Me on James Ellroy

For those who somehow missed it, I had a review of crime writer James Ellroy’s new memoir in Monday’s Wall Street Journal.  The book is called “The Hilliker Curse, My Pursuit of Women.”

The book is brief, but it covers a world of pain. In dense, explicit and yet jazzily lyrical prose, Mr. Ellroy recounts his masochistic voyeurism; his periods of breaking into women’s homes to fondle and smell and steal their possessions; his drug and alcohol addiction; his tormented dalliances with prostitutes, fans and fantasy girls; a loving but often sexless marriage; and a shattering nervous breakdown at the height of his career. None of this is necessarily shocking news or even revelatory. Mr. Ellroy has been making something of a traveling show of his paraphilia for years. He describes one “knockout performance” at a bookstore reading where he announced to his fans: “I need a strong woman to tame me with her love and walk all over me in high black boots.” Seven women slipped him their phone numbers.

But “The Hilliker Curse”—his mother’s maiden name was Hilliker—is not meant to be merely a confession. It is an act of creation, Mr. Ellroy’s attempt to take the reader into the experience of his anguish and aberrations. It is a show, all right, there is no question about that. He intends to dazzle and seduce us with the romance of his suffering perversity. But there’s a truth of feeling in it too, an underlying sense of what it’s actually like to live in the vortex of an impossible yearning.

You can read the whole thing here.

Comically – though typical of me – I had completely forgotten that I appear in a new anthology edited by Ellroy and the great Otto Penzler called “The Best American Noir of the Century.” Reminded of this Monday morning by the publishers, all I could think to say was:  Gee, I’m glad I gave him such a positive review!

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