James Ellroy

New York Times Magazine

James Ellroy on his life in crime, his imaginary dog and the need to provoke.

“I’ve had precious few moments,” admitted the novelist James Ellroy, “where I’ve said to myself: ‘Ellroy, you are the king. You’re the greatest crime writer that ever lived.’” A comment like that might be insufferable if it weren’t delivered, as it was by Ellroy, with a grin and if it didn’t also have a plausible claim on the truth. Ellroy’s morally complex, baroquely plotted, sprawling and highly stylized novels — “The Black Dahlia” and “L.A. Confidential” chief among them — constitute a singularly intense body of work. In the 71-year-old’s opinion, he has reached a new peak with his latest, “This Storm.” But he’s not taking that as an invitation to coast. “The reflex kicks in,” Ellroy said, and it tells him: “You’ve got more work to do.”

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