JAMES ELLROY, DEMON DOG OF AMERICAN LIT

James Ellroy, demon dog of American Lit, and  Jesse Sublett, blues cat chronicler of life as pulp fiction

James Ellroy, demon dog of American Lit, and Jesse Sublett, blues cat chronicler of life as pulp fiction

This morning I’m thinking about my friend James Ellroy, the self-proclaimed demon dog of American literature, the dark prince of noir and (insert a grocery list of appendages here, because the D-Dog likes to add a grocery list of appendages, seeking shock and awe fans and detractors equally, some of those titles tongue in cheek, others not so much, and he’s such a violently ambiguous guy, there’s really not much demarcation between the two. Back in 2001 I interviewed him for the Austin Chronicle, suggesting that we do a walk-through of the LBJ Library and the piece came out pretty nicely, I guess. Ellroy had just released his novel The Cold Six Thousand, the second in a proposed trilogy (watch this site for my review of #3, Blood’s a Rover, just issued this week) of intensely paranoid and feverish fictional chronicles of US history, emphasizing mostly the lurid parts, this one focusing on the JFK assassination, laying the blame for that crime on mostly low-level mobsters. Ellroy is no fan of JFK or any liberal politicians, for that matter, so I thought I’d try to kill several birds with one stone (not Oliver, that is, by any means), giving him a tour of the official library of one of my favorite US presidents, hoping that some of my good liberal vibes might rub off on him. I also wanted to reserve some time with him, not having seen Ellroy much since Lois and I moved back to Austin from LA. Being a busy guy on a book tour, I figured the best way to get a little quality time with him was to book an interview, and it worked. I also laid a few chapters of my memoir on him (published in 2004 as Never the Same Again: A Rock n’ Roll Gothic), which he read the next day and generously offered a great blurb for the book jacket, which you can find here (just scroll down the page, as there are several others there as well).
Dead Women Owned His Soul” is the title of my interview with Ellroy after the publication of his own memoir, titled My Dark Places. That book inspired me and gave me some of the courage I needed to do my own. Ever since Ellroy and I met, back in 1989, we had discussed the weird phenomenon we shared, i.e., being held in the vise grip of the past; in his case, the brutal, unsolved murder of his mother when he was ten; in mine, the murder of my sweetheart, Dianne Roberts, in 1976 by a serial killer; although the case was officially solved, the deeper story was not known to me until over 25 years later, when I researched it and wrote my own account. The case history was much more horrific than I had suspected, however, the process of figuring it out helped me “own” the story in a way that helped me cope with the flashbacks, cold sweats and decades of nightmares otherwise known as post-traumatic stress disorder and, well, in general, being haunted and wracked with guilt.
Quien es Mas Noir is a piece I wrote to promote the Austinappearances of Ellroy and James Crumley way back in 1996. Crumley died last fall, sadly, but he left behind some great work. Here’s my review of one of the best of his later novels, The Final Country.

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