James Ellroy: 2019 National Book Festival

James Ellroy: 2019 National Book Festival


>>Robin Dale: Good evening. My name is Robin Dale and
I’m the assist librarian for library services at
the Library of Congress. And thank you for coming to
the National Book Festival and welcome to the genre fiction
stage for our final session. Before we begin, I’d
like to take a moment and thank National Book Festival
co-chairman, David Rubenstein, as well as all of
the other sponsors for making today possible. I hope you’ve taken the
opportunity to either enjoy part or all of your day here at
the National Book Festival. Our final session today is
an international best-selling author with a career
spanning almost 40 years. His amazing career includes
21 books, both fiction and non-fiction, short stories,
essays, with several being named to the New York Times
notable books of the year, and “American Tabloid”
with Time Magazine’s novel of the year for 1995. Several of his novels have
been made into movies, including “The Black Dahlia”
and “LA Confidential.” More recently, his
original LA quartet, and Underworld USA trilogy,
were released as a part of the noted Everyman’s
Library Collection. With “Brown’s Requiem” in 1981,
James Ellroy established himself as a crime fiction writer. But it was with his LA
quartet, “Black Dahlia,” “The Big Nowhere,” “LA
Confidential,” and “White Jazz,” were his status as
the preeminent writer of American noire
historical crime fiction was really cemented. In his distinct, staccato,
story-telling style, his books are rich,
deep, gritty, and sometimes dark stories of the Los Angeles
police department and the crimes they
face and solve. As one reviewer once said, “Ellroy sprays declarative
sentences like machine gun bullets, blasting to kingdom come
all notions of justice, heroism, and simple decency.” His police of the early 1950s,
the beat cop, the detectives, and their leaders,
are imperfect heroes. Sometimes equally dark and
very complex characters who can occasionally be
a part of the problem in Ellroy’s Los Angeles
of the past. These books certainly
do not tell the tales of the nostalgic 50s. The Underworld USA
trilogy, “American Tabloid,” “The Cold 6,000,” and “Blood’s
a Rover,” talks, excuse me, brought us forward in time,
continuing his unique blend of fiction and history,
this time mixing in politics and corruption in the same
manner as his earlier books. Most recently, he began
his second LA quartet, which thus far includes
“Perfidia” and his newest book,
“This Storm.” He’s rolled back the
clock, taking characters from the LA quartet and
the Underworld USA trilogy and placed them in the
middle of Los Angeles and the middle of World War II. We see their younger selves, young Bucky before he becomes
obsessed with the Black Dahlia. And we learn about their
experiences and back stories that drove the characters we
met in his earlier novels. It’s a divine, sometimes
shocking, but always enjoyable
circling around. His new novel, “This Storm,”
has been called, quote, “A crowning work by
an American master.” Here to discuss “This Storm,”
and potentially much more, is the self-professed demon dog of American literature,
Mr. James Ellroy. [ Applause ]>>James Ellroy: Yeah! Yeah! I’ve put a spell on you. You ain’t nobody’s
audience but mine. Good evening peepers,
prowlers, pederasts, pittance, panty-sniffers, punks,
and pimps. I’m James Ellroy, the
death dog with a hog log and the fowl owl
with the death growl. I am the author of 21
books, master of pieces all. They precede all my
future masterpieces. These books will leave you
ream-steamed and dry-cleaned, tie-dyed and swept to the side. Screwed, blued, tattooed,
and baw-fongooed. These are books for the
whole fucking family. Yep. The name of your
family is the Manson family. If each and every one of you
buy 1,000 copies of my new novel “This Storm” tonight, you will
be able to have unlimited sex with each and every
person on this Earth that you desire every night
for the rest of your lives. If each and every one of you
buy 2,000 copies of my new novel “This Storm” tonight, you will
be able to have unlimited sex with each and every
