I pulled off the plastic name badge as I stepped out into the night air. Long day; time to crawl back home. Short day; already dark before dinner. I'd just left a meet and greet with a hundred other suits. We'd all stepped around the four kids in tails sawing at strings off to the side. No mike for the brunch music. My ears were still ringing from the the boom boom room, pulling out of the Kohl Center lot. I took the Bug putt-putting down University. I thought I was heading home. But the Bug steered right, into the parking lot of the big box bookstore, by post-hypnotic suggestion. I checked it out. No big book at the big box. But I spied a diversion. Ellroy of El Lay would be reading. Haven't read him. Why not see him. I joined the crowd. The chairs were filled. I stood at the back next to a big fellow. Canary yellow sweatshirt. Faded jeans. An introduction was being read. Tall guy watched and laughed. I tuned it out, waiting for the main attraction. I picked up and flipped through a book from the shelf next to me. The Quotable Slayer. Willow says she's tasted evil. She's asked what it was like. She says, kinda chalky. Good for a low-grade heh. Loses points with Kennedy in the scene. I looked up. Intro was over. Phil Jackson next to me loped up to the podium. Oops. That was Ellroy. Good reading. A little bit beat poet. A little bit Dr. Johnny Fever. I don't know from noir, but I'll give The Cold Six Thousand a whirl. My new copy's inscribed: "To Chan: Historical slash-out!" Someone tell me what that means. The Q&A was cool. Ellroy hates jazz. Ellroy loves classical. Ellroy gives a list. It begins with Beethoven. Ellroy goes for Hammett over Chandler. Ellroy says, Chandler wrote the kind of man he wanted to be. Ellroy says, Hammett wrote the man he was afraid he was. Me, when I read Chandler, I get stuck on him. I read Chandler:
The man called Costello shrugged his shoulders briefly. The red-haired man at the table turned a little in his chair and looked at Mallory with the impersonal air of a collector studying an impaled beetle. Then he took a cigarette out of a neat black case and lit it carefully with a gold lighter.Oooh, I say. Do that again. An hour later, I'm still on the same page. And I haven't read any Hammett—hell, Hellman's man. But look what I find in the next Fortune Cookie.