James Ellroy biography, plus links to book reviews and book excerpts from books by James Ellroy.

Author Biography  |  Interview  |  Books by this Author  |  Readalikes

James Ellroy

James Ellroy

James Ellroy Biography

James Ellroy (nee Lee Earle Ellroy) was born in Los Angeles in 1948. His mother was a nurse and his father, when he did work, was an accountant, among other things.

When his parents divorced in 1954, his mother got custody and moved to El Monte (a low income area in L.A). His mother was murdered there in 1958. James Ellroy's attempt to solve this still unsolved murder was the subject of his 1996 nonfiction work My Dark Places. After his mother's death, he moved in with his father.

Ellroy claims to have been turned on to crime fiction by the Hardy Boys. At the age of ten, his father bought him Jack Webb's The Badge, a history of the LAPD. He became obsessed with the book and studied it repeatedly. In this book, he discovered the story of the Black Dahlia, as well as the cops and crime figures he would later write about in the L.A. Quartet.

Ellroy went to high school in the largely Jewish city of Fairfax. As an attention-starved adolescent, he mailed Nazi pamphlets to girls he liked, criticized JFK and advocated the reinstatement of slavery. Amazingly, he claims to have received only one schoolyard beating for his anti-Semitic hijinks. He was a big fan of "The Fugitive" TV series in the early sixties and was obsessed with crime novels and movies in his late teens. When he wasn't reading crime novels, he was shoplifting food and porno magazines. At this time, his father suffered from a stroke and he reluctantly stepped into the caregiver role.

He was eventually expelled from Fairfax high school for ranting about Nazism in his English class. Soon after, he joined the army.

Realizing that he didn't belong in the army and worried about his father, he faked a stutter and convinced the army psychiatrist that he was not mentally fit for combat. After three months, he received a dishonorable discharge.

Soon after returning home to L.A., his father died in the hospital. His last words: "Try to pick up every waitress who serves you."

After his father's death, he moved into his own apartment on the money the army paid him. He landed himself in juvenile hall trying to steal a steak from a Liquor & Food Mart. When he got out, his friend's father, who Ellroy called a "right-wing crackpot" became his guardian.

When he turned eighteen, he was back on the streets again. He lived in parks and Goodwill bins. He broke into the homes of girls he liked and stole their underwear. He drank, experimented with drugs, and read hundreds of crime novels. He discovered Benzedrex, a sinus inhaler. Instead of inhaling it, he would swallow it to get a speed high.

When it got cold he would move into vacant apartments. The police caught him doing this once, and threw him in jail. When he got out of jail, he got a job at an adult book store and loaded up on magazines. The women reminded him of his mother and the Black Dahlia.

The Benzedex drove him to near schizophrenia and the alcohol was destroying his health. He suffered from pneumonia twice and developed what his doctor called "post-alcohol brain syndrome." Fearing for his sanity, he joined AA and got sober. He earned steady money as a golf caddy and began to mentally formulate a mystery plot, which would become Brown's Requiem.

At the age of thirty, he wrote and sold his first novel.  

He currently lives in Kansas City.

From the author's website August 2010

Link to James's website

This biography was last updated on 08/13/2010.

A note about the biographies
We try to keep BookBrowse's biographies both up to date and accurate. However, with over 2500 lives to keep track of it's inevitable that some won't be as current or as complete as we would like. So, please help us - if the information about a particular author is out of date, inaccurate or simply very short, and you know of a more complete source, please let us know. Authors and those connected with authors: If you wish to make changes to your bio, please send your complete biography as you would like it displayed so that we can replace the old with the new.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Interview

A Conversation with James Ellroy author of The Cold Six Thousand

In the opening paragraph of American Tabloid you write that "America was never innocent." How does this theme further evolve in The Cold Six Thousand?
America was founded on a bedrock of land grabs, slavery, religious extremism, colonial ambition, and genocide. The notion that America was innocent prior to Jack Kennedy's murder is preposterous; by the rules he lived by, Jack got what he deserved. He took aid from organized crime during the 1960 election; he repaid the debt by siccing his kid brother Bobby on the Mob at large. He betrayed the Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs. He pissed off a hot-headed troika of mobsters, exiles and renegade CIA men involved in the Cuban cause. They whacked him for it. His death derived from the perennial motives of money and turf. It was a gaudy homicide that set the stage for the out-of-control America that I portray in The Cold Six Thousand.

So you really think the Mob called the hits on JFK, Martin Luther King Jr, and Bobby Kennedy?
I'm convinced that the Mob, in cahoots with Cuban exiles and renegade CIA elements, whacked Jack Kennedy. That said, I'm a novelist -- and my job is the creation of ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Books by this Author

Books by James Ellroy at BookBrowse

Recommended in Detail at BookBrowse

The Cold Six Thousand
The Cold Six Thousand

by James Ellroy

His most ambitious and explosive novel yet, Ellroy puts the whole of the 1960s under his blistering lens. The result is a work of fierce, epic fiction, a speedball through our most tumultuous time.
Read More

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for James Ellroy but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

  • Joe Gores

    Joe Gores

    Joseph Nicholas Gores (1931-2011) was born in Rochester, Minnosota and educated at Notre Dame University and Stanford University. He also served in the US Army, where he wrote biographies of generals. After earning a master... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Cold Six Thousand

    Try:
    Spade & Archer
    by Joe Gores

  • Walter Mosley

    Walter Mosley

    Walter Mosley's books have been translated into at least twenty-one languages. His popular mysteries featuring Easy Rawlins and his friend Raymond "Mouse" Alexander began with Devil in a Blue Dress. It was published by... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Cold Six Thousand

    Try:
    Fear Itself
    by Walter Mosley

We recommend 5 similar authors

View all 5 Readalikes

Non-members can see 2 results. Become a member
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...
  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...
  • Book Jacket: Toms River
    Toms River
    by Dan Fagin
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction

    In Toms River, investigative journalist Dan Fagin ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Who Said...

A million monkeys...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.