person on this Earth that you desire every night
for the rest of your lives and still get into
heaven as the result of a special dispensation signed
by me, the Reverend Ellroy. If each and every one
of you buy 3,000 copies of my new book tonight, you get
the sex, you get into heaven, and sanity will be
restored to Washington when I am elected
president in 2020. Yeah! [ Applause ] You heard it first
off the record on the QT and very hush… hush. TS Eliot wrote
“If you came this way, starting from anywhere, at
any time and in any season, it would always be the same.” You would have to put
off sense and notion. You are not here to
instruct yourself or to inform curiosity
or to carry rapport. You are here to kneel where
prayer has been proven valid. And for me, yours truly,
James Ellroy, the demon dog of American literature, what
better place to bow my head and pray than in a tabernacle
wherein books are worshiped, honored, lauded, and venerated. So we are all here under the
agues of and the sufferance of and at the behest
of the big library, America’s Library of Congress. Yeah! [ Applause ] Saul Bellow began his
great novel “The Adventures of Augie March” by
announcing him geographically. He writes “I’m an American,
Chicago-born, Chicago, that somber city and go at
things as I have taught myself.” I will be thus enunciatory. I’m an American, LA-born,
LA, that fucked up city, and go at things as
I have taught myself. Geography is destiny. My parents hatched
me in a cool locale. I was born in LA, the
film noire epicenter. In 1948, the height
of the film noire era. And more than anything else,
this high school dropout, this young man who did not last
in the US Army is a product of his passion for reading and a
product of the public libraries in Los Angeles county. Yeah! [ Applause ] I got kicked out of Fairfax
High School in LA in mid-March of 1965, shortly after
my 17th birthday. My dad was deathly ill. And I enlisted under his
signature in the US Army. He became deathly ill and died
while I was in basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana. I melted down, got the boot, and
came back to LA with 2,000 bucks in my pocket, declared
an emancipated juvenile by the LA city courts. And I was looking for trouble. I knew that I would
have some kind of swinging fucking
destiny right here in LA. My smog-bound fatherland. But first, I had to find a job. And so, I went down
to LA City Hall. Because I had heard about the
Lyndon Johnson great society program, the neighborhood
Youth Corps. It was operated out of a
suite of offices in City Hall, that great film noire
landmark, and it was a prophecy of the marvelous
interracial buddy movies that would take hold of the American male
imagination in the 70s and 80s. Movies like “48 Hours,”
“Another 48 Hours,” “Yet Another 48 Hours,” the best of these movies always starred
Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte. There was a long
suite of offices. It was one dipshit white guy and
one dipshit black guy huddled up selling jobs for the
neighborhood Youth Corps along with Dexedrine, sediment
secobarbital, doctors’ prescriptions,
and anything else that you could think of. They also ran floating
crap games for LA city and county
employees. “Okay, Kid,” they said to me. “Where do you want to work?” Uhhh, my local public library. The [inaudible] branch library on the southern edge
of Hollywood. I got the job. 24 hours a week at a buck
and a quarter an hour, then the minimum wage. I started shelving books. What’s the first book
that I recall shelving? Ross McDonald’s great
crime novel “The Zebra Striped Hearse.” I read it. I was transported to the world
of degenerate rich people. Grifters, peepers,
prowlers, pederasts, pittance, panty-sniffers, punks,
and pimps. [ Lecherous Laughter ] I made a vow in the backwash
from reading that book that I would one day be a
novelist and that one day, I would be published
by Alfred A Knopf, Ross McDonald’s publisher,
Patricia Highsmith’s publisher. In the future, John
Le Carre’s publisher. George V Higgins’s publisher. Precedingly, James M Kane, Dashiell Hammett,
