Every month we feature a different author, publisher or bookseller who has earned the RLK! seal of approval! We will highlight and review their books/company as well as providing author biographies (where available) and publishing information. We hope you enjoy RLK! Spotlight On....

Author Bio:

James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. His mother was a nurse and his father, when he did work, was an accountant, among other things.

When his parents divorced in 1954, his mother got custody and moved to El Monte (a low income area in L.A). His mother was murdered there in 1958. James Ellroy's attempt to solve this still unsolved murder was the subject of his 1996 nonfiction work My Dark Places. After his mother's death, he moved in with his father.

Ellroy claims to have been turned on to crime fiction by the Hardy Boys. At the age of ten, his father bought him Jack Webb's The Badge:a history of the LAPD. He became obsessed with the book and studied it repeatedly. In this book, he discovered the story of the Black Dahlia, as well as the cops and crime figures he would later write about in the L.A. Quartet.

Ellroy went to high school in the largely Jewish city of Fairfax. As an attention-starved adolescent, he mailed Nazi pamphlets to girls he liked, criticized JFK and advocated the reinstatement of slavery. Amazingly, he claims to have received only one schoolyard beating for his anti-Semitic hijinks. He was a big fan of "The Fugitive" TV series in the early sixties and was obsessed with crime novels and movies in his late teens. When he wasn't reading crime novels, he was shoplifting food and porno magazines. At this time, his father suffered from a stroke and he reluctantly stepped into the caregiver role.

He was eventually expelled from Fairfax high school for ranting about Nazism in his English class. Soon after, he joined the army.

Realizing that he didn't belong in the army and worried about his father, he faked a stutter and convinced the army psychiatrist that he was not mentally fit for combat. After three months, he received a dishonorable discharge.

Soon after returning home to L.A., his father died in the hospital. His last words were "Try to pick up every waitress who serves you."

After his father's death, he moved into his own apartment on the money the army paid him. He landed himself in juvenile hall trying to steal a steak from a Liquor & Food Mart. When he got out, his friend's father, who Ellroy called a "right-wing crackpot" became his guardian.

When he turned eighteen, he was back on the streets again. He lived in parks and Goodwill bins. He broke into the homes of girls he liked and stole their underwear. He drank, experimented with drugs, and read hundreds of crime novels. He discovered Benzedrex, a sinus inhaler. Instead of inhaling it, he would swallow it to get a speed high.

When it got cold he would move into vacant apartments. The police caught him doing this once, and threw him in jail. When he got out of jail, he got a job at an adult book store and loaded up on magazines. The women reminded him of his mother and the Black Dahlia.

The Benzedex drove him to near schizophrenia and the alcohol was destroying his health. He suffered from pneumonia twice and developed what his doctor called "post-alcohol brain syndrome." Fearing for his sanity, he joined AA and got sober. He earned steady money as a golf caddy and began to mentally formulate a mystery plot, which would become Brown's Requiem.

At the age of thirty, he wrote and sold his first novel.

James Ellroy currently lives in Kansas City.



RLK! Archived Author interview #1:

JAMES ELLROY: THE MOTHER OF ALL CRIMES

CRIME WRITER JAMES ELLROY'S LATEST BOOK IS A VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY THAT HAS GIVEN HIM NEW INSIGHT INTO A MOTHER HE ONCE DESPISED...

CRIME novelist James Ellroy was 10 when his mother was found by the road, strangled with a piece of old cord and a stocking taken from her own leg. Police came to the house the two shared in El Monte, California, and told the child his mother had been killed.

On the trip to his divorced father's house, Ellroy cried but considered his change in fortune. "My mother's death was a gift," he writes in his new book, My Dark Places. "I hated her. I hated El Monte. Some unknown killer had just bought me a brand-new beautiful life."

It was 1958.

The planet is dotted with gifted writers who became drunks. Ellroy is the converse, a drunk who became a gifted writer. He was, before he saved himself, a drug abuser, a petty thief, a man who stole his meals and often slept outdoors.

