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Shereen's Sunday Interview with James Ellroy

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Shereen Nanjiani Shereen Nanjiani | 12:42 UK time, Monday, 18 October 2010

James Ellroy

Crime Writer: James Ellroy

This week I interviewed the man who calls himself the greatest crime novelist who ever lived. Having read up on "LA Confidential" author James Ellroy, I learned that he often likes to make these grand statements about himself and that in media appearances he adopts "an outsized, stylized public persona of hard-boiled nihilism and self-reflexive subversiveness". "Oh God", I thought, "This isn't going to be easy". And I was right.

If you're an Ellroy fan you'll know that much of his life and his writing have been dominated by a traumatic event in his childhood - his mother's murder.
His obsession with crime, with the seedy underbelly of American society, and his own womanising, are all part of an attempt to come to terms with that event.
His latest book describes in relentless detail his downward spiral into drink, drugs and depression and his many, often unsavoury, relationships with women.

It's an uncomfortable read and he doesn't come across as a sympathetic character. That's how I would describe my interview with him. He talks in the same staccato style he uses in his prose - that would be the "hard-boiled nihilism and self-reflexive subversiveness" then. A difficult and strange interview.

He claims he has put his mother's ghost to rest now but listening to him, I wonder.

Listen to Shereen, Sunday 0900 on BBC Radio Scotland and available to listen again on iPlayer.


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