Wednesday, August 27, 2014

James Ellroy interview

James Ellroy interview for Perfidia: 'I have a penchant for the extreme'

James Ellroy, the 'Demon Dog’ of American literature, tells Chris Harvey why he is bringing some of his most disturbing creations back to life in his new novel

James Ellroy, whose latest novel is 'Perfidia'
James Ellroy, whose latest novel is 'Perfidia' Photo: Darcy Hemley

There has never been a writer like James Ellroy. Since the Eighties, in novels such as LA Confidential and The Cold Six Thousand, he has been making real a secret world behind the official history of America, where bad girls mingle with very bad men, and the designs of murderers, cops, mobsters, movie stars and politicians can be equally callous, equally deadly. He melds racial invective, street slang, hepcat jazz talk, junkie jive and scandal-rag rants into prose of such controlled intensity that to enter it is to experience a vivid eyeball rush of recognition.

And beside the work is the man, known as the “Demon Dog” of American literature, whose life of petty crime, homelessness and drug use before he became a novelist in his late twenties is inextricably linked to the one detail that most people know about him. His mother, Jean Hilliker Ellroy, was murdered when he was 10 years old; her body dumped by the side of a road. “Yeah, she got whacked, snuffed out, the killer was never found,” Ellroy used to tell audiences.

These days, aged 66, he lives quietly, and alone, in Los Angeles, without a television or computer. “I don’t drink or eat drugs. I sustain crushes [on women] and I live largely within my head. I bought a house, almost two years ago, in a canyon here in LA, Bronson Canyon. It’s peaceful, quiet. I’ve got a music room where I can blast Beethoven on a good stereo system. It’s a haven for me; I feel that much more unfettered in my imagination. I feel like I’ve done a lot of growing up since my marriage to Helen ended.” Ellroy separated from journalist and novelist Helen Knode, after 14 years of marriage, in 2005.
His earlier self, however, is the doorway to his fiction. “The way I lived,” he says. “I have a penchant for the extreme.” 

NZ Release date 12 September - William Heinemann $39.99

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