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James Ellroy on Los Angeles

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The quirky author of L.A. Confidential, The Black Dahlia, and the film "Cop", was interviewed yesterday in the New York Times to promote his upcoming involvement in a CourtTV series which will analyze the unsolved murder of his mother.

Far more interesting, however, is Ellroy's dry wit. Although it is true that the author (who lived in LA for most of his life except for the last few years when he moved to Kansas) doesn't write on a computer, opting, instead for notepads, we find it hard to believe that he doesn't read newspapers or watch tv. We've been to Kansas. They have both newspapers and television there.

Ellroy: I do not follow contemporary politics. I live in a vacuum. I don’t read books. I don’t read newspapers. I do not own a TV set or a cellphone or a computer. I spend my evenings alone, usually lying in the dark talking to women who aren’t in the room with me. NYT: You mean they’re on the phone?

Ellroy: No. They’re metaphysical. I brood. I brood about former women in my life. Potential future women in my life. I ignore the culture. I don’t want it to impede, impair, interdict, suppress or subsume my imagination with extraneous influences.

NYT: Do you think of yourself as a novelist or as a crime writer?

Ellroy: I am a master of fiction. I am also the greatest crime writer who ever lived. I am to the crime novel in specific what Tolstoy is to the Russian novel and what Beethoven is to music.

NYT: How do you know since you say you don’t read other books?

Ellroy: I just know. There is a line from a wonderful Thomas Lux poem: “You’re alone and you know a few things.” I just know that I am that good.

NYT: What about Raymond Chandler, who wrote so evocatively about Los Angeles lowlifes before you?

Ellroy: He is egregiously overrated.

NYT: You just moved back to your native L.A. this summer.

Ellroy: Yes, my smogbound fatherland.

NYT: Do you plan to stay?

Ellroy: L.A.: Come on vacation, go home on probation.

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photo by matt logelin via flickr