"Destination: Morgue!" was my first experience with James Ellroy. I’d seen a couple movies that were made out of his books, but as far as his actual writing, it was my first. And let me tell you, this one wasn’t a very good “first pick.” Not that it was a bad book, but as an introduction into Ellroy, it shell shocked me a little bit. First, let me explain the book a little bit.Destination: Morgue! is broken into two nearly equal halves. The first half is a series of non-fiction pieces, ranging from “true crime” stories of the cold case squad to autobiographical pieces about Ellroy’s life growing up. The second half is made up by a trio of novellas telling the story of a L.A. P.D. officer and his affair with a Hollywood actress. When I started reading, none of it made sense to me. The stories seemed disjointed and incongruous. I couldn’t understand what they had to do with each other—other than giving the publisher enough text to put out another book. In addition, the language was plain annoying. Alliteration was everywhere. It made reading slow, and what’s more, it made the writing sound cheesy to the tenth power. Plus, he insists on using “metastasize” in just about every short story. I mean, it’s a really good word for decayed imagery, but come on. Use another word. I swore to myself that this was the last Ellroy book I would read. But as I kept plugging through it, nose on the grindstone, I gradually began to realize that nearly every piece of nonfiction in the first half of the book made an appearance (or at least got a reference) in the second half. Ellroy managed to tie them all together in some form or fashion. In addition, he continually worked older cases of L.A. P.D. fame into the stories, meshing fact and fiction in a convincing—if sometimes hard to follow—narrative. Part of the reason that the book is hard to read is the alliteration I mentioned before. It didn’t hit me until I got to the story about the gossip column writer, but the alliteration is there because Ellroy is trying to mirror the style of a tabloid newspaper. You know the type: “Freaky female filches famed farmyard photo!” But he does so though the whole damn book. Yeah, it makes the book a bit harder to read, but the sheer genius it takes to do that through an entire 400 page work is mind boggling. And more importantly, he manages to craft great imagery while limiting himself to this vein of description. It really was quite amazing to watch the book unfold from lackluster beginnings to a great finish where he suddenly slaps you upside the head with his brilliance. Still, it would be nice if he used “metastasize” a little less. Ah well, you can’t have everything, I guess. I gave it four stars. Had the book been more palatable from the get-go, I would have given it a perfect five. As it stands, it's not going to appeal to most people. But if you're brave and push through, I promise you you'll be rewarded.