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James Ellroy's Playboy extravaganza

March 31, 2009 |  1:46 pm


Novelist, memoirist and alpha-dog crime writer James Ellroy has a new four-part serial appearing in Playboy, starting with the April issue. Scott Timberg spent time with the author as he shot an accompanying video for Playboy in Hancock Park, "stomping across that manicured lawn, sporting a Hawaiian shirt and golfer's cap," staring into windows as he did as a teen.

The serial, titled "The Hilliker Curse" (after his mother's maiden name), traces his romantic compulsions.

Whereas the first installment revisits his childhood, the unsolved murder and his teenage peeping, ensuing chapters look at how his mother's death drove him to search for the perfect woman, to seek out both prostitutes and (fruitlessly) women of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, to pass notes with his phone number in coffee shops, to send literally thousands of dollars in flowers.

Timberg described the style as a "mix of hyped-up prose and rapid storytelling that readers expect from Ellroy's novels, blended with a reflective quality he's rarely shown in the past." Ellroy calls it "a spiritual document" and continues:

There's never been a male memoir like this one. It was the desire to consistently update my state of mind and spiritual condition pertaining to women. To honor the women I've been with, to chart this journey of transcendence....

I'm made for obsessiveness. I'm built for it. I'm big and skinny, and I run at a high rev. I love to be alone most of the time. I'm emotionally hungry, I'm horny, I have a profound conscience.... Real guys love God, Beethoven and women.

"The Hilliker Curse" also sends up a flare to Ellroy fans that he's back; many have been waiting since 2001's "Cold Six Thousand" for a sequel. That novel, "Blood's a Rover," concludes the trilogy that began with "American Tabloid." It'll hit stores — all 656 pages of it — in September.

— Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: James Ellroy / Paul Fenton ZUMA KPA; the June 1956 cover Playboy magazine / courtesy of Magazineshoponline.com