and Ramon Chandler. Their publisher. And damned if it didn’t happen. Now I’ve knocked around
the lot in this lifetime. I’m 71 years old even
though I don’t look it. But I still feel
lean, mean, obscene, and barely into my teens. Why? Because I am a
reading mo-fo and more than anything else,
I am a product of the LA county library system. Nowww let’s flash
forward 54 years. It’s the internet age. And here’s a confession for
you, I am computer illiterate. I’ve never logged
onto a computer. I’ve written all
21 books by hand. I have people who
type the books for me. I have a sturdy fax machine. And I use up reams and reams of
white notebook paper and boxes and boxes of black and
red ballpoint pens. Why am I such a luddite? Because I am a product
of– you guessed it– the LA county public
library system. And when I started going to the
LA county public library system, as a little shaver, circa
1957, when I was 9 years old, they didn’t have no computers,
no internet, and no cell phones. But I was a kid with a dream and
the dream that overtook me was that I could become
a practitioner at the difficult craft of
that which most moved me, which was reading novels. The big picture. The big story. Men and women in love. Detailed social history. Times and places adroitly
and movingly observed. I’ve been at it for 40 years
now and I’m damned good at it and I’m nowhere near done. Because for me, to
quit now would mean that I have betrayed the trust of the Los Angeles
county library system here in the hallowed home, Washington
DC, of the biiiiiiiiig library. It would now honor me to answer
the most overall personal questions that each and every
one of you peepers, prowlers, pederasts, pittance,
panty-sniffers, punks, and pimps has for me. A proviso at the beginning. I don’t talk about politics. Forget it. I don’t comment on
anything contemporaneous. It’s 1942, as far
as I’m concerned. I just finished the second
book in my second LA quartet, which takes us up to May, 1942. And nothing exists beyond that. There’s a reason for this. Nothing stands in for
anything else in my books. If it’s 1942, it’s 1942. Nothing that follows
has yet transpired. Given that proviso, here
I am, I’m at your service, I’m your dog, your
demon dog specifically. Even more specifically,
I am a product of the LA county
library system talking to you here in the big library. Thanks, God bless you. Ask me some questions. [ Applause ] Hey, I know you boss.>>I came. You told me to come and I came
because you sent this guy Vinnie over and he told me to show up. Anyway.>>James Ellroy: Oh. There you are, okay.>>You just got an order for 4,000 books from
the White House.>>James Ellroy: Alright!>>Okay. Seriously. I’m curious, how would you
compare with a west coast to the east coast in the ’42
in terms of the down-dirty, you know, film noire
kind of lifestyle? Do you make any differentiation
in that in terms of when you look at it?>>James Ellroy: You know
what, I don’t know shit about the east coast in 1942.>>Okay.>>James Ellroy: I know a
great deal about LA in 1942. You bring up film noire. Film noire is the most
over-scrutinized sub-genre of motion pictures. It really only existed,
film noire as an art form, between 1945 and 1960. When people say noire, noire,
noire, and they harp on it over and over, what they’re
really talking about is the hard-boiled canon. Film noire was filmed in LA for
a very simple financial reason. The studios were there and it
was cheap to shoot on location. So I was not shucking and jiving when I said my parents
hatched me in a cool locale. ’48 LA, what can I say? I know the history,
I know the crime. I know all the shit. Great crimes. The great forbidden love
stories of that time. But more importantly, I’ve got
a deep, deep urge to rewrite that history to my
own specifications. And I will be the
first to concede to you that factual accuracy means
next to nothing to me.>>Okay.>>James Ellroy: My books
are factually risible. They adhere to the
specific strokes of history, the big ding-dongs of
the historical bell. JFK bought the farm on
November 27th, 1963, Japanese bombed Pearl
Harbor December 7th, 1941. Beyond that, it’s [inaudible]
