Friday Reads: Clandestine

“I’m a take-me-as-l-am person, and all the rest is water under the bridge. You can’t change yesterday any more than you can predict what’s gonna happen tomorrow.”

–Glen Campbell

Recently, I watched the documentary film Echo in the Canyon, which triggered a chain reaction of reading and listening activity. On the listening level, it was a revisit to Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys and a few others. Arguably, one of the best albums of all time, and specifically, the song I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times strikes a chord for me. For the record, I think it’s a disgrace that Mike Love is touring under the Beach Boys moniker, sans Brian Wilson, but I do acknowledge that Mike’s contributions have been underrated. In addition, the amount of those contributions certainly can be up for debate, but at this point, I’m not sure it matters much. Having said all this, the book reading reaction to Echo was first to pick up yet another music biography. This time, I gravitated to the latest Neil Young book, Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life and Cars. Likely, this will be written about in the future to add to my FR musician catalog of Tom Petty, Prince, the Wrecking Crew, and the disaster at Altamont involving the Rolling Stones.  Arguably, the attraction to Neil was threefold: (1) the coverage of Buffalo Springfield in Echo; (2) the large absence of Neil from it; and (3) the iconic sideburns, which have remained constant over the years. Now, in the world of unique tidbits of one’s appearance, the sideburns are a difficult animal. The lamb chops could arguably have been unique at one point in time for many individuals (and they certainly are for a guy like Neil), but like most everything else in today’s world, are now over-done. In all seriousness, in order to really pull this off, you need the hairstyle to go with the burns, like this example. Note to self: Scour thrift stores for pastel leisure suit to go full tilt – this could be the originality that sets my appearance over the top. For more inspiration check out Queen’s Gambit for applicable ideas for any hip ladies and gents. For the cat writing this (me), the current COVID look is closer to John Quincy, minus the bald spots.  Wa-wa.

Now, having decided to pass on writing about Neil, I picked up another period writer from a time which if I could teleport, I certainly would. So, as the “The Cowboy” from Mullholland Drive says, let’s get right down to it. That writer is James Ellroy and the book is Clandestine. When I say teleport, the time period seems cogent, but Ellroy’s portrait of L.A. certainly is bleak. Clandestine follows many of Ellroy’s other narratives, in this case LAPD cop Fred Underhill. The themes in Ellroy’s L.A. are similar: Murders of women, corrupt cops, hopheads, and other “degenerates.” This is familiar Ellroy territory, and anyone having read anything by him will feel right at home. It doesn’t make the mysteries (the book follows multiple murders) any less interesting, just the look and feel remain constant. There’s also the cross-pollination of some characters you may recognize from L.A. Confidential, such as the ruthless and crooked Lt and then Captain Dudley Smith.  In actuality, Clandestine was Ellroy’s second work (after Brown’s Requiem), published in 1982. It’s easy to see his progression from Clandestine to his impeccable L.A. Quartet (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz).

Now for a brief synopsis: In Clandestine, the story follows the main character, Fred Underhill, and his relationships. His relationship with the LAPD, with his partner, with Dudley Smith, his DA lover, and of course the victims and suspects. Clandestine describes the secret program run by Smith, to conduct investigations and interrogations as a part of secret program of LAPD cops, and has another hidden meaning. But this story is quite a bit more about the change that takes place among Fred Underhill, over a period of time as he investigates murders. This book isn’t Ellroy’s best work by any stretch of the imagination, and the territory has been covered in a more entertaining fashion in the L.A. Quartet. However, if you like his writing style and a decent mystery, you may find this book to be a good read.

Ellroy, James. Clandestine. Avon Books. 1982.

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