What crime writers do I read? Here’s one

It’s one of the most common questions I get from a roomful of readers: Who’s your favorite author?

Fact is, I don’t have just one. And they’re all over the lot, from crime fiction to magical realism to true crime and some classic literary giants whose main attraction for me is simply the way they’ve arranged their 26 letters (see previous blog).

Among the true-crime writers I admire, mostly for his highly stylistic, mold-breaking approach, is James Ellroy. A lot of self-professed true-crime fans have never heard of him, and if it weren’t for a couple Hollywood films made from his novels, most crime fiction readers wouldn’t recognize him either. But if you consider yourself a true-crime fan and you haven’t read “My Dark Places,” you simply don’t know what this genre is capable of doing.

I feel James Ellroy more than I read him. He bridges past and present. His books, both fiction and nonfiction, have mixed up time, “The Black Dahlia” and “LA Confidential” chief among them. With no disrespect for my late friend Ann Rule, she was no James Ellroy. Where Ann Rule was the everywoman crime writer, Ellroy is an exquisite, albeit acquired, taste.

So why is he one of my favorites? Because I want to be him. Our ghosts are different but I want to capture the feel and the taste and the gritty blur of a place likke he does. I learn from him the way a carpenter learns by studying somebody else’s house.

My words aren’t his. So here’s a New York Times Q&A with Ellroy, published today.

Be forewarned. A margin note in this interview says this:

Ellroy refers to himself as “the demon dog of American literature” and has a predilection for over-the-top statements, e.g.,”If you buy a thousand copies of this book, you’ll be able to have unlimited sex with the partner of your dreams for the rest of your life.”


Bestselling crime writer Ron Franscell is the author of the new true crime, “Alice & Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story.”

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