Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Blood's a Rover

I recently finished reading Blood's a Rover by James Ellroy. It is the third and final chapter of his American Trilogy and I think the best of the three. Ellroy writes of flesh and blood, heart and feeling and always of human beings. With the old James, the roads that lead us from one point of life to another, are never straight but a convoluted mess in which you lose yourself and you find yourself sometimes back sometimes later. Ellroy is a master in describing them.

And then, there are Wayne Tedrow as an experienced former police officer in Las Vegas passed to the Mafia, Don Crutchfield as a young private detective, shabby voyeur and loser from the City of Angels and the French Mesplède, as professional murderer. They are in Santo Domingo to build casinos in which to recycle money from the Mafia. Mesplède is the sniper who shot Kennedy and Crutchfield should be dead: he knows too much about the murder but was saved by an amazing dance. He says he has audio recordings and who did the work that cursed day in Dallas spoke too much and too clearly. There are real or not? No risk for the moment, let's get him with us.

But they call him shit and pariguayo, someone who does upholstery, so it is clear how much they consider him.

And then, there's this scene in the mid-novel, right in Santo Domingo. Wayne introduced himself in the suite where Crutchfield is housed and sees stuff on the table. Porn and weapons. Clothes scattered pell-mell. A Polaroid and stacks of photos of women. Also the necessaire to test heroin. The blood goes to his head. He sees RED like a bull.

Crutchfield arrives at that moment. Above shorts wearing a belt with a Colt Python, he has acne and is licking an ice cream cone. He smiles and holds out his hand "How are you Wayne?"

Wayne comes up to him and is twisting his fingers. Then.... BAAM! He kicks him in the balls that doubles him over, gasping. No heroin! They are not there for the drug but to make money with gambling. He tells him he will kill anyone who tries. There is also Mesplède but the French is a real tough guy and pretends not to notice. Ḉa va Wayne, ça va. The French always responds well. Ok Wayne Ok, enough of the drug. I'll take Crutchfield. Do not worry Wayne, ça va.

Mesplède has a fixation: Cuba. Cuba is nearby. He brings the boy to arrange Castro's barbudos. Mesplède hates communists. Hates Castro. Hates the Reds in all their forms. It is he who wants to sell drugs to buy weapons with which to kill rojos.

The first time they arrive in Cuba by boat and kill some guards on the beach. Then they take the scalp. Crutchfield does not want to. He vomits. Mesplède is angry and puts the knife in his hand. Crutchfield takes the Scalp from a dead barbudo.

Another time they fly over Cuba with a little airplane. Crutchfield has always sickness, airsickness, seasickness and all three together. Not for nothing in Los Angeles a fag told him that he was not as tough as he thinks he may be. He sends down Dramamine like candies and drinks hard stuff with amphetamines. Shoots from the plane. Uses modified dumdum bullets: rat poison instead of the explosive charge. Kills Communists. In the hotel it is hot but Cuba is really hot.

They have their own personal apotheosis when they get their hands on an old torpedo boat: Crutchfield takes it out on a rock: torpedo 1, rock 0. I'm sorry Old Man of the Sea, your time had come. Pure madness.

And so the story unfolds, the characters live their roles, their metamorphosis.

I love Ellroy, his powerful writing, his endless prose. His literary devices leave me breathless. The intensity with which he describes the feelings and passions leaves me exhausted. It's like a Michelangelo of the word. Sometimes he does not just write but instead draws painted murals on blank pages. Other times he needs just a few lines to define a microcosm, like when the honest cop asks the corrupt policeman how much he had been paid. Answer: a thousand. And he walks away saying nothing, leaving that single word hanging in the air to seal everything.

The scene of the hotel is iconic because even a Mafia man must have poise and Crutchfield behaves like a child, not like a man. A voyeur and irresponsible child who can send down the drain business for millions of dollars and lose lives.

I hope the old James forgives me if I used him for this long introduction, but I happened to see our current Prime Minister with an ice cream cone in his hand. And who has not seen him, at least in Italy? You can see him the here, for example. Internet is full of those images. What a leader. What a man. Who cares if no one has ever voted for him and elected him to be the head of our government, just like the two that preceded him? In this our post-atomic era, neoliberal with a free global market, why become burden by that hated girth called Democracy? If in Ukraine Nazi phalanges are back without the worries of United States and Israel, we can also keep a Prime Minister with an ice cream cone in hand. If you take a good look at him, don't you feel the irresistible urge of..... BAAM! Buying immediately another? So far, he has had a lot of amazing ideas, all of which were empty and with just one ice cream cone in his hand. Imagine two.

And then you wonder why people like Putin, maybe shirtless and with a gun in his hand. Even Putin sipping tea in his office is a more reassuring figure than Matteo Renzi next to the ice cream cart.

Blood's a rover, teaches us Ellroy. Wayne is not just a Mafia fixer but falls in love with a black woman. He died trying to help her. It will be Crutchfield left to finish the job, to find her son ran away in Haiti: the pariguayo will prove himself tougher than he seemed to others, and in two or three years he grows older.

There will not be a similar fate for Italy. There will not be a ruler who will prove to be different from the man with an ice cream cone in hand. We are a country in free fall and our current political class does not have the ability to revive the fortunes of the nation. We must look elsewhere.


Costantino Ceoldo