For a few years now, I've been meaning to pick up some James Ellroy. Shamefully I'm one of those people who discovered Ellroy after the movie adaptation of LA Confidential, but it wasn't until I saw the BBC Arena film James Ellroy's Feast of Death , that I became interested in his writing. My first Ellroy was his 2001 novel American Tabloid, a magnificent chronicle of Underworld USA in the late 50's, dazzlingly cast with smooth, suave FBI agents, vicious gangsters, and real-life figures from that era - Jimmy Hoffa, Howard Hughes, J.Edgar Hoover and the Kennedy's John and Robert. To spill the beans on the plot of American Tabloid would rob any reader of Ellroy's genius of invention so the book, and indeed all of Ellroy's books are highly recommended for their tough muscular prose, quickfire montage scene setting and incredible doses of violence and sleazy sex.
Ellroy's books have proven a challenge for film makers, with the exception of Curtis Hanson's excellent adaptation of LA Confidential (which was still something of a dilution of the original novel). Ellroy's plots and narratives may well be too dense for Hollywood to crack, and Ellroy himself knows it. Commenting about the LA Confidential film, Elloy said: "It was a fluke—and a wonderful one — and it is never going to happen again—a movie of that quality"
Anyone wishing to find out more about James Ellroy should pick up two fine documentaries currently available on DVD - the aforementioned Feast of Death and James Ellroy: American Dog. To hear some audio of the great man in conversation, click here for an mp3 copy of Ellroy's appearance on BBC Radio's Desert Island Selection ,(broadcast January 17th 2010, duration 40min approx) on which Ellroy discusses his life, work and plays a selection of some of his favourite music.