Today, at 48, Ellroy comes across as a content man. He describes himself as happy.

At the elegant restaurant at the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington, he is treated like the literary star he is. Ellroy, a blunt and provocative stylist, is one of the rare crime writers with a genuine connection to real death. His five most recent novels were international bestsellers. He also has an avid cult following.

Now, he is anxious to talk about My Dark Places (Random House, $25). He wants to tell how, after writing a dozen crime novels, he hired a detective to try to solve his mother's murder.

The clues were puny and decades old. The most likely suspect was an unidentified "swarthy man"; the only person likely to know the suspect was a "blonde woman". Both had been seen the night of the murder with Ellroy's mother, Jean Ellroy, who was a nurse with a drinking problem.

For a man who writes in brutal detail, Ellroy exudes an aura of surprising calm. In Dark Places, he reports on himself, his mother and his father without apparent omission or improvement.

After the murder, Ellroy lived with his father, a romantic figure who worked sporadically. Ellroy adored him as much as he despised his mother. But in investigating his mother's life and death, he came to see both in a truer light.

In his early memories his father "was always there on the couch, smoking Lucky Strikes, blowing smoke rings, watching sporting events on our bubble screen TV, spinning stories. . . . He was charming. He was handsome. He was well-dressed. And for a young kid totally in his thrall, he was a captivating guy."

He maintains a love for his dad but now sees his mistake.

"My father started poisoning my mind against her," Ellroy says.

"He would ask me about the men that were coming over. . . . Did they go into the bedroom together? Did they kiss? Were they drinking together? It's the 1950s and I knew that sex, unless you were husband and wife, was a big, bad, ugly, shameful thing. And so I started feeling ashamed of my mother."

In the book he says: "I used to hate her because my father did. I used to hate her to prove my love for him."

The young Ellroy developed a passion for crime books and a lust for older women not unlike his mother. "Full-blown women jazzed me more," he writes. "Divorced mothers were more precisely my type."

In his early teens Ellroy started peeping into windows, catching intimate glimpses of neighborhood women. As a student in a primarily Jewish school he sought to provoke by drawing swastikas on his notebooks and eventually was expelled. At 17 he joined the army but quickly decided enlisting had been a bad idea and got out by playing crazy. His father died a couple of months later, just after giving Ellroy a final piece of advice: "Try to pick up every waitress who serves you."

He began breaking into houses. He stole his meals. He took drugs. An acquaintance taught him about Benzedrex inhalers, the lipstick-shaped precursors to nasal spray. He broke them open and swallowed the prophylhexedrine-soaked cotton wad inside. The high, he writes, was "brain-popping and groin-popping".

And, eventually, it was life-threatening. He heard voices. He concluded that Richard Nixon was having him followed. He fantasised about his mother. Finally he was admitted to hospital with an abscess on his lung and a post-alcohol brain syndrome.

When he got off the booze his brain remained scrambled. He was afraid he would forget who he was, so he wrote his name on the wall behind his bed. Next to it he wrote another sentence: "I will not go insane."

For the next couple of years he caddied at golf courses and slowly worked on pulling himself together. When he was 32, he wrote his first novel, Brown's Requiem. He later wrote bestsellers including American Tabloid and The Black Dahlia. By the 1990s life was very good.

He married writer Helen Knode. "I got extremely lucky," he says. "As obsessed with women as I've been in my life, it's like other women are a blur in my rear-view mirror now."

They live near Kansas City, Missouri.

It was Helen who nudged him into finding some truths about his mother and why she died.

Ellroy needed help. He found Bill Stoner, a homicide detective who was weeks away from retirement.

"I was very surprised when he first contacted me," Stoner says. "I went home (and told) my wife: `I'm not so sure I want to work with this guy because he talks so terrible about his mother.' I'd never heard anybody talk about their dead mother as viciously as he did."

