Category Archives: James Ellroy

Book Review: Love Me Fierce in Danger – The Life of James Ellroy

Love him or loathe him, it is impossible to ignore James Ellroy’s impact on crime fiction. Love Me Fierce in Danger: The Life of James Ellroy, by Steven Powell, makes a good case for the historical significance of his influence, not just on the crime genre but literature more generally. The first biography of one of America’s most controversial contemporary crime writers, researched and written with his full cooperation, Love Me Fierce in Danger also contributes a wealth of material and insight into Ellroy’s private life and personal struggles. I am tempted to say that it includes far more detail than I wanted to know. But that that would be a complete lie. I wanted to know it all, as I am damn sure many of you do, too.

Love Me Fierce In Danger is a substantial work of literary scholarship. Powell, who has written two previous critical works on Ellroy, interrogates in detail what has effectively been the three writing careers of Ellroy: his published fiction and non-fiction books, his script writing work for Hollywood – which is far more substantial than I had realised – and his work as a columnist for GQ magazine in the 1990s, which in itself was quite significant.

The exploration of Ellroy’s career is supplemented by detail and insight into Ellroy the person, based on conversations with the man himself, and friends and colleagues.… Read more

A sit down with the Godfather: an interview with Peter Corris

As promised in my recent piece to mark the passing of Australian crime writer, Peter Corris, it gives me great pleasure to post a terrific, in-depth interview with the author that appeared in issue 14 of  the now defunct online journal, Crime Factory, in September 2013.The interview was conducted by avid crime reader and regular Crime Factory contributor, Andrew Prentice.

Crime Factory: Your pre-writing career was academia and journalism, wasn’t it?

Peter Corris: Yes

Where did the shift take place into writing novels?

I was working at the National Times when the first of the Hardy books came out, in 1980. I was the literary editor, sending the books out, doing the reviews, and also doing some interviewing pieces, sports people, politicians…and the first book was a success, very well reviewed.

That was The Dying Trade?

That’s the one. And I’d already finished the second one because I enjoyed doing the first one so much, and had started a third one, and well, the ball just got rolling, even though it took about 5 years for the first one to get published. I gave up the journalism and was bringing in enough from the books and writing short stories to get going. I should add I had a working wife as well, which was helpful.… Read more

2015 mid-summer reading report back: Perfidia, Japanese tattoos, eighties sleaze

Perfidia

Summer in Melbourne is usually the one time of the year I can be guaranteed to get a fair amount of personal reading done. As has become my annual practice, a short report back on the books I have got through is in order.

Perfidia, James Ellroy

I need to preface my comments on Perfidia by stressing I am a massive Ellroy fan. I have read all of his books – ALL of them – many more than once. I even liked The Cold Six Thousand and Blood’s A Rover, the two books that most divided readers. So, it is with a heavy heart that I say Perfidia is very disappointing. The long awaited prelude to Ellroy’s LA Quintet, Perfidia takes place in Los Angeles over 23 days in December 1941, a period in which American went from being at piece to the attack on Pearl Harbour and the country being at war.

The focal point of the book is the brutal murder on the eve of Pearl Harbour of a Japanese family. The killings have all the hallmarks of traditional Japanese ritual deaths. Drawn into the murder investigation are future LAPD chief William H Parker, the meanest crime fiction cop ever created, Dudley Smith, a brilliant young Japanese police forensic scientist, and Kay Lake, a woman with a major thing for bad men.… Read more

The books that hooked me on crime fiction

The Neon rainDo you remember what books got you into crime fiction?

When it all comes down to it, I have to credit my late father. Dad loved writers like Carter Brown, Mickey Spillane and Ian Fleming. He passed on his readings tastes to me, particularly his love of dark, pulp influenced crime fiction.

Here are the five books that began my love affair with crime fiction.

What are yours?

From Russia With Love – Ian Fleming I still have my father’s collection of James Bond novels published by Pan Books in the late fifties and sixties, which I saved from my mother’s frequent op shop culls. Published in 1957, From Russia With Love was the fifth Bond book but the first one I read.

It involves a complex plot by Soviet counter intelligence, SMERSH, to kill Bond and discredit British intelligence, using a beautiful Russian cipher clerk and a secret decoding machine as bait. Lashings of action and intrigue, evocative settings such as Istanbul and the Orient Express, characters including the SMERSH executioner, ‘Red Grant’, and the diabolical Colonel Rosa Klebb.

I can still remember reading this in my late teens and my mind going whoooosh with the possibilities.

The Neon Rain – James Lee Burke

The Neon Rain was another of my father’s books.… Read more

The death of a bookshop: a tribute to Melbourne’s Kill City Books

KC 4

I love poking around in second-hand bookshops. The more disorganised and dishevelled, the better. I can’t remember the last time I found one with a curtained off section where they stashed the adult stuff, the pulp fiction and true crime, but those ones were best of all.

It’s always sad to hear about the closure of a second handbook shop and they’ve been closing with alarming frequency in Melbourne over the last few years.

The latest casualty is Flinders Books, which had operated out of the basement at 119 Swanston Street, for 18 years. Before that it had reportedly been a trading card shop, and going back even further, a rest and recreation area for military personnel after World War II.

Basement Books, located at 342 Flinders Street is, as far as I know, the last second-hand bookshop in the Melbourne CBD.

The reasons behind the closure are nothing new: changing book buying habits, including the rise of e-books, coupled with a massive rent increase, all of which, according to the owner, made the business impossible to sustain at its current location.

As if the end of a good second-hand bookstore is not sad enough, the passing of Flinders Books has a wider historical significance. For the last eight years of its existence it also hosted the remnants of Kill City Books, once Melbourne’s premier bookshop specialising in crime fiction and true crime.… Read more