Ellroy is hardly forgotten, and might be the best and most important crime writer of the last 30 years, but his take the on the serial killer novel, Killer on the Road, seems to have largely fallen to the wayside…. Which is too bad, because not only is it one of the few times that Ellroy was willing to play the game and try and five the publishing world what it wanted, but it was also one of the first that really contained autobiographic elements.
Killer on the Road was my first Ellroy book, I discovered it on the shelves of Curious Books in East Lansing Michigan when I was a student, and it would have been either 1994 or 1995. I have the exact date that I finished my first reading some where at hand…. Ok, looking it up.. I see that I finished reading it on 26 April 1995.
That same year I read; Ripper by Michael Slade (Finished 13 Feb), Eight Million Ways to Die by Lawrence Block (Finished 4 April), Tricks by Ed McBain (Finished 14 April) and followed Killer on the Road with a after the bomb book not worth noting and then Miami Blues by Charles Willieford (Finished 7 May). My next Ellroy was Because the Night which I finished on 12 June.
The plot follows a wayward youth who is left on his own after the death/abandonment by his parents (stop me if this starts to sound familiar…) and after getting started with small time prowling and petty larceny, ends up following his impulses to killing and heading out on the road… hence the title. There is also a cop who the main character get’s caught up with, mind warping exposure to comics and more than a bit of potential homo erotic undercurrents…. In other words what we have come to expect from Ellroy.
Honestly I haven’t reread this one, and am a little afraid to crack it open again after all these years. That same copy is shelved in my Ellroy collection. While I tend to point people towards the master pieces, The Big Nowhere and LA Confidential as a starting point in the Ellroy collection, Killer on the Road is of interest in show casing a young writer still trying to find his place in the publishing world and giving what even by then was a tired genre his own spin.
Other Ellroy books read in 1995 not noted above?
(I didn’t get to The Big Nowhere and LA Confidential until early in 1996)
A selection of Crime Books I am not embarrassed to have finished reading in 1995?
Hells only Half Full by Rob Kantner
Wilderness by Robert B Parker
Let Us Prey by Bill Branon
The Michigan Murders by Edward Keys
Bandits by Elmore Leonard
B.O.L.O. by Dave Pedneam
Farwell, My Lovely by Chandler
Trace: Too Old a Cat by Warren Murphy