My Dark Places

My Dark Places

by James Ellroy
My Dark Places

My Dark Places

by James Ellroy


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The internationally acclaimed author of the L.A. Quartet and The Underworld USA Trilogy presents another literary masterpiece, this time a true crime murder mystery about his own mother.

In 1958 Jean Ellroy was murdered, her body dumped on a roadway in a seedy L.A. suburb.  Her killer was never found, and the police dismissed her as a casualty of a cheap Saturday night. James Ellroy was ten when his mother died, and he spent the next thirty-six years running from her ghost and attempting to exorcize it through crime fiction. In 1994, Ellroy quit running.  He went back to L.A., to find out the truth about his mother—and himself.  

In My Dark Places, our most uncompromising crime writer tells what happened when he teamed up with a brilliant homicide cop to investigate a murder that everyone else had forgotten—and reclaim the mother he had despised, desired, but never dared to love. What ensues is a epic of loss, fixation, and redemption, a memoir that is also a history of the American way of violence.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679762058
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/19/1997
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 405,038
Product dimensions: 5.21(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.91(d)

About the Author

About The Author
James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. He is the author of the L.A. Quartet: The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz, and the Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy: American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and Blood’s A Rover. These seven novels have won numerous honors and were international best sellers. He is also the author of two collections, Crime Wave and Destination: Morgue! and two memoirs My Dark Places and The Hilliker Curse.  Ellroy currently lives in Denver, Colorado.

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 hot—maybe 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 moment—at age ten—on 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 camera— and 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 and sawed at it with a half-smile/ half-grimace. The cops laughed. I laughed. Flashbulbs popped.


Before the live chat, James Ellroy agreed to answer some of our questions.

Q:  Have you ever come across something in your investigations that you would have preferred not to know?

A:  No, that's a short answer -- but appropriate. I'm determined to wrest as much information from my mother's death and in the writing of My Dark Places not to flinch from the truth.

Q:  The film version of L.A. Confidential has been released to rave reviews -- how do you rate it? If you could just change one thing...what would it be?

A:  When I read various drafts of the script I was able to say, "Change this or that. . ." But now that it's in final form, I never think about it in the abstract. The film stands as a salutary adaptation of my novel and a brilliant work of art in its own right.

Q:  Is it true you wore a kilt at the Cannes film festival? What was it like for a writer to experience the glitter and hysteria of the world-renowned fest?

A:  Yes, I wore a kilt; it itched like hell. It was Curtis Hanson's moment. And more than anything I was thrilled to be there with the people who made the film such a brilliant work and to share in receiving the great critical acclaim.

Q:  Having studied your mother's murder case, can you offer any insight into the psyche of a murderer?

A:  Killers kill for largely unfathomable reasons that represent the cumulative state of their psyche up to the point that they explode. They react to the stimulus of the moment in a destructive and unconsciously self-destructive manner.

Q:  Has your recent experience with Hollywood inspired any urges to write screenplays? What's in your future?

A:  No. I'm writing the sequel to my novel American Tabloid, which was Time magazine's Novel of the Year in 1995.

Q:  Will you describe your favorite pair of shoes?

A:  White Jack Purcell tennis shoes -- I've been wearing the identical pair (though not the same pair) for 30 years.

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