because it has F on the spine of the book and that
stands for fiction.>>Thank you.>>James Ellroy: You’re welcome.>>Hi James. Thank you so much for your great
work and I remember talking to you back in university. The book fair in Miami. And I just wanted two things
that may sound a little cliche. And it’s you did the novel
“Black Dahlia” and you’ve talked about how you were part
inspired by the tragic death of [inaudible] but
subsequently to the novel that you’ve been reporting
and non-fiction books that have attempted to
identify individuals and one person I think
is a person who is an MD, a daughter of, or
a child of an MD who may have been
involved in these deaths. And so on. I wanted your view of that. That’s one question. And then the second is you
are a masterful stylist. And your style has
changed and evolved. It’s gotten more
staccato and you know, machine gun like over the years. I was wondering what
was the decision making about the style evolution. So those are my two questions
and you are a true master.>>James Ellroy: Thank you
for those enduring comments. I don’t know who
killed Elizabeth Short, the [inaudible] Black
Dahlia, January 15th, 1947. None of the theories
are convincing or evidentially sound. My style has gotten… More fulsome actually,
not more staccato, not more truncated,
over the years. After I developed the
style, the abbreviated, short-sentence style
in “LA Confidential” in the third person
and in “White Jazz” in the first person,
“Cold 6,000,” again in the first person. My last three novels,
“Blood’s a Rover,” “Perfidia,” and “This Storm,” they, it
is a more expanded style. It’s deliberately more expanded to spotlight the enhanced
emotional content of the books.>>Okay, thanks. Unfortunately, that’s what
I have to catch up on. So thank you so much.>>James Ellroy: On sale
wherever books are sold. Buy them in bookstores,
not on the internet. Sir.>>Thank you. For the record, I am product
of the Montgomery County, Maryland public libraries.>>James Ellroy: Yeah!>>Were there real-life
inspirations for Dudley Smith or any of the other cop
characters particularly that you write about?>>James Ellroy: No. Dudley Smith is entirely
a fiction. He appears in a number
of my books. There are two notable
real-life policemen who inhabit the LA quartet
and the second LA quartet. William H Parker, who became
chief of the LAPD in 1950. Easily the greatest American
policeman of the 20th century. And the corrupt vice cop,
Elmer Jackson, who is the hero of my new novel, “This Storm.” Elmer and his girlfriend, Brenda
Allen, invented the call girl. A dubious invention at best. Sir.>>1942, eh?>>James Ellroy: Yeah.>>So you think the
allies have a chance of beating the axis
powers in the Great War?>>James Ellroy: Pardon me?>>Do you think the
allies have a chance of beating the axis
powers in the Great War?>>James Ellroy: I’m
sorry, I can’t hear you sir.>>Um.>>James Ellroy: What about
the axis powers, you said?>>Well you said it was
1942, so I was wondering if the allies have a
chance of winning the war.>>James Ellroy: I didn’t
hear you, sir, I’m sorry. What was the question?>>It’s fine. I’ll withdraw my question.>>James Ellroy:
We’ll talk afterwards. Typical Ellroy show. All men at the podium.>>Good evening Mr. Ellroy.>>James Ellroy: Hey
boss, how are you?>>I’m good, thank you. You talked about the, your books
not presenting a lot of facts. Are you seeking for similitude
as opposed to factually scenes or vignettes, what have you?>>James Ellroy: Yes,
it’s very similitude. In a nutshell, I am trying to give you epigrammatically
the secret human infrastructure of large public events. That’s my great device.>>Thank you.>>James Ellroy: You’re welcome.>>Do you research
with– I’m sorry. Just really quickly. Do you do research in the Los
Angeles county public libraries?>>James Ellroy: I do not. I have an assistant. She lives in LA,
I live in Denver. And she looks up the stuff
that I need for these books. And I constantly exhort
her, “Keep it brief because in the end it comes down
to how well I can make it up.”>>Thank you.>>James Ellroy:
Woman over here.>>Yes, thank you. First of all, I want to say
