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James Ellroy's explosive words -- tapping his inner noir perhaps?

April 26, 2009 |  3:08 pm

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The L.A. Times’ Patt Morrison gave the audience appropriate warning before James Ellroy’s loud and expletive-filled speech at the Book Festival today: “Seat belts fastened low and tight? All right, you’re gonna need 'em.”

Ellroy didn't disappoint. The crime writer, whom Morrison called a “snazzy and dapper fellow,” thanked the audience for coming out, rather than staying home to tend to their “sex lives and drug habits.” He opened with his trademark crowd welcome to the “peepers, prowlers, pederasts, panty-sniffers, punks and pimps.” 

And then he exploded with a rather hard-to-follow speech, calling his forthcoming book "Blood's a Rover"  “the greatest novel since the Holy Bible.” The book covers the years 1968 to 1972 and characters such as Howard Hughes, J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon, as well as events in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

John Wray, author of “Lowboy,” was at the panel and said he found it “hilarious and stupid in equal measure, but one thing it wasn’t was boring. … Ellroy is the type of almost obscenely larger-than-life personality that the book business doesn’t have enough of right now.”

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Ellroy wore a seersucker suit complete with a brightly colored handkerchief and bow-tie for the over-the-top presentation. His upcoming book's title is taken from the A.E. Housman poem, “Reville.” The demon dog of American crime fiction also has a multi-part memoir in Playboy Magazine (Part 1 appears this month), in which he notes: “My storytelling gifts are imperviously strong and rooted in the moment that I wished my mother dead.”

Ellroy, famously interested in the noir genre since his mother’s still-unsolved murder when he was 10, doesn’t own a television or a cellphone, hates the Internet and says he doesn’t read. He just sits in the dark thinking about women.

An audience member asked what he does like. “I love the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,” he replied. Another question: Why does he write? The answer was not his own words but from Dylan Thomas’ “In My Craft or Sullen Art,” which he rattled off before heading off to sign some of his most famous works from his L.A. Quartet, “L.A. Confidential” and “The Black Dahlia.”

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photos: Leslie Anne Wiggins

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