Review: Blood’s a Rover by James Ellroy

Blood's a Rover by James Ellroy

It was probably a bad idea to pen a sequel to American Tabloid, but James Ellroy did it anyway and came up with another great one, The Cold Six Thousand.

It was probably a bad idea to add another book and make a trilogy (Underworld USA) out of it, but James Ellroy did it anyway, and…

…the results are mixed.

American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand are centered around huge historical events. The characters are intimately involved in those events, making those novels epic in scope. Ellroy decided he didn’t want to tackle Watergate, which makes complete sense–the identity of Deep Throat was revealed in between the release of The Cold Six Thousand and Blood’s a Rover and some of the participants are still alive and may reveal more before they pass on, which could have made a fictional take by Ellroy look silly. Also, Watergate was certainly important historically but likely wouldn’t have made for gripping fiction.

But because Blood’s a Rover isn’t centered around huge historical events, it pales in scope in comparison to its predecessors. It feels more like a postscript to American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand rather than the culmination of events that began in the first book, which is what the conclusion of a properly structured trilogy should be. The following is not meant as a quality judgment but rather a comment on where it falls in the narrative and its relative importance: Blood’s a Rover is to American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand what After MASH is to M*A*S*H.

I think you should know this going in. I wish I had. It would have helped me to appreciate the novel on its own terms, and there is much to appreciate. It features many of Ellroy’s hallmarks–fascinating characters who evolve in unexpected ways, out-of-the blue plot twists, unexpected betrayals and strange alliances, all across a several-year period. And, as always, the narrative mooooves and the book is hard to put down.

And that’s what’s frustrating: Blood’s a Rover wouldn’t have required all that many changes to make it a free-standing novel, and it would have been a fine one. But it isn’t a freestanding novel, and it must be judged accordingly. As the end of a saga, Blood’s a Rover is a letdown.

Related Posts:

Review: American Tabloid by James Ellroy

Review: The Cold Six Thousand by James Ellroy

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