I’m in on the 3,000 copies. And all that entails.>>James Ellroy: Uh-huh.>>I also have a
research question. 1942, how do you decide
or have you, you know, does your assistant research
how you’re going to dress your– or undress– your characters?>>James Ellroy:
I’m not for clothing or physical descriptions. We all know, and it
stands subtextually, what people looked like then. Too much makeup on the
women, long skirts, stacked heel shoes
for the women. Baggy assess double
breasted suits for the men. White-wall haircuts on the men. Since it’s 1942, we got
some good Zoot suits there. With the reet pleat
and the drape shape. And the waistline that
comes up to the sternum. It’s subtext, we all know it
because we’ve seen the movies.>>Thank you.>>James Ellroy: You’re welcome. Sir.>>Hi. I’ve only read through– “Blood is a Rover” so I don’t
know if this is answered in your later novels and
I feel kind of embarrassed but you’re an excellent
cataloguer of LA county. But does your interest
in the city at all extend up through the valley or
out through inland empire or are you much more
just focused personally on the county itself?>>James Ellroy: Even though
I grew up in LA, I haven’t, I’ve only spent nine of the
past 38 years of my life there. The inland empire
doesn’t jazz me. The city of Los Angeles
jazzes me. The San Fernando
Valley doesn’t jazz me. The beach doesn’t jazz me. I lived briefly in the San
Gabriel Valley as a 10 year old. That jazzes me a bit. Yes.>>Thank you. Just a quick– about
“Blood’s a Rover.” You had mentioned, I had the
pleasure of meeting you earlier when you were signing books
and you talked about how “Blood’s a Rover” was
a more fulsome novel. And I think I agree. But I wanted, it also feels
slightly more personal than perhaps “American
Tabloid” and “Cold 6,000” and I wonder kind of
why that actually, I wondered since I read it, why it feels a bit more
personal than those two? I wanted you to elaborate
on that.>>James Ellroy:
Because I met a woman. [ Faint Laughter ] You got a sense of
humor, I’ll give you that. You’re a good audience, yeah.>>Hello, sir. I am very humbled to be
able to talk to you today. I am an aspiring screenwriter. And I did live in
LA for about a year. I have two questions for you. One is do you see a difference between the library
in 1942 and now? Is the first question. The second one is where do
you get your inspiration for your characters
and the storylines that you have for your stories?>>James Ellroy: I get
the stories from history. When I was a little, little kid, my parents had a
big closet stuffed with copies of Life magazine. And my little kid snout
was pressed to the pages. For a great many hours. There. I can’t tell you what
the public library system was like in 1942 as compared
to today, because I wasn’t
born until 1948. [ Faint Laughter ]>>Okay, well, from the time
that you started until now.>>James Ellroy: Everything
is computerized now. I go back to the library, where
I used to work as a 17 year old, they still have a bank for
the card catalogue system. But everything’s on a computer.>>Thank you very much.>>James Ellroy: You’re welcome.>>Hello, sir. I was wondering what
is the best movie to come out in 1942 so far? Thank you.>>James Ellroy: You
know what, I don’t know. The overrated “Citizen
Kane” stuck around from the fall of 1941. In fact, in my novel
“Perfidia,” I do a hatchet job on Orson Welles because one of my policeman anti-heroes
is having a hot affair with screen legend Bettie Davis
and Bettie drags Dudley Smith to the Hawaii theatre to see
“Citizen Kane” in third run. He’s bored and vexed. And, as I was when I saw
the movie, [inaudible], what, 48 or 9 years ago. And then in “This Storm,”
the sequel to “Perfidia,” Dudley Smith kicks the shit out
of Orson Welles and recruits him as his sniveling snitch. Sir.>>I was listening
to one of your talks, I think it was earlier this year
at Poetry and Prose, actually. And you talked about
the importance of challenging yourself as
a reader and seeking kind of outside the typical
things that you read and challenging yourself
and how that was important. I was wondering if you could