But Stoner took the job, and Ellroy, compelled by his mother's story, decided to turn it into a book.

HE posted the grisly crime scene photos on the wall of a rented Los Angeles apartment and met with Stoner, who told him the chances of identifying the killer were one in a million. Ellroy accepted the odds, and the two men began trying to track down the "swarthy man" and "the blonde".

"I wanted to demystify her," Ellroy says. "I wanted to de-eroticise her. I wanted to render the crime scene shots prosaic in hopes that I could reach some heightened level of awareness and objectivity."

They combed through the old police file, set up an 800-number tip line and went on Unsolved Mysteries. They went to Wisconsin in search of her past. They followed scores of empty leads.

They concocted a theory that is not dramatic but has the ring of truth - a sad tale of date rape that ended in murder. It's a story they believe the blonde woman could tell if they could find her. "The blonde has told somebody about the murder," Stoner says.

They're still looking for the killer, but Ellroy has gained something precious: the ability to love his mother. The book is his monument to her.

"She had this will; she had this courage," he says, and considers how it might have played out had she been different: "A non-drunken woman might have sized this man up, a less desperate woman, a less lonely woman, a less tormented woman might have sized this man up as dangerous and taken a pass."

He and Stoner, now great friends, will keep on following tips.

"I wear obsession well," Ellroy says. "It's who I am. I've turned it into something."



RLK! Archived Author interview #2:

THE DARK UNDERBELLY

YOU get the message about James Ellroy's rank in the international literary stratosphere from a quote stuck by the publishers on the jacket of Tim Willocks's psycho-thriller, Green River Rising. Indeed, it is the only quote and it concludes: "A superbly contained trip to Hell that I urge you to sign on for - James Ellroy."

Not James Ellroy, "Our Premier Crime Novelist", as American GQ described him in bold type on the cover of its December issue; nor "Bestselling author of The Black Dahlia and LA Confidential, as boasted on the cover of his latest blockbuster, White Jazz. For the publishers, Jonathan Cape - whose marketing guys like to think they cater to the superior sort of British reader - no qualifying blurb was judged necessary. Just James Ellroy, straight up.

Actually, James Ellroy hasn't had a drink since 1975. Drugs he quit in 1977. His own jail career - arrested 35 times for petty crime - is a fading blur. Today, with 11 published novels, the subject of a forthcoming British documentary, and a book-signing junkie, he gets his not-so-cheap thrills (he makes $600,000 a book) basking in the media spotlight.

James Ellroy is a self-confessed interview slut. He lies awake at night thinking up ways of marketing his books. Tape-recorders intoxicate him. "I love being interviewed. Being a rich and famous writer is a blast," he drawls. "I only travel abroad now when a foreign publisher pays for me."

James Ellroy is physical intimidating. Tall and solid, he looks tormented. His moustache bristles with defiance. His eyes look as if they belong to someone who has probably spent too long locked in a dark room. He is overwhelmingly self-confident, speaking in a gravelly voice that does not like to be interrupted.

Our meeting is to talk about his new novel, American Tabloid.

His rented condo apartment - he actually lives in Connecticut with his second wife - seems disappointingly spartan. But pinned on the wall, impossible to miss, is a series of black-and- white Polaroid mug-shots. Not your average sort of family snaps. "That's a police artist's impression of the man who murdered my mother," he says, casually pointing to the pictures of a dark-haired white male in his mid-30s.

Beside them is a smiling picture of his mother, an attractive looking redhead in her early 40s - a German-American nurse - who appears to be holding a drink at a garden party. He is currently in LA researching his next book - out next year - that will attempt to close her murder case. It is called My Dark Places. When he was ten, in June 1958, her semi-naked body - "she had either been raped or had consensual sex" - a nylon stocking around her neck, was discovered dumped by a high school in El Monte, California.

His mother had been picked up in a bar by a stranger. "She was promiscuous and an alcoholic. Her killer was never found," says Ellroy. "I am working with the detective who was on the case. There's a chance her murderer is still alive."

