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Hazel

James Ellroy at the GFT

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James Ellroy will be at the GFT this Thursday night talking about his new book, Blood's A Rover, followed by a screening of L.A. Confidential. Tickets are £8, or £4 without the screening.

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Ellroy's also appearing at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank tomorrow night. We Big Smoke types don't get the film screening, though.

 

I'll be there. He's quite an eccentric character from what I know, so this could be quite an entertaining evening.

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The last time he came to Glasgow, (that I knew of), was on my due date for my youngest so I couldn't take the risk. This time it's Bonfire Night, and I can't miss that with the kids - no matter how much I'd like to. I'll stick to re-watching my DVD The Demon Dog Of American Crime Fiction...

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I'll stick to re-watching my DVD The Demon Dog Of American Crime Fiction...

 

I had to look this up on imdb. I might just have to track it down, although it will pre-date the beginning of the Underworld USA trilogy that "Blood's A Rover" will conclude.

 

I haven't read any Ellroy for several years either, something I must rectify soon.

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I had to look this up on imdb. I might just have to track it down...

You should, it's great. He talks a lot in it about his Mum's murder and shows you some of the spots in L.A that have informed his life.

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A report on Ellroy's appearance on the South Bank on Tuesday night.

 

He read from the opening pages of "Blood's A Rover". First impressions are that stylistically at least the novel is a step away from the almost self-parodic style of "The Cold Six Thousand". Some of the sentences he read out stretched to more than half a dozen words. The book itself covers the period from 1968 to 1972, which I think means he might have shied away from Watergate. Now that's one topic I'd love to read Ellroy's thoughts on.

 

Then he was interviewed by Mark Lawson. As regards the inspiration for this trilogy, he pointed to Don DeLillo's "Libra" as a mixing of fact and fiction and for its ability to make Lee Harvey Oswald sound like an interesting, well rounded man. He described his aim in his writing as being to provide "the private human infrastructure to big public events" and that he would accept any label for his writing other than "mysteries", as crime novels are commonly referred to in his neck of the woods.

 

As regards his approach to his work, he does little research himself, believing it would get in the way of his thought processes, although he hires people to fact check and fill in the gaps. "Blood's A Rover" weighs in at about 650 pages, but Ellroy claimed this was based on a story plan of almost 400 pages, an indication of the distilled nature of his writing.

 

On the influences on his writing, as well as the DeLillo novel he particularly cited the Bible (he was raised as a Lutheran) and less surprisingly, scandal rags such as "Confidential" that were popular in the 1950s. It is from here that he got his love of the language and slang of the 1940s and '50s. He cited Dashiell Hammett as the greatest crime writer in his opinion and that "he just got lucky" by being born in Los Angeles, a city with a distinguished history in crime fiction.

 

Asked if he would ever consider setting a novel in the modern era, he pointed out that much of the intrigue and activity described in his novels would not be so easy to cover up in the modern world, and also that much of his early work was contemporary at the time it was written, with "The Black Dahlia" providing the decisive break. In fact, he rejects much modern technology, not owning a television, a mobile phone or a computer.

 

Lawson seemed peculiarly obsessed with a recent quote from Ellroy that the Obamas struck him as "a couple who are, underneath it all, tired of each other's sh1t", which, whilst pithy, doesn't seem especially relevant to his work. When quizzed about his own politics, he described himself as a Tory.

 

On the subject of film work, he revealed that HBO (Home Breast Office, according to him) have the rights to the trilogy "Blood's A Rover" concludes, but he doesn't expect to see it on screen any time soon. He mainly praised Curtis Hanson's film of "LA Confidential" for being able to reduce what he thought was an irreducible work, although ultimately he dismissed it as Ellroy Lite. He claimed he largely used film work to pay his income tax and alimony.

 

Although he was fairly scathing with some of the audience questions, dismissing a query about whether he had supported George W. Bush as an accusation, not a question, overall, Ellroy was a much less tough interview than I thought he'd be.

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Thanks for that Gram, makes up for not being able to go. After watching an episode of Six Feet Under last night that was all boobs, I've got to chuckle at his HBO comment.

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