcend politics when it matters. Joan Rosen Klein is even more ardently left. And tougher. The daughter and granddaughter of Communists, she's prepared to die for her causes and will kill for them, too. Wayne Tedrow — ex-cop and heroin runner — is building a mob gambling mecca in the Dominican Republic and quickly becoming radicalized. And so the ripple effects undulate…

In Ellroy's trademark concise, clipped Gene Krupa prose, Blood’s a Rover comprises a visceral jab, a wide-eyed read into one of – this time around — the author's well-lit places. You just don’t know what’s coming around the corner, or who’s over on that sun-drenched grassy knoll.


The Year of the Flood
by Margaret Atwood 

An Echo in the Bone (Outlander Series #7)
by Diana Gabaldon

Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall
by Kazuo Ishiguro 

Pilgrims: A Wobegon Romance

by Garrison Keillor

Hardball (V.I. Warshawski Series #13)
by Sara Paretsky

The Brutal Telling
by Louise Penny

The Lost Art of Gratitude (Isabel Dalhousie Series #6)

by Alexander McCall Smith

Hothouse Orchid (Holly Barker Series #5)
by Stuart Woods 


The Case for God
by Karen Armstrong 

Arguing with Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government
by Glenn Beck 

The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society
by Frans De Waal

American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot
by Craig Ferguson

Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor
by Tad Friend

Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town
by Douglas Gayeton

Most Evil: The Further Serial Murders of Dr. George Hodel
by Steve Hodel, with Ralph Pezzullo

High On Arrival
by Mackenzie Phillips

Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon
by Neil Sheehan 

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About Gordon Hauptfleisch

  • I’m wondering about the significance of Ellroy’s title, which calls up the sequel to Harlan Ellison’s post-Apocalyptic “A Boy and His Dog.”

  • I don’t know what Ellroy’s intent was, but there’s earlier ties in A.E. Houseman’s “Reveille”:

    Clay lies still, but blood’s a rover;
    Breath’s a ware that will not keep.
    Up, lad; when the journey’s over
    There’ll be time enough for sleep.

  • Wow, another one by Ellroy. And a possible connection with Harlan Ellison.

    You’ve surely whetted my appetite. Thanks.

  • I don’t think Glenn Beck’s book should be on the list, unless you’re aiming at the intellectually-impaired.