Below her photograph is a picture of a man who vaguely fits the police description. "This was the man they arrested but released," he adds. "He had some sort of alibi. At the time, the police went round all the bars questioning all the swarthy-looking perverts - so you and I would have been hauled in for sure."

This is a typical Ellroy remark. He likes to be a bit rude. A minute later is telling me, with some relish, about how, as a school drop-out teenager living in a cramped and squalid house on the fringes of the wealthy LA neighborhood of Hancock Park, he used to break into houses, primarily of girls he was obsessed with, make himself a sandwich and explore their underwear drawer.

I was completely perverted.

I find it amusing now. I'm really happy for the life I have. I'm now 46. I have been a reasonably decent, civilised and successful human being for a good deal longer than I drank, used drugs, sniffed underwear, broke into rich people's houses and went to jail."

Why does he enjoy revealing quite so much about the more colorful details of his youth? "It's a reaction against the way I used to be and live. I used to sleep on the streets. I used to be uncommitted, slothful, lazy, unambitious, morally bankrupt. Now those things terrify me. My life has played out well; I'm happy with the outcome. But would I recommend nearly killing oneself as a way to start writing? No, I would not."

Today, he has - as Americans like to say - re-invented himself. "My wife contends that I have never felt a moment of self-pity in my life and that I'm almost sociopathic in my attempt to surmount my origins, and assert myself on the world in my own terms. I hate self-pitying people and people who whine, and the characters in my books are generally men who come to grips with their humanity rather late in life, generally as a result of some obsession with a woman, as a result of some twisted attempt at redemption."

Now he is orderly, boringly meticulous and organised. His demons, he says are "controlled". In the rented condo, the only other wall decorations are a hand-written list of people interviewed by police in 1958 in connection with his mother's death. Yet although the spartan room is, in fact, a shrine to his mother, there is an ambiguous quality to redemption, Ellroy-style. In a past interview for example, he said of his mother's death, "I realised this was a great story that the media would eat up. So I told it, sold lots of copies of my book and boosted my career."

Although it's still a year until My Dark Places comes out, Ellroy is already talking about the television spin-offs. "there are going to be tie-ins: a lot of television stuff has been lined up already." But when asked if he thinks he is possibly cashing in on his mother's tragedy, he suddenly gets a bit touchy. "That is very mistaken. Firstly, she is my mother. I know her - you don't. My whole writing oeuvre had been some sort of attempt to recognise her. My next book will be the fullest expression of that recognition."

After publishing five novels, his career took off with The Black Dahlia, the first in the acclaimed "LA Quartet" series, which dealt voyeuristically with his mother's death through the real-life murder case of Elizabeth Short, a tabloid scandal in the Fifties. Ellroy became obsessed with the case, re-investigated it and dedicated the book to his mother. Until its publication, he worked as a country-club golf caddy (the subject of his first novel) a job he had drifted into through wino friends.

Aged 17, he was signed into the army by his father, and packed off to Fort Polk, Louisiana. There he skilfully faked a nervous breakdown. He had no intention of going to Vietnam. "I was discharged from the army about six weeks after my father's death. I came back to LA, lived on my own, and stole whatever I needed."

After years of truancy and petty crime he was arrested by eight LAPD officers pointing guns up his nose after he he broke into a house. He realised the dark period of his life was over: he was 29, was seeing monsters when he went to the lavatory, and could not cross a street to buy - or rather steal - a pack of cigarettes.

He was diagnosed by a doctor as having a lung abscess and "alcohol brain syndrome". If he went on drinking he would die. He joined AA and finally sobered up. "There's an ambiguous quality to someone who has gone from obsessive self-destruction to obsesive self-achievement," he says of his reformed nature. "I always wanted to be a great novelist. When I quit drink and drugs, I realised that what I had wanted before had been an identity. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be able to front a great image and seduce women with it."

