The super-slick magazine and fashion tool GQ may seem like a strange place to find the writings of unapologetic former speed freak and panty-sniffer James Ellroy, a brilliant piece of admittedly damaged goods who has made a career of writing about highly concentrated, ragged-edge human ugliness. But since 1993, when the magazine encouraged him to investigate his mother's murder and publish the process in an autobiographical essay, Ellroy has sold the clotheshorse rag a good deal of brilliant material. Crime Wave is a complete trade-paperback collection of their odd six-year partnership, and, except for two stories told in the amazingly amped alliteration of a scandal-sheet publisher—plus the novella "Hollywood Shakedown," a new story about semi-fictional accordion master and quasi-superhero Dick Contino—Crime Wave is mostly reportage. The aforementioned investigative piece became "My Mother's Killer," a nightmarish diary that rehashes years-old police procedure and internal conflict, and the essay became his book My Dark Places. Along the same lines is "Body Dump," a compare-and-contrast riff on his mother's unsolved case and a contemporary murder in the same neighborhood, such as it is. it's especially interesting to note how a cold-blooded but hardly dispassionate Ellroy savages both the victim's pathetic family and the pathetic suspect. It's the same bilious even-handedness he employs in "Sex, Glitz, and Greed," a brilliantly scathing essay on the O.J. Simpson trial that takes Ellroy to the familiar territory of sleazy, predatory Los Angeles, where it seems his hatred can hardly contain itself. Not that Crime Wave is all dark; in the last chapter, he goes to his high-school reunion and seems to achieve not closure, in which he doesn't believe, or redemption, which he despises, but an almost dangerous level of sentimentality. Unusual, but not surprising, because when it comes to unearthing and celebrating the strangenesses of the past, no one is better.

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