Born today in 1948, James Ellroy is known as ‘the devil dog of American fiction’- a larger than life description he plays up to for all its’ worth in his speaking performances.
Known for his staccato style (frankly exhausting to listen to on Audio books), Ellroy is best known for his LA Quartet series (including L.A. Confidential, later made into an Oscar winning film, but nowhere near as dense or satisfying as the original novel), but also the Underworld trilogy, covering the mid to late 20th century, including Ellroy’s version of the death of JFK.
Ellroy’s life story is far from routine- I was lucky enough to see him speak in Oxford back in 1997 when he was promoting his new book at the time My Dark Places a non fiction autobiography come investigation into his mother’s murder when he was only ten years old.
Like so many great artists Ellroy has truly gone through suffering to influence his work, and while he is the first to discuss his devils, and his foibles, he also maintains a wicked sense of humour. I remember asking him how he dared write such slanderous things in his books about such famous people (his fiction is littered with references to sordid activities of actors/ musicians and politicians), to which he tipped a wink and said, “The secret is to wait until they’re dead- they can’t sue you then…”