Sex - in particular violent, sordid and kinky sex - also features prominently in his books. Now that he is happily married, he uses the sex in his books as a vicarious way of enjoying sex with strange and exotic women. As a tenager, one of the reasons for his particular obsession with girls' underwear was that he was "terrified of girls", and utterly unsuccessful with them, being far too afraid to ever approach them. His father, by contrast, was a successful womaniser; once Ellroy came home to find his father in bed with one of his teachers. His last words to Ellroy before he died were, "Son, try to pick up every waitresss that ever serves you."

Ellroy's previous books dealt with his "obsession" with the corrupt LAPD of the '50s and LA's crime-land low-life. "After I finished the LA Quartet," he says, "I realised I wanted to write bigger, better deeper books, and that I didn't want to write strict police books any more. I wanted to go darker."

With American Tabloid, Ellroy's subject is now America as Great Wrong Country. "I can only write about what I become obsessed with. I see myself as the chronicler of the secret America. Political correctness makes for very bad novels."

American Tabloid, the first of a new series of books - the "Underworld USA" trilogy - is a sprawling, arkly humorous and morally anarchic novel skewering the saturnine criminal underbelly of the John F. Kennedy era.

Tabloid aims to demythologise the seamy '60s of the FBI, the Kennedys, the Mob, Jimmy Hoffa, Howard Hughes, and their hangers-on, pimps and henchmen.

The next sequence will deal with the years following the Kennedy assassination. "I have great insights into psychology of men in packs, the psychology of ruthless and ambitious men. This book is the story of the bad white man in the American 20th century," he drawls.

American Tabloid realigns the literary boundaries of crime fiction and is written in a direct and taut style that has little enthusiasm for physical details or purple adjectives. "I don't give a rat's ass what trees look like. I want people to read this book in very few sittings. I want to uproot people from their daily lives and thrust them into the obsession of history. Is that entertainment? To me it is."

After a brief tour of his condo's deserted swimming pool, he looks at his watch. He has to go - he has to pick up a good friend from the airport. She is flying in from London, en route to Australia.

"Who is it?" I ask.

"My publicist."



Books Published:

Click on the title of the book you wish to view or just scroll down

  1. American Tabloid
  2. Big Nowhere
  3. Black Dahlia
  4. Brown's Requiem
  5. Clandestine
  6. Crimewave
  7. LA Confidential
  8. LA Noir
  9. My Dark Places
  10. Silent Terror
  11. White Jazz
Clicking on any book title will bring you back to the top.



RATING:

Publisher: Random House

Review Source:

AMERICAN TABLOID

The '50s are finished. Zealous young senator Robert Kennedy has a red-hot jones to nail Jimmy Hoffa. JFK has his eyes on the Oval Office. J. Edgar Hoover is swooping down on the Red Menace. Howard Hughes is dodging subpoenas and digging up Kennedy dirt. And Castro is mopping up the bloody aftermath of his new communist nation. Set in America in 1958, this is a story of three men beneath the glossy surface of power, allied to the makers and shakers of the era. As the festering discontent of the age burns in these men's hearts, the Bay of Pigs ends in calamity, the Mob clamours for payback, and Kennedy is assassinated.

Ellroy's mythmaking takes on a national scope. Although the plot seems a bit staggering at first, it resolves itself with a brilliant payoff. Ellroy's sense of humor about his work, conspicuously absent from his earlier work, makes this the quintessential crime novel. A great companion piece to Don Dellilo's Libra. Excellent characterisation and twists make this novel the number one Ellroy read.



RATING:

Publisher: Random House

Review Source:

THE BIG NOWHERE

Los Angeles,1950 . . . A city gripped by Red Scare hysteria and terrorised by a series of insanely violent homosexual slayings. As the communist witch-hunt spreads its net ever wider over Movieland - and a killer stalks the streets three men are drawn into a tortuous web of perversion and deceit: Danny Upshaw, a young detective obsessed with a murderer of unparalleled brutality; Buzz Meeks, who pimps for Howard Hughes; and Mal Considine, a law officer driven by a private compulsion that threatens to overwhelm him. When the two investigations merge each man is forced to confront his own personal nightmare. But nothing can prepare them for the maelstrom they charge into...

