Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Dante's Inferno05/21/01: "Hi, Pot? Meet Kettle."

"Greetings pimps, punks, panty-sniffers, puritans, pranksters, lyrical gangsters, and spherical Gonsters."

That's how James Ellroy, the demon dog of American literature introduced himself to the Doylestown crowd at a showing of the BBC documentary JAMES ELLROY'S FEAST OF DEATH. Well, okay, it wasn't exactly in those words, but you get the idea. Neo-hipster rhyme pattern with words like "panty" tossed in to shock the grandmotherly types in attendance. Oh, and shocked they were.

In fact, for all her self-righteous indignation, the grannie sitting a few seats down from me did get in the evening's best question – something along the lines of, "You're such a good writer, why do you feel the need to curse so much?". Not that it was a tough task, because the whole evening left me rolling one question over and over in my mind as I skipped the book signing and trotted home to my cozy, neo-hipster bachelor pad: "What's worse... a room full of film geeks or a room full of book geeks?"

Granted, it's not an easy call. Having grown up with, hung out around, and – ahem – been both during my lifetime, I think I can honestly say that book geeks are worse. They tend to be loners whose only social interaction comes from going to the bookstore, while movie freaks tend to hang in packs, showing off their creepy knowledge for those they ride with. And before I go any further, let it be know that I'm the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. I'll admit that I may be the worst kind of loser: a pop culture-obsessed geek. My love of the obscure and arcane doesn't stop with just one obsessive topic... oh no, and there are times when I wish, nay pray, that it did. Unfortunately, from music to movies, toys to tv, I crave it all. So do yourself a favor, don't engage me in conversation about THE SIMPSONS toys or the fact that there's a John Saxon action figure!

Anyway, Ellroy rolled into town to shamelessly plug his new book, THE COLD SIX THOUSAND. It's the second in his trilogy of novels detailing "men doing bad things in the name of authority." Or some pithy rap like that. Ellroy likes nothing more than coming up with a cool phrase and beating it to death. Which was why the "live" portion of the evening was a bit of a bust for me. If you'd read any recent piece on the man – and they're hard to avoid when the Ellroy PR machine kicks into gear – or even paid attention to the documentary that'd just been shown, you got the jist of that which is Ellroy: neo-hipster whose public persona seems devoid of spontaneity.

The "pimps, punks, etc." rap is repeated verbatim in the documentary. His responses to audience questions are shaped in such a way that he can pull stock answers from his grab bag of tricks. But, I guess this shouldn't come as a surprise from a guy who writes his books thanks to his detailed outlines and voluminous research.

Trust me, I'm not saying this is a bad thing. Ellroy's LA Quartet is some masterful storytelling, and his recent books have demonstrated to me just how dumb I really am... I've picked up AMERICAN TABLOID (the precursor to SIX THOUSAND) several times, and have had trouble following its labryinth-like plotlines. But I'm tiring of the Ellroy schtick: dead mom, weird dad, Jack Webb book, blah, blah, blah. Is he the only guy whose mother's murder remains unsolved? No, but I'm sure he's the only one who's had a half-dozen film or TV documentaries made about him and the subject.

I'm sure THE COLD SIX THOUSAND is an awesome read and I hope it sells tons of copies. Full of staccato prose and hip dialogue. But I think I'll pass. I'm still waiting for the JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS graphic novel.

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