James Ellroy to Thomas Wolfe: Screw You

By Neal Comment

James Ellroy mines his Los Angeles past yet again, this time for a feature in the LA Times Sunday magazine, West, in which he describes some of the details of his “three-year crack-up” brought on by “long transits of overwork and emotional seepage held in check by near-insane ambition.” The prose is typically breathless Ellroy:

“The perceived L.A. was the square workday world that most people considered real. The real L.A. was crime and sex and outré pathology. L.A. was a force field. L.A. attracted squares. They formed the population bulk and camouflaged the fiends. The benign L.A. climate and egalitarian vibe were a shuck. The real L.A. migration was a mass yearning for human blood. The ice cream man was a child molester. The kindly cop was a rapist. The starlet was a syphilitic whore. Malign messages swirled in smog particles, detectable only by me. I possessed X-ray eyes.”

All your favorite Ellroy tropes are included—murdered mom, Black Dahlia, small-time junky exploits, bottoming out then building himself to write his first novel—but this time he includes more about the nervous breakdown that undercut promotional efforts for The Cold Six Thousand five years ago…and now that he’s better, he says, he’s coming home: “I want to live here, I want to work here, I want to end my days here. I want the all-new and wholly familiar stimulation that only L.A. provides. I want to reclaim L.A. with a revitalized and mature imagination.”