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James Ellroy: All about Mom

Ellroy_2009

In today's pages, Tim Rutten reviews James Ellroy's new memoir, "The Hilliker Curse." The mystery writer's mother, Jean Hilliker, was slain in El Monte when he was 10; that unsolved crime has motivated much of his writing, including his breakthrough novel "The Black Dahlia." Rutten writes:

Ellroy has been drinking from that cup of Oedipal guilt, rage and obsession ever since. It's made for a fascinating body of fiction and compellingly written, but emotionally tedious, memoirs. In "My Dark Places," he recounts his mother's murder and his own subsequent attempts not only to come to terms with it, but also to solve it. "The Hilliker Curse" — the title incorporates her maiden name — is an account of her death's influence on his relationships with women, including two marriages that ended in divorce and the feverishly described liaison in which he's now engaged. What to make of it all is a bit of a muddle.

As a writer, Ellroy is never less than entertaining, even when his manic side is at its most grating. As a memoirist, he's a complicated case.

Read the complete review here.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: James Ellroy in 2009. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

 
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