Here, Ellroy takes on homophobia in the 50's. Every novel leading up to the Big Nowhere seems experimental in contrast. With this book, Ellroy has found his stride writing layered plots and employing multiple perspectives. It worked so well for him that he continued to write three more great novels in this style. Ellroy's first true classic. Once again, his characters are the strong-point of the novel, with enough warped and weird goings-on to keep the reader more than interested.



RATING:

Publisher: Random House

Review Source:

BLACK DAHLIA

This fictionalized version of Hollywood's most notorious murder case takes readers on a hellish journey through the movie capital and into a region of total madness. Based on a notorious Hollywood murder case, this study of psycho-sexual obsession is the first part of Ellroy's "LA Quartet". In 1947 a beautiful young woman walked into the night and met her horrific destiny. Five days later, her tortured body was found drained of blood and cut in half.

In Black Dahlia Ellroy's prose has become more economic and his portrayal of police officers less apologetic. If you have never read James Ellroy, Black Dahlia is a great place to start. It's a classic crime story based on a classic true-crime story. This book put Ellroy on the map and it's obvious why.



RATING:

Publisher: Random House

Review Source:

BROWN'S REQUIEM

Fritz Brown's L.A.--and his life--are masses of contradictions, like stirring chorales sung for the dead. A less-than-spotless former cop with a drinking problem--a private eye-cum-repo man with a taste for great music--he has been known to wallow in the grime beneath the Hollywood glitter. But Fritz Brown's life is about to change, thanks to the appearance of a racist psycho who flashes too much cash for a golf caddie and who walked away clean from a multiple murder rap. Reopening this cas could be Fritz's redemption; his welcome back to a moral world and his path to a pure and perfect love. But to get there, he must make it through a grim, lightless place where evil has no national borders; where lies beget lies and death begets death; where there's little tolerance for Bach or Beethoven and deadly arson is a lesser mortal sin; and where a p.i.'s unhealthy interest in the past can turn beautiful music into funeral dirge.

A well-written Chandleresque novel set in 1980 where anachronisms abound. Although this book may seem tame when compared to his later nihilistic crime fantasy novels, Brown's Requiem gives evidence of Ellroy's natural gift for storytelling. Readers of his later work will enjoy the esoteric quirks of this novel-for one. If you're not into Ellroy's more extreme, politically-incorrect novels, then this is the one for you.



RATING:

Publisher: Random House

Review Source:

CLANDESTINE

1951 - Patrolman Frederick Underhill of the Los Angeles Police Department is an ambitious rookie with a dream to become the most celebrated detective of his time. He is also sexually promiscuous. His two drives are brought together by the slaying of Maggie Cadwallader, a lonely woman whom Underhill slept with shortly before her death. Using his inside knowledge, Underhill discovers a likely suspect, and uses the information to buy himself on to the case which is being handled by LA's most fearsome and most unscrupulous pursuer of murder: Lieutenant Dudley Smith. Soon Underhill is an accomplice to Smith's ruthless interrogation techniques. But far from the celebrity he was hoping for, Underhill finds himself on the edge of the abyss, his whole life and future about to take a fall.

Clandestine develops one of the fundamental building blocks of Ellroy's work: romanticism. In stark contrast to the cool and detached Fritz Brown (Brown's Requiem), Frederick Underhill has the emotional maturity of a two-year old. Although the novel is a pop psych meditation on justice, the reckless emotionalism of the characters propels the story beyond mediocrity. Ellroy's unusual mix of romanticism and materialistic realism makes even the earlier novels intriguing. Readers of My Dark Places will notice that Ellroy drew much of this story's details from his own mother's death. This book is also notable for the introduction of three LA Quartet characters: Dudley Smith, Mike Breuning and Dick Carlisle.



