The long-awaited conclusion to James Ellroy’s Underworld USA trilogy, “Blood’s a Rover,” has arrived in bookstores. It’s not gonna sell like Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol” or other popular fiction. But Ellroy has a pretty loyal audience, and he has written a truly unique crime story that borders on the insane.
Space is too short here to get caught up on what happened in the trilogy’s first two installments, “American Tabloid” and “The Cold Six Thousand.” This epic story involves a lot of politics, corruption and history, blended into a violent/romantic mix that will shock and awe the reader. This is not a story for the meek.
“Blood’s a Rover” begins with a 1964 armed car heist in Los Angeles that will have a profound effect on things to come. But the novel primarily covers the tumultuous years from 1968 to 1972. Ellroy features a cavalcade of iconic characters from modern U.S. history, including FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, President Richard M. Nixon and reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes.
The story jumps around from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to Miami and other locales. But there are many scenes in Sin City and even a few in North Las Vegas. The multipronged plot involves Hughes’ power moves in Las Vegas, with help from Wayne Tedrow Jr., who is working for the mob. The old-school Vegas scenes are some of the most enjoyable in the book.
The story also involves some dirty moves within Hoover’s FBI, and the federal government’s attempt to crack down on the black militant movement. The mob seems to have its stained hands into everything. Of course, “Blood’s a Rover” is stamped with Ellroy’s demented trademark of violence, sex, subversive elements and edgy prose.
In a statement to booksellers, Ellroy calls his latest novel a “bad-ass historical romance” that is “suffused with a heightened sense of belief and the corollaries of political conversion and revolution.” Very true indeed.
It’s helpful to read the previous two installments of the trilogy before tackling “Blood’s a Rover” but not absolutely necessary. If you’ve read Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet novels (including “L.A. Confidential” and “The Black Dahlia”), you know what you’re getting into: a crazy,
carnivallike ride that likes to dive into the underworld.