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James Ellroy

Michael Berkeley’s guest is American crimewriter James Ellroy, whose hero is Beethoven.

James Ellroy has been dubbed the ‘demon dog of American crime fiction’, a label he relishes. His crime novels, fifteen to date, are international best-sellers; the world they depict is Los Angeles at its wildest and darkest, cops and criminals as violent as each other. Ellroy’s own life has been dominated by crime; his mother was murdered when he was ten, and Ellroy himself got involved in petty theft and, as a young man, spent time in jail.

In Private Passions, James Ellroy reflects on a turbulent life, and how he honed his story-telling skills in a cell with five other criminals. He reveals how much he owes to classical music – and particularly to Beethoven. He has a bust of Beethoven on his desk as he writes, and speaks to him every day. Sometimes Beethoven answers back. James talks too about his other heroes: Mahler, Shostakovich, Bruckner and Wagner, and his admiration for their monumental works. The choices have a strong romantic streak, perhaps surprising in a writer whose world is so violent and dark. But in conversation with Michael Berkeley, James Ellroy reveals himself as never before.

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3
Produced by Elizabeth Burke

3 days left to listen

59 minutes

Last on

Sun 25 Aug 2019 12:00

Music Played

  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Piano Sonata in B flat major (Hammerklavier) (3rd mvt: Adagio)

    Performer: Emil Grigoryevich Gilels.
  • Sergey Rachmaninov

    Etude-tableau in E flat minor, Op.39 no.5

    Performer: Van Cliburn.
  • Richard Wagner

    Tristan und Isolde (Prelude)

    Orchestra: Philharmonia Orchestra. Conductor: Otto Klemperer.
  • Dmitry Shostakovich

    Symphony No.10 (1st mvt: Moderato)

    Orchestra: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Herbert von Karajan.
  • Gustav Mahler

    Symphony No.5 (4th mvt: Adagietto)

    Orchestra: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Rafael Kubelík.
  • Anton Bruckner

    Symphony No.7 (2nd mvt: Adagio)

    Orchestra: Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Conductor: Andris Nelsons.

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