RATING:

Publisher: Random House

Review Source:

CRIME WAVE

Los Angeles. In no other city do sex, celebrity, money, and crime exert such an irresistible magnetic field. And no writer has mapped that field with greater savagery and savvy than James Ellroy. With this fever-hot collection of reportage and short fiction, he returns to his native habitat and portrays it as a smog-shrouded netherworld where"every third person is a peeper, prowler, pederast, or pimp." From the scandal sheets of the 1950s to this morning's police blotter, Ellroy reopens true crimes and restores human dimensions to their victims. Sublimely, he resurrects the rag Hush-Hush magazine. And in a baroquely plotted novella of slaughter and corruption he enlists the forgotten luminaries of a lost Hollywood. Shocking, mesmerizing, and written in prose as wounding as an ice pick. A collection of Ellroy's true stories, including the only two unsolved murder cases on police file in the author's home town in California. Original novellas, "Hollywood Shakedown" and "Tijuana Mon Amour" are also included.

This novel contains Ellroy's work for GQ Magazine. It includes some tame anecdotes featuring Danny Getchell and Dick Contino, as well as some interesting true crime pieces, and some less-than-memorable memoir material. This book should leave you hungry for the American Tabloid sequel. If you want true brilliance, head straight for American Tabloid.



RATING:

Publisher: Random House

Review Source:

LA CONFIDENTIAL

L.A. Confidential is an epic crime novel that stands as a steel-edged time capsule--Los Angeles in the 1950s, a remarkable era defined in dark shadings. A horrific mass murder invades the lives of victims and victimizers on both sides of the law--three cops treading quicksand in the middle. Detective Ed Exley wants glory. Haunted by his father's success as a policeman, he will pay any price, break any law to eclipse him. Detective Bud White watched his own father murder his mother--he is now bent on random vengeance, a time bomb with a badge. Celebrity cop Jack Vincennes shakes down movie stars for a scandal magazine. An old secret possesses him--he'll do anything to keep it buried. Three cops in a spiral, a nightmare that tests loyalty and courage, a nightmare that offers no mercy, allows for no survivors. Here is James Ellroy's masterpiece. . . darkness to haunt you in shades of red, gray, and black.

The inspiration behind the successful film of the same name. So, what can you say? This is the most comic novel in the LA Quartet, parodying everyone from the LA mob to Walt Disney. Written in the same fast-paced style as The Big Nowhere, the story is worthy of Hammett. Excellent stuff. If you thought the film was terrific, wait until you read the book. Buy it now.



RATING:

Publisher: Random House

Review Source:

LA NOIR

A single-volume edition of three of the novels featuring Detective Sergeant Lloyd Hopkins of Los Angeles. The first involves the apparently random killings of 20 women, the second a multiple murder committed with a pre-Civil-War revolver, and the third a conspiracy of police corruption.

The Lloyd Hopkins trilogy in hardback. Includes Blood on the Moon, Because the Night and Suicide Hill.

BLOOD ON THE MOON

This book was made into a TV movie called "Cop". Ellroy decries it as one of his more bombastic works and it's easy to see why. Blood on the Moon is the first novel in which Ellroy plays with multiple perspectives using an omniscient narrator. While this technique greatly improves the tempo of narrative, it can not save this absolutely maudlin novel. If you like your romance novels with plenty of blood and bad poetry, then you'll love this one.

BECAUSE THE NIGHT

A genius psychiatrist (of course all of Ellroy's antagonists are geniuses) coerces gullible patients to perform mostly random acts of violence. This story is built on a very shaky premise and the outcome is predictable. It lacks the audacity of Blood on the Moon and fails to progress beyond it stylistically.

SUICIDE HILL

The final and redeeming novel of the Lloyd Hopkins trilogy. Ellroy focuses more on the technical aspects of crime and less on the machismo of his cop fantasy world. There's still plenty of fist fights and emotionally inept behavior from the protagonist, but the story is carefully structured right up to the atypical anticlimax. The best of the three.



