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Author James Ellroy talks ‘Perfidia’


Tom Lutz, editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles Review of Books, and author James Ellroy lead a public discussion about Ellroy's new novel, Perfidia, at Emerson Los Angeles on December 6. (Photo by Daryl Paranada)

Legendary author James Ellroy revealed that his new novel, Perfidia, is his love poem to Los Angeles at an event sponsored by the Los Angeles Review of Books and held at Emerson College Los Angeles on December 6.

“Everybody is out for love in this book,” said Ellroy.

Ellroy and Tom Lutz, editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles Review of Books, discussed everything from to the novel’s title to noir in a wide-ranging conversation with an audience in the Assembly Room of nearly 70 people and countless others streaming live online.

Lutz began the night describing Ellroy as “the mayor of noir,” in part because of the author’s success writing the LA Quartet, four stories about crime set in LA during the 1940s and ’50s. The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz helped establish Ellroy as a major writer in the noir genre.

“People ask me all the time if I’m pissed off that I’m considered a crime writer,” said Ellroy.

His answer: no, because he has been able to become a historical and political novelist as well. During the two-hour discussion, Ellroy revealed that he hasn’t read many books considered essential to the literary canon and has read crime novels almost exclusively.

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Author James Ellroy signs autographs for fans in an event December 6 at Emerson Los Angeles. (Photo by Daryl Paranada)

Perfidia is an epic historical novel that begins on the eve of the Pearl Harbor bombing. It is Ellroy’s first novel of his Second LA Quartet, a prequel to the first. Ellroy said the first thing he did when setting out to write the new quartet was to read his previous seven novels (including those from his Underworld USA Trilogy) and compile a chart to keep characters and storylines in order.

Asked if he would ever consider setting his novels elsewhere, Ellroy said not a chance.

“I’m from LA,” said Ellroy. “Mom and Dad hatched me in a cool locale.”

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Author James Ellroy (center) poses for a photo with Jim Lane (left), senior scholar-in-residence at Emerson Los Angeles, and Tom Lutz (right) from the Los Angeles Review of Books. (Photo by Daryl Paranada)

For members of the Los Angeles Review of Books, the event was an opportunity to build community around the magazine’s book club, which usually meets on Facebook. Perfidia is the fifth novel chosen for Tom’s Book Club, named after Lutz. The Ellroy discussion was the first-ever live event for the book club.  

The Los Angeles Review of Books is a nonprofit multimedia literary and cultural arts magazine that combines the tradition of book review with the technologies of the web. Lutz and other magazine staff taught a nine-week workshop in creating and publishing an online magazine last summer at Emerson Los Angeles. They plan to teach the same workshop this summer.

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