"One of the great American writers of our time."
— Los Angeles Book Review


About James Ellroy

Credit: Franny Freeman

A master of noir crime fiction, James has up close and personal knowledge of the world of crime. His life has been shadowed by a gruesome event: the unsolved murder of his mother when he was a child. In 1958, Geneva Hilliker Ellroy's body was dumped on a roadway in El Monte, California, a seedy L.A. exurb. Her killer was never apprehended. Her murder unleashed a force that has propelled Ellroy's work. Ellroy channeled his anguish and transformed himself into an outsized public persona: an audacious, uncompromising, and unapologetic chronicler of humanity's dark side.

James Ellroy is masterly at speaking, his own backstory as riveting as any in fiction. Ellroy was born in 1948. He consumed crime novels as a young reader and developed an obsessive fascination with homicide after his father bought him Jack Webb's The Badge. In the book he discovered the story of the ghastly murder and mutilation of Elizabeth Short, known after her death as the Black Dahlia, whose murder and the subsequent investigation captivated the postwar imagination of the entire country.

As a young man haunted by his mother's death, Ellroy became a thief, an alcoholic, a drug abuser, and a peeping Tom. He served time in jail. Much of the first thirty years of his life was consumed by homelessness, alcoholism, drug abuse, petty crime, and a period of insanity. Ellroy eventually found steady work caddying at Los Angeles country clubs and joined AA. As he walked the golf courses while he worked, he harnessed his narrative passion to his fascination with crime and began to daydream a novel. In 1985 he began The Black Dahlia, an explicit attempt to marry his mother's murder to the famous case that had so obsessed him in his youth. The novel appeared in 1987 and was dedicated to his mother.

As a novelist, screenwriter, essayist, and memoirist, James Ellroy is more closely identified with Los Angeles than any writer since Raymond Chandler. Nearly all of his writing is set in Los Angeles, in the rough, racist, pre-Miranda Los Angeles of the decade following the Second World War. Four of his novels --- The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential (an Academy Award winning-movie), and White Jazz --- are collectively known as the L.A. Quartet. They comprise a dark and obsessive 1950s anti-history of his hometown. His novels American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and Blood's A Rover (September 2009) form the Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy, and American Tabloid and his memoir, My Dark Places, were both named as Time magazine's Best Book of the Year, respectively.

Curtis Hanson directed the blockbuster film adaptation of L.A. Confidential (1997) in which (as in the book), everything is suspect, everyone is for sale, and nothing is what it seems. The Black Dahlia, directed by Brian De Palma, was released in 2006. Ellroy himself has been the subject of seven documentary films, including Feast of Death, by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Vikram Jayanti.