RATING:

Publisher: Random House

Review Source:

MY DARK PLACES

America's greatest crime novelist turns to non-fiction, and the mystery of his mother's murder. On the night of 21 June 1958, Geneva Hilliker Ellroy left her home in EI Monte, California. She was found strangled the next day. Her ten-year-old son James had been away with Jean's estranged husband all weekend and was confronted with the news on his return. Jean's murderer was never found, but her death had an enduring effect on her son who spent his teen and early adult years as a wino, petty burglar and derelict. Only later, through his obsession with crime fiction, an obsession triggered by his mother's murder, did Ellroy begin to delve into his past. Shortly after the publication of his ground-breaking novel White Jazz, Ellroy determined to return to Los Angeles and, with the help of veteran detective Bill Stoner, attempt to solve the thirty-eight-year-old crime. The result is one of the few classics of crime non-fiction and autobiography to appear in the last decades, a hypnotic trip to America's underbelly and one man's tortured soul.

Part autobiography, part true crime. Some of the true crime material is a bit tedious, but Ellroy's chronicle of his seedy years provides valuable insight into the psychology of his work. A terrific "look behind the scenes" at the nature and nurture of James Ellroy. Not for the faint-hearted. Strong stuff.



RATING:

Publisher: Random House

Review Source:

SILENT TERROR

In this crime novel, there is a man on the loose in America. A man who kills for the sheer pleasure of spilling blood. A man who rearranges the mutilated bodies of his victims in positions that, to him, have the purity of art. One of Ellroy's most fascinating and grueling novels. The twisted, mortally brilliant mind of serial murderer Martin Plunkett, is laid open for the reader, with chilling, pulse-pounding realism.

This is Ellroy's allegorical autobiography. Ellroy abandons the multiple perspective narrative formula he used in the Lloyd Hopkins Trilogy to present a presumably shocking first person. Unfortunately, the novel is little more than the author's attempt to exorcise his own psychological demons. Ellroy drags this theme into Black Dahlia as well with more positive results. Recommended for completists only. Others should read Black Dahlia instead.



RATING:

Publisher: Random House

Review Source:

WHITE JAZZ

Los Angeles,1958: a city on the make. A boomtown at the edge of a new era ripe for plunder. Outwardly placid - until webs of hellish violence intersect around one man. Lieutenant Dave Klein, LAPD: lawyer/bagman/slumlord/bought-and paid-for mob killer. A man haunted by shameful lusts and dark curiosities. The mob wants him to silence a Federal witness. The DA wants him to shake down a pinko politician. Howard Hughes wants him to dig up dirt on an actress who jilted him. Dave 'The Enforcer' Klein: tightrope walker in a world of uneasy alliances. His Chief of Detectives wants him to investigate a brutal burglary potentially embarrassing to the highest levels of the LAPD. An ambitious Federal prosecutor wants to destroy him. Dave Klein: soon to confront himself in the small corner of Hell his city has become. 'All I have is the will to remember.' Dave Klein's will is to move us and horrify us. His story is a spiral through a time when the fix was in and bad men ruled by threats enforced sub rosa. White Jazz captures that time with extraordinary power. Savage, melancholy, elegaic - it stands as both James Ellroy's masterpiece and the great 'Noir' novel.

This is the final of the LA Quartet series. Ellroy turned in a 900 page final manuscript and then his editor asked him to cut it down to 350 pages. And Ellroy did. He did so by eliminating the verbs. Because of this editing technique, White Jazz is, stylistically, the strangest prose Ellroy's written. But don't let that scare you off. The characters and stories are as rich as any in the Quartet and are certainly worth the time. Read it, verb-free, today!



Other releases by James Ellroy include:







Websites:

James Ellroy does not currently have an official website,
but a terrific unofficial website can be found at
http://www.sirius.com/~richie/ellroy.htm.


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