The Talking Volumes series starts its 10th anniversary season with a bang when Minnesota Public Radio's Kerri Miller hosts author James Ellroy, whose latest novel, Blood's a Rover (Random House), completes his Underworld USA trilogy. Ellroy got his start writing more conventional crime novels before hitting his stride with his L.A. quartet, which included L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia. These tales of morally dubious cops in the City of Angels echoed the brilliance of Chandler and Hammett, but upped the ante on the gritty realism and nihilistic worldview—no mean feat. Ellroy gradually evolved into his self-described "telegraphic" style, in which he carries the short, staccato sentence to the verge of self-parody. But once assembled, these tiny, diamond-hard sentences achieve a jazzman's rhythm that carries the reader through densely plotted stories crackling with violence and American street patois. The Underworld trilogy connects everyone from small-time dealers to U.S. presidents to create a rich alternate history thick with greed, revenge, and paranoia. The author himself has a shady past that includes youthful flirtations with Nazism, petty crime, not-so-petty crime, and drug addiction. He's a bombastic presence and a sometimes controversial personality whose love of mischief and iconoclasm have made him something of a mystery himself. The partially autobiographical 2001 documentary Feast of Death and his profanity-laced appearances on Conan O'Brien's old show provide more than circumstantial evidence that his Twin Cities appearance should be thoroughly entertaining.
Wed., Oct. 7, 7 p.m., 2009