expand on that a little bit and also kind of as a follow-up,
in the spirit of the Library of Congress, how do we
inspire people to do that? Kids, across the board, the
people that aren’t here with us that they’re big readers. You know, how do we do that?>>James Ellroy: Discourage
kids from going on the internet. Take away their cell phones. Mulch them into springs
and diodes and transistors. Make them go to the
public library. Curtail their telephone
usage in general because all they’re really
doing is getting on the horn to their little kid
dipshit buddies so they can plan their
next sexual escapade or their next dope deal. [ Faint Applause ] Keep them under the iron heel
of reading the printed word. Yeah! [ Applause ]>>I was wondering
how you’re able to create such immersive slang. The slang that you use,
you’re famous for it. It’s so immersive, it
brings you into the world. How do you do that?>>James Ellroy: Largely my
colloquialisms are invented. I have a love for the
whole broad spectrum of the American idiom. I love racial invective. I love Yiddish. I love Black hepcat petiot. I love alliteration. I love spelling hard C words with a K just for
the hell of it. I love penal code
abbreviations even if I don’t know what crimes
the numbers designate. There is a language of hard
boiled, I studied it informally. I assimilated it to whatever
extent I assimilated it.>>Thank you.>>James Ellroy: Jovana.>>Thanks, Mr. Ellroy. I guess my question for you is
since history’s such a big part of your work and everything
you pretty much do, what is your favorite
historical event?>>James Ellroy:
The Kennedy hit. JFK.>>Why?>>James Ellroy: I was
15 in November of 1963. I wasn’t a Kennedy guy back
in 1960, when I was 12. I was a Nixon guy. But I catalogued it
for future reference. And I recall vividly everything
that happened to me that day. I learned of the Kennedy hit
when I went over to the backyard of my pals Dave and Donald
Runyon, high school pals. Twin brothers. And I slit the bundle
on the newspapers for my Herald Express
paper route. “Kennedy Assassinated.” People were waiting in
front of their doors, out on their front lawns
for their newspapers. The Runyon brothers and I
and a fellow, a local kid. Named Dave Bert. We went out driving that night. Marquis were turned off. Nightclubs and movie theatres
and restaurants were closed. But we all lived on the
southern edge of Hollywood, the twins, and Dave Bert and I. And we’re driving
down the street. And it was an amazing
visual thing that I saw. Television globe, black and
white TV, in house after house after house after house. On every block of Arden between
Clinton and 3rd street, Lucerne, between Clinton and 3rd street. And further south
into Hancock Park. Geography was not destiny as far
as the Kennedy hit is concerned. It was the intervention of
someone else’s great novel. In 1988, I went to the
American Bookseller’s Association convention. It was in Santa Anna in
Orange County, California, and I snatched a copy of
Don DeLillo’s novel “Libra.” And it went through me
like a jolt of pure meth. This is DeLillo’s masterpiece,
history of the Kennedy hit, as seen largely through the
eyes of Lee Harvey Oswald. Mr. DeLillo posits
a conspiracy stacked by an unholy triumvirate,
renegade CIA men. Not the CIA as an entity. Crazy Cuban exiles. And the mob. That this amalgam came
together and took down JFK. He also portrays the Kennedy
brothers as tragic knights who did not know who they
were messing around with. And he portrays implicitly,
because we’re never in the viewpoints of
the Kennedy brothers, JFK himself as the ship
bird and a naive betrayer because he betrayed the Cuban
exiles cravenly at the Bay of Pigs and they never forgot
and they killed his ass for it. Went through me like
a jolt of pure meth. Ahhhhhhh! I realized in the
wake of reading that book, shit! This book is so great that
now I can’t do a JFK hit book. However, I found
a way around it. So I wrote “American Tabloid,”
which charts the harbingers of the JFK hit from a point
of Genesis in late 1958 when Fidel Castro is on the
cusp of taking over in Cuba. And while retaining Mr.
