A master of noir crime fiction, James has up close and personal knowledge of the world of crime. His life has been shadowed by a gruesome event: the unsolved murder of his mother when he was a child. In 1958, Geneva Hilliker Ellroy’s body was dumped on a roadway in El Monte, California, a seedy L.A. exurb. Her killer was never apprehended. Her murder unleashed a force that has propelled Ellroy’s work. Ellroy channeled his anguish and transformed himself into an outsized public persona: an audacious, uncompromising, and unapologetic chronicler of humanity’s dark side.
Listen to James Ellroy reading an excerpt from his last book: “The Hilliker Curse”
“I pointed at Rita Hayworth’s name on the screen. My mother glared at it. My dad went back to the ’30s with La Roja Rita. It pre-dated his circa ’40 hookup with Jean. Rita was half Anglo, half Mex aristocrat. My dad was working as a croupier in TJ. Rita’s father hired him to watch-dog Rita and deter mashers. My dad told me he poured Rita the pork on several notable occasions. I cannot verify this assertion. My dad did enjoy a long run as Rita’s chief stooge. Rita sacked his lazy ass, circa 1950. My parents defied easy classification. Jean Hilliker hit late ’38 L.A. She won a beauty contest, tanked a screen test and returned to Chicago. She lived in a big pad with four other nurses. A beefy bull dyke ruled the roost. Jean got pregnant, and hemorrhaged. A doctor chum undid the damage. She had an affair with him, dumped him and married a rich stiff. Marriage #1 fizzled pronto. Jean remember how good L.A looked and caught a bus. A friend knew a ginch named Jean Feese. Jean F. was married to a hunky drifter named Ellroy. They met, they sizzled, they shacked. My dad dumped Jean #1. Jean #2 got pregnant in 1947. They got married in August. A troubled pregnancy foretold my rapturously troubled and memoir mapped life.”