I'd picked up a copy (ebook) of James Ellroy's American Tabloid based on a review and it has been pretty much as-promised, a sleazboid angle on events of the late 50s/early 60s, replete with Howard Hughes, J. Edgar Hoover, various Kennedys, Cuba, the Mob and bad cops of every sort. And the cast goes morally downhill from there, with a plot of wheels-in-wheels-in-dead bodies left in ditches....
But every so often, he gets something wrong -- a little wrong at first, room-bugging tech poorly described and obviously not understood, and then I flipped the page and a rogue FBI agent, off to shoot porn movies in Mexico with Jack Ruby (yes, the book is just that cat-litter gritty) snaps an (innocent, for once) picture with a Polaroid and the snapshot whirrs out--
No it didn't! BLAST YOU, ELLROY! You just stuck an SX-70 from 1972 into a guy's hands in 1959 -- and 13 years might look small from where you're sitting, but it's a huge leap from "set the iris, snap the shutter, pull the tab, wave the film around a little, pull out the fixing-compound sponge and coat the shot, then stick it to a pasteboard backing so it won't curl" to "just push a button and, hey-presto! out pops the snapshot," and that's the difference between a 1959 Polaroid Land Camera and an SX-70.
That dull thud? That was my disbelief, padded cuffs broken, dropping right onto the unpadded floor. Sheesh. It's not like five minutes of research could've told him when and how when it came to instant cameras? I'm almost afraid to finish the book. What's next, Bobby Kennedy with touch-tone phones in his office? (Dial, by the time he was Attorney General, FWIW, with something weird for the secure line(s); it's not like there aren't documentaries showing the office, phone bank, desk, stuffed tiger under a wall-hanger rifle and all.)
I need to write more. While "pulp hack" is kind of a high goal for me, at least I try to look stuff up; SF involves a lot of making things up but I work to riff from reality -- and avoid jarring anachronism.
4 weeks ago