My secret life: James Ellroy, author, 62


My parents were ... good-looking LA arrivistes. They were ill-suited for parenthood, so I'm not surprised that I turned out to be both as troubled and gifted as I am.

The house/flat I grew up in ... My parents divorced when I was quite young. My mother was a fastidious housekeeper; my dad was a slob. After my mother's celebrated – if over-reported – 1958 murder, I went to live with my dad and we had a beagle who was un-housebroken. Our place reeked of dog shit.

When I was a child I wanted to ... be a novelist.

If I could change one thing about myself ... I would have hair.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at ... public speaking. I have a lot of clergymen ancestors; the pulpit calls to me.

You wouldn't know it but I'm no good at ... I have no facility whatsoever for foreign languages of any kind.

At night I dream of ... My girlfriend Erika's dad is the famous film critic Richard Schickel, and I'm oddly fond of this man, who is florid, 50lbs overweight, 77 years old, and chain-smokes. I keep waiting to have the heart-to-heart talk with him, where I tell him how much I love his daughter. He understands this implicitly, but he has no emotional language for it. So in my dreams, I'm always about to tell him and he goes like this [puts up his hand].

What I see when I look in the mirror ... I'm occasionally shocked at how old I look, and then I get a different angle on it and I realise I look good.

I wish I'd never worn ... I grew up very poor, adjoining a rich area called Hancock Park in LA, and people wore elegant, traditional clothes and thus I have spent a fortune on elegant, traditional clothing. I have worn some of the most absurd patchwork plaid trousers ever.

My favourite item of clothing ... I have three very fine flannel, chalk-striped suits. I was meant to wear a chalk-stripe suit, because I'm tall and thin.

I drive ... a shamelessly gas-guzzling, brand-new Cadillac CTS-V. It is profoundly powerful, very very fast and good looking. It drives like a bat out of hell.

My house is ... I don't have a house; I have a divorce pad. It's 10 blocks from the neighbourhood that I grew up adjoining. It's where I go when women divorce me. The walls are red; the only books on the shelves are books I wrote myself, except for Erika's memoir, which is flush up against one of my many busts of Beethoven.

A book that changed me ... Libra, by Don DeLillo. It's the story of the assassination of John F Kennedy, largely told through the eyes of Lee Harvey Oswald, and it is in every way the genesis of my novel American Tabloid.

My greatest regret ... I may sound sociopathic, but I don't regret. I try not to repeat the mistakes that I often make. I fail at this, and I have a propensity for misconduct, but I learn in the end. I believe the old saying: you don't regret what you did, you regret what you didn't do. So I'm pathologically decisive.

The last time I cried ... I watched Erika read LA Confidential, finish it, and cry – and when she started crying, I cried.

My five-year plan ... to see Erika's daughters get through high-school so that we can get the hell out of LA. And write my next two and a half novels.

What's the point? Transcendence.

My life in five words ... A hell of a ride.

A life in brief

James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles on 4 March, 1948. He is the author of the crime classics, LA Confidential and The Black Dahlia, both of which were made into Hollywood films, as well as a memoir, My Dark Places, about his mother's unsolved murder in 1958. He has been married twice, currently lives in Los Angeles, and has recently published another memoir, The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

SharePoint Administrator/Developer (C#, VB.NET, VISUAL STUDIO 2

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SharePoi...

European HR Director, London

£80000 - £95000 per annum: Charter Selection: A leading Global organisation Ja...

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players