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Ellroy in LA

August 26, 2009

I visited Los Angeles recently to interview James Ellroy, the subject of my PhD. While I was there I took some photographs of places around the city that have played an important role in Ellroy’s life. Here are a couple of them:

LA County Jail

LA County Jail

During his years of alcoholism and substance abuse, Ellroy was arrested a total of fourteen times for offences such as shoplifting, burglary and drink driving. He served a few short sentences of ‘soft time’ in Los Angeles County Jail. At that time, the processing of new prisoners took up to ten hours and included skin-searching, delousing and blood testing.

The Bel-Air Country Club

The Bel-Air Country Club

Ellroy nearly died of a lung abscess in the late 70s, and the near-death experience made him turn his life around. Ellroy got a job as a caddy at the exclusive Bel-Air Country Club. He wrote his first novel Brown’s Requiem (1981) on a bench outside the caddyshack at the club and in his small apartment after work. He wrote the novel in a little over ten months. Two of the leading characters of the novel are to varying degrees based on Ellroy: Fritz Brown is a German-American repo man and P