“There are greater writers out there, and more gifted writers,” James Ellroy told Rolling Stone in a recent interview. “What I am is a thinking machine. I see myself as emblematic of extreme drive and ambition and focus.” In his novels—including his new one, Blood’s a Rover—Ellroy works his prose like a boxer on a speed bag: short, pummeling sentences, merciless momentum, frank brutality. But his isn’t gratuitous or faddish; he wasn’t kidding about that “thinking machine” business. He pours his hard, bleak worldview into large, intense books, vast social-historical panoramas that trace the soul-rot of mid-century America. “Big-ass, shit-kicking, profound books,” as he told RS. He should be a lot of fun live.