Stylistics – Imitate Voice – 2012

VOICE: James Ellroy – The Cold Six Thousand

(Carousel club, Dallas, 11/28/63)


“You sure?”

“Look, you gettin’ a drink or not?”

The bartender plunks a glass on the counter.

Wayne ignores him. The microphone buzzes. A black man sings. He goes back to the booth. Redbait bastard.

Wayne wants to finish it. Moore wants to enjoy it.

“You wanna buy me a drink, hon’?”

She leaned over the booth. She had heavy makeup. She wore cheap heels. The woman winked at him.

He told her to go away. She said he was a rude son’bitch. Wayne wouldn’t drink now. Do it good.

Posse Comitatus Act/ 1878. Arizona/ 1922/ Manuel Martinez and Placidio Silvas. Mexican bandits, the Ruby murderers. American posse man-hunted. American posse arrested. Summa cum laude. But they weren’t cops.

Ruby. Pro-Castro Ruby who hailed from Illinois, Chicago. Jack Leon Ruby killed Oswald who killed Tippit. Ruby ran with the mafia. He owned a bar. He corresponded with police. He used a Colt Cobra .38 revolver in the abdomen. Wayne watched it broadcast. Black and white.

Ruby called it “public redemption”. Pro-bono.

He closes his eyes. The people in the booth talk Oswald. The people at the bar talk Ruby. Wayne thinks Wendell.

People are pissed. Strangers drink whiskey and quarrel. People watch the TV buzz silent. They slump over their liquor. Some grieve. The black man sings.

Lattimer Massacre/ 1897: immigrant anthracite coal miners strike in Pennsylvania. They want wages. 19 dead by Luzerne County Sheriffs. Punks. Wayne hates punks. Punks are outlaws. Wayne smokes some tobacco. Tobacco is for men.

Moore arrives finally. He sits down. Two whiskeys, five cigarettes.

“Fucking nigger jazz.”

The white man listens to black man jazz.

Jazz tore it.

(Aldophus hotel, Dallas. Level 14, Room 420, 11/29/63)


Wayne looks at the breakfast menu in his seat. His reading is stunted by the television:

“Continental breakfast/ JFK dead…

Toast/ J. Edgar. Hoover…

Eggs/ White House in dis…”

Wayne changes the TV channel. Same stories. He calls the hotel service. Waiter comes up with his food, he tips. The kid has a private message. The adolescent wheeze thinks he’s heavy. Wayne tips him again to go away.

Wayne takes his jacket off. He drinks the coffee. The coffee is hot. He breaks a sweat. He puts sugar in and reads the paper. He ponders the message.

Senior would be breaking glasses this moment. He would be swearing like a fucking redneck. Smart people won’t be standing in the room with him now.

They’ll be pissed. Junior is piss-weak. Junior got the wrong DNA.

“Can’t even do a nigger.”

Junior felt nothing. He ignored the hotel phone and scoped out the TV channels.

The carpet was thick and patterned. There were stains in the carpet. Room 420 held marks of the drunk, the messy, the whores and dealers. It made him sick. The lobby was swank. Room 420 was a dirty warren.

His father wouldn’t have this.

Maynard D. Moore

(Blocks from Carousel Club, 11/28/63)

12:17 p.m.

Moore’s blood pulsed in his neck. He was gonna go back for that just-of-age girl in the bar when it’s done. Screw her good.

“He went left.”

Moore got distracted, lucky Wayne’s here.

Moore shook, “What’s the plan?”

Wayne didn’t answer. He wound the window down for air. Moore’s knuckles were sharp. His blood alcohol was four times the limit.

The headlights were off.

It would be his first kill. Moore was too eager. He felt his mother-of-pearl .45. He gripped the wheel like a .45.

Wayne is pale. “Turn the radio off.”

Moore keeps watching Wayne. He better not go cold.

The Cadillac stopped on East St approaching Lavell. Moore stops early.

Moore got hot. His legs pumped. He used every muscle to shut the door low.

Durfee was going to fall fast. Like a pimp should.

He starts running. Gun held fast.

A revolver blasts. Wayne tore it.


This exercise is a continuation of James Ellroy’s “The Cold Six Thousand.” Having not read Ellroy before I was very interested in his style, verbosity, and how it achieves the writer’s plot and intentions. This writing exercise mimics the verbosity of a sequential limited third person narrative structure. The sentences are short and the velocity is swift.

I have aimed to establish Ellroy’s distinct style of viewpoint where the narrator is direct and factual; information is identified by time, location, and date. The main story follows Wayne but the last is from the perspective of his companion. This entire passage is crucial for Wayne, who is attempting to justify his task – the murder of Wendell Durfee. The vision of this passage is that Wayne attempts to use past and present criminal cases to rationalise whether the murder is acceptable. The references to current events place the story in a social viewpoint, describing the impact of assassinations of JFK, Tippit, and Oswald on the American people. Wayne’s viewpoint is that of a protagonist, readers empathise as he is unwillingly trapped in a situation. In the hotel room, the reader can gather that Wayne is more comfortable with his decision. I chose to change the viewpoint to Moore in the last scene, which takes the action to a flashback – the ‘attempted’ murder. This removes the connection to Wayne at his most tense scene or ‘moment of judgment’. Readers can only determine his feelings through the eyes of Moore, who has a similarly paced velocity but a very different voice on the situation. He has a more aggressive and less logical voice in the scene. This exercise was essentially an attempt to capture the terse prose style of Ellroy with the inclusion of other viewpoints.

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