(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

James Ellroy’s first hard-boiled novel, Brown’s Requiem (1981), and his first series, the Lloyd Hopkins trilogy (1984-1986), were set in the present. Of varying quality when viewed through the perspective of time, these novels sold well and established two of the author’s characteristics: a pessimistic outlook blended with romanticism and shocking violence mixed with dark humor. In the years that followed, Ellroy was recognized for his skill in resurrecting the feel of postwar Los Angeles. The Black Dahlia (1987), a fictionalized account of a genuine, still-unsolved 1947 murder, launched his best-selling noir-flavored L.A. quartet.

Beginning with American Tabloid (1995), Ellroy has moved beyond the confines of Southern California. His American Underworld/Underworld USA trilogy forges creative links between real and imagined figures connected to crimes surrounding major historical events of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Since Ellroy arrived on the literary scene, his novels have been critically acclaimed for the author’s innate, if quirky, storytelling abilities. The novels have been commercially successful as well: Six Ellroy works have been made into well-received motion pictures, and several others are potentially forthcoming.

Though his plots have become more intricate, Ellroy’s real concern has always been the contradictory nature of character. He closely examines the evils that good people do in the pursuit of justice and the good hidden in the worst of society’s inhabitants. His insights into criminal behavior, his intricate plotting, his ear for dialogue, and his stripped-down, rhythmic prose have lifted Ellroy into an elite class: one of only a few modern crime writers whose work transcends genre and approaches literature.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Ellroy, James. “My Mother and the Dahlia.” Virginia Quarterly Review 82, no. 3 (Summer, 2006): 213-222. Ellroy talks about his mother and her death and how he conceptualized The Black Dahlia based on his feelings about his mother.

Farley, Terry McCarthy. “James Ellroy Confidential.” Time 157, no. 20 (May 21, 2001): 89-91. A profile of Ellroy that examines his opinions on American culture and politics in the 1960’s. Also deals with his feelings about his mother’s death.

Grobel, Lawrence. Endangered Species: Writers Talk About Their Craft, Their Visions, Their Lives. Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press, 2001. A collection of essays and interviews conducted with a dozen authors, including a lengthy, revealing conversation with Ellroy.

Haut, Woody. Heartbreak and Vine: The Fate of Hardboiled Writers in Hollywood. London: Serpent’s Tail, 2002. An examination of the experiences of living and deceased authors who have worked with the film industry in Hollywood, including Ellroy. Indexed with filmography.

Haut, Woody. Neon Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction. London: Serpent’s Tail, 1999. The story of American crime fiction and related films as told through the work of such writers as Ellroy. Indexed with filmography.

Jakubowski, Maxim, ed. One Hundred Great Detectives: Or, The Detective Directory. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1993. A collection of essays that includes an appreciation of Ellroy’s multifaceted creation, Dudley Smith.

Silet, Charles L. P. Talking Murder: Interviews with Twenty Mystery Writers. New York. W. W. Norton, 1999. In one chapter of this work, Silet, an interviewer for Mystery Scene and Armchair Detective, talks with Ellroy about his work and his life.

Terr, Lenore. Unchained Memories: True Stories of Traumatic Memories, Lost and Found. New York: Basic Books, 1995. A psychological study of five cases of repressed memory, including a chapter about the effect of his mother’s murder on Ellroy. Indexed.