I love hard-boiled voices. Why? You might ask. Because I like seeing a dickhead get punched in the gullet and knocked on his keister. I take an absurdly sick pleasure in this scenario. Again, you might ask why. Well…because I have literally been an underdog my entire life. I might as well have a t-shirt with the mantra “Constantly Underestimated.” If it were a theme song, I’d sing the chorus, pound the drums, and lead the backup vocals. But I don’t mind. In fact, it’s great when the bar is set low enough that I can practically crawl over it, and I set my goals as high as a CEO, and somewhere in the middle, I come crashing through like a hurricane, to the point that I might as well have stunned my opponent with a Taser, stapled his head to the carpet, put a metal plate in his head, and fired up the microwave.
And that’s what a good hard-boiled novel does for me. I down a bottle of Jack, fire my Beretta at my flat screen, and then wait for the fuzz to show up at my door, so I can show those coppers a thing or two. And Fritz Brown certainly uses his .38 when the situation warrants it. The voice was hard enough that I might as well have been picking grit and grim out of my teeth with a chainsaw. I savored every minute of the journey. I was transported to a time where rebop and Daddy-O were common lingo, although both were used a bit too frequently for my liking. That’s the downside to slang: It doesn’t normally age well.
But that was a small price to pay for a story that had me digging my fingers into the sofa cushions and was filled with enough beautiful broads and dames to start a backup band. My personal favorites were Jane Baker and Kallie and Dori, all of whom packed more than enough feminine wiles to start a drunken riot with the right rowdy crowd. The men—Omar Gonzalez and Walter Curran and Richard Ralston—proved just as interesting and even more intimidating.
Every PI needs the right mode of transportation, and the Camaro served Fritz’s purposes well. Its heft and muscle popped off the pages and into my living room, the engine roaring louder than a mountain lion. Even brief interactions—Brothers Mark and Randy and Kevin and Bob and Sisters Julie and Carol—proved a nice respite from the heart of the action, and had me salivating at the fire pit, although the thought of gamey grilled dog nearly flipped my stomach.
If hard-boiled PIs and time warps are your forte, and you don’t mind early Ellroy where he’s still refining his craft, then you might find yourself enjoying the ride. Just make sure you hold on tight and occasionally squeeze your eyes shut.
I’d like to end with a monologue that has absolutely no relevance whatsoever to BROWN’S REQUIEM, that I stole off of Wikipedia, which they stole from The Evening Class. Other than being entirely entertaining, it serves no orthopedic function. James Ellroy often starts public appearances with a version of the following: “Good evening peepers, prowlers, pederasts, panty-sniffers, punks and pimps. I’m James Ellroy, the demon dog, the foul owl with the death growl, the white knight of the far right, and the slick trick with the donkey dick. I’m the author of 16 books, masterpieces all; they precede all my future masterpieces. These books will leave you reamed, steamed and drycleaned [sic], tie-dyed, swept to the side, true-blued, tattooed and bah fongooed [sic]. These are books for the whole fuckin’ family, if the name of your family is Manson.”