DeLillo’s unholy amalgam, I fabricated and
refabricated at will and Oswald has only a very
minor role in the book. This is my most praised novel. The biggest departure
from the crime novel that I’ve ever accomplished. And I wrote Mr. DeLillo
a letter in the wake of publishing the book. he read it, he sent me
very generous letter back. And thus to this day, I credit
Mr. DeLillo every chance I get.>>Thank you.>>James Ellroy: You’re welcome. Sir.>>What do or would you
say to an adult who prefers to which Netflix
rather than read books?>>James Ellroy: Fuck off.>>Besides that.>>James Ellroy: Kiss my ass. Get a job, go buy a book. Hit the road. Go to the public library.>>Okay. I remember hearing
you say one time you thought “The Great Gatsby” was
one of the great books in American literature–>>James Ellroy: No,
I never said that. Brother, I don’t like
“The Great Gatsby.” I’d rather watch flies fuck
in Alabama than have to look through that book again. Yeah. Yeah.>>Hello Mr. Ellroy.>>James Ellroy: Hey,
boss, how are you.>>I’d like to get your thoughts
on what makes Los Angeles such an affective
and appealing setting for crime in detective fiction. Have we just been
conditioned– ->>James Ellroy: We have. Brother, you hit it
right on the snout. For one thing, couple things. Film noire was there. Right off the bat. It’s all LA. LA locations. It’s embedded in
our consciousness. Our visual consciousness. Another thing. Raymond Chandler, one of
the most overrated writers in American history, set
his detective novels, “The Big Sleep,” “Farewell,
My Lovely,” “The High Window,” “The Lady in the Lake,”
“The Little Sister,” “The Long Goodbye,”
and “Playback” there. Then there’s also James
M Cain’s great big three. “The Postman Always
Rings Twice.” “Double Indemnity.” And his finest book,
“Mildred Pierce.” It’s subtext. Then, the great Ross
McDonald came in. He widens the net
geographically. He calls Santa Barbara
“Santa Teresa.” He calls San Diego
“Pacific Point.” It’s the whole southern
California troika circumscribed. It’s the history of it
we have been conditioned. And then to add insult to
injury, yours truly appeared. The only one, by the way,
who was an LA native.>>Thank you.>>James Ellroy: You’re welcome. Yes, sir.>>Yes, sir. I was just curious
what were your thoughts about the movie adaptation of
your “LA Confidential” novel?>>James Ellroy: Are you
asking me what I thought of “LA Confidential” the movie? “The Black Dahlia?”>>Yes, sir.>>James Ellroy: “LA
Confidential” the movie is about as deep as a tortilla. I think it’s an intimate
adaptation of my novel. The man, Brian Helgeland, who wrote the screenplay,
despises it. I think the performances
are uniformly weak. In particular, Kim Basinger,
Russell Crowe, and Kevin Spacy. Guy Pierce is okay. The very tall James
Cromwell is okay. The very short Danny
DeVito is okay. The dialogue is overall
expository. It feels patched together. Consensus thinking made that movie the big
critical hit that it was. “The Black Dahlia,” inexplicably
reviewed motion picture, a big box office flop. Sold 50 times more books
for me in seven weeks than “LA Confidential”
has in 22 years.>>Thank you.>>James Ellroy: You’re welcome. Does any– okay.>>Follow-up to that if I may. So why don’t you do some of the
screenplays for these movies?>>James Ellroy: I have
written a bunch of screenplays. I have been handsomely
compensated. It did it for the money. They, the three motion pictures,
my script, “The Night Watchmen,” which became “Street Kings.” My script “The Plague Season,”
which became “Dark Blue.” My script “Rampart,” which
became “Rampart,” all written out from underneath me. The check cleared, I get a
nice pension from the WGA now. The reason that I didn’t adapt
my own books is they hired somebody else to do it.>>And you have no
rights in terms of–>>James Ellroy: Nope, none. None. Money is the gift
that no one ever refuses. Or returns. The color green is always
flattering and the size, generally large, tends to fit. So option money rolls in, you go
oh man, that’s a whole shitload of money for not doing anything. Because I’ve already
written the book. Are you going to
turn the money down? Nah. Not me.>>Sounds good.>>James Ellroy: Thank you. Hey, does anyone want to ask
me, or you could ask me all, en masse, why do you write?>>Why do you write?>>James Ellroy:
Let’s hear it again.>>Why do you write?>>James Ellroy: One
more time, please.>>Why do you write?>>James Ellroy: “In my
crafter’s sullen art, exercised in the still night,
when only the moon rages and the lovers lie abed with
all their griefs in their arms, I labor by singing light,
not to the strutton trade of charms upon the ivory
stages, but for the common wages of their most secret heart. Not for the pride man of part, do I write on these spindrift
pages, but for the lovers, their arms round the griefs
of the ages, who pay no praise or wages, nor heed
my craft or art.” Dylan Thomas. Thank you, God bless you. [ Applause ]

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