Blood on the Moon - James Ellroy Ellroy writes with intensity. As I’m sure everyone knows who is remotely interested in his writing, Ellroy has been obsessed with the death of his mother (nee Hilliker) whose murder was never solved. The Black Dahlia, written after this book, was an unsatisfactory attempt at atonement, and the books I’ve read of his continue to obsess with familial relationships.

That’s especially true of Blood on the Moon, first in the Lloyd Hopkins police series. Lloyd is that special cop who sees beyond the obvious and has a brilliant track record catching the bad guys. But his relationship with Janice, his wife, whom he loves, and his children, whom he wishes above all to protect by telling them stories of his life on the streets lest they experience them themselves, and his senile parents whom he promised to keep in their home, and his brother who he coerces to maintain them --“are you going to kill me Lloyd when our parents are dead?” Why? because of some incident at Christmas when Lloyd was 8, even if it was rather horrific, and the women he saves and sleeps with. All of these relationships form a convoluted psyche that Ellroy explores brilliantly, I think. Lloyd’s affair with Kathleen, a former schoolmate and now feminist bookstore owner reveals his “rapacious ego” and driven obsession as a foil to the obsession of the serial killer, whom Lloyd believes to be a gay man driven to kill women because of his own tormented self-identity.

Hints to Ellroy’s obsession with the death of his mother abound on the pages. At one particularly gruesome homicide, Lloyd cuts down the 29-year-old female victim, before the ME has had a chance to check out the scene, cradles her body in his arms, and murmurs how he won’t let her murderer go free and he’ll render justice. It reeks of romance, vengeance, and an idealized perception of women. We learn the origin of Lloyd’s obsessive behavior toward the end of the book, although I found the scene less than convincing. His relationship with Kathleen also had a surreal quality to it that I thought jarred with the rest of the book.

There’s a thread in modern detective literature that the bad guys can’t get caught unless the rules are broken. Lloyd certainly breaks many of them in his own personal vigilante quest for his personal justice. It’s a theme I find insidiously subversive, and really if Lloyd had followed the rules in this book the carnage would have been much less.