The Barnes & Noble Review
From the author of L.A. Confidential comes My Dark Places, an investigative autobiography by James Ellroy. In 1958, Ellroy's mother, Jean, was raped, killed, and dumped off a road in El Monte, California, a rundown L.A. suburb. The killer was never found, and the case was closed. It was a sordid, back-page homicide that no one remembered. Except her son.
James Ellroy was ten years old when his mother died. His bereavement was complex and ambiguous: "I cried. I cranked tears out all the way to L.A. I hated her. I hated El Monte. Some unknown killer just bought me a brand-new beautiful life." He grew up obsessed with murdered women and crime. He ran from his mother's ghost.
Ellroy became a writer of radically provocative and bestselling crime novels. "I wear obsession well," he says. "I've turned it into something." He tried to reclaim his mother through fiction. It didn't work. He quit running and wrote this memoir.
My Dark Places is Jean and James Ellroy's story from 1958 to all points past and up to this moment. It is the story of a brilliant homicide detective named Bill Stoner and of the investigation he and Ellroy undertook. It is also an unflinching autobiography with vivid reportage. This is James Ellroy's journey through his most forbidding memories.
Read an Excerpt
My father put me in a cab at the El Monte depot. He paid the driver and told him to drop me at Bryant and Maple.
I didn't want to go back. I didn't want to leave my father. I wanted to blow off El Monte forever.
It was hotmaybe ten degrees more than L.A. The driver took Tyler north to Bryant and cut east. He turned on Maple and stopped the cab.
I saw police cars and official-type sedans parked at the curb. I saw uniformed men and men in suits standing in my front yard.
I knew she was dead. This is not a revised memory or a retrospective hunch. I knew it in the momentat age tenon Sunday, June 22nd, 1958.
I walked into the yard. Somebody said, "There's the boy." I saw Mr. and Mrs. Krycki standing by their back door.
A man took me aside and kneeled down to my level. He said, "Son, your mother's been killed."
I knew he meant "murdered." I probably trembled or shuddered or weaved a little bit.
The man asked me where my father was. I told him he was back at the bus station. A half-dozen men crowded around me. They leaned on their knees and checked me out up-close.
They saw one lucky kid.
A cop split for the bus station. A man with a camera walked me back to Mr. Krycki's toolshed.
He put an awl in my hand and posed me at a workbench. I held on to a small block of wood and pretended to saw at it. I faced the cameraand did not blink or smile or cry or betray my internal equilibrium.
The photographer stood in a doorway. The cops stood behind him. I had a rapt audience.
The photographer shot some film and urged me to improvise. I hunched over the wood andsawed at it with a half-smile/ half-grimace. The cops laughed. I laughed. Flashbulbs popped.
From the Trade Paperback edition.