James Ellroy

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James Ellroy bigraphy, stories - Novelist, short story writer, essayist, memoirist

James Ellroy : biography

March 4, 1948 –

Lee Earle "James" Ellroy (born March 4, 1948) is an American crime fiction writer and essayist. Ellroy has become known for a telegramatic prose style in his most recent work, wherein he frequently omits connecting words and uses only short, staccato sentences, and in particular for the novels The Black Dahlia (1987), The Big Nowhere (1988), L.A. Confidential (1990), White Jazz (1992), American Tabloid (1995), The Cold Six Thousand (2001), and Blood’s a Rover (2009).

Writing style

Hallmarks of his work include dense plotting and a relentlessly pessimistic—albeit moral—worldview. His work has earned Ellroy the nickname "Demon dog of American crime fiction."

Ellroy writes longhand on legal pads rather than on a computer and prepares elaborate outlines for his books, most of which are several hundred pages long.

Dialog and narration in Ellroy novels often consists of a "heightened pastiche of jazz slang, cop patois, creative profanity and drug vernacular" with a particular use of period-appropriate slang. He often employs stripped-down staccato sentence structures, a style that reaches its apex in The Cold Six Thousand and which Ellroy describes as a "direct, shorter-rather-than-longer sentence style that’s declarative and ugly and right there, punching you in the nards." This signature style is not the result of a conscious experimentation but of chance and came about when he was asked by his editor to shorten his novel White Jazz from 900 pages to 350. Rather than removing any subplots, Ellroy achieved this by eliminating verbs, creating a unique style of prose. While each sentence on its own is simple, the cumulative effect is a dense, baroque style.

The L.A. Quartet

While his early novels earned him a cult following, Ellroy earned much greater success and critical acclaim with the L.A. Quartet—The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz. The four novels represent Ellroy’s change of style from the tradition of classic modernist noir fiction of his earlier novels to so-called postmodern historiographic metafiction. The Black Dahlia, for example, fused the real-life murder of Elizabeth Short with a fictional story of two police officers investigating the crime.

Underworld USA Trilogy

In 1995, Ellroy published American Tabloid, the first novel in a series informally dubbed the "Underworld USA Trilogy" that Ellroy describes as a "secret history" of the mid-to-late 20th century. Tabloid was named TIME’s fiction book of year for 1995. Its follow-up, The Cold Six Thousand, became a bestseller. The final novel, Blood’s a Rover, was released on September 22, 2009.

My Dark Places

After publishing American Tabloid, Ellroy began a memoir, My Dark Places, based on his memories of his mother’s murder and his investigation of the crime. In the memoir, Ellroy mentions that his mother’s murder received little news coverage because the media were still fixated on Johnny Stompanato’s murder. Frank C. Girardot, a reporter for The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, accessed files on Geneva Hilliker Ellroy’s murder from detectives with Los Angeles Police Department. Based on the cold case file, Ellroy and investigator Bill Stoner worked the case but gave up after fifteen months, believing any suspects to be dead.James Ellroy, My Dark Places. Knopf, 1996. In 2008, The Library of America selected the essay "My Mother’s Killer" from My Dark Places for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime.

Future writings

Ellroy is currently writing a "Second L.A. Quartet" taking place during the Second World War, with some characters from the first L.A. Quartet and the Underworld USA Trilogy returning younger. The first book is called Perfidia and would be released late 2013.http://www.thebookseller.com/news/second-la-quartet-william-heinemann.htmlhttp://venetianvase.co.uk/2010/12/06/ellrovian-prose/http://venetianvase.co.uk/2009/12/17/james-ellroy-to-write-second-la-quartet/http://www.thechannels.org/features/2012/11/29/the-channels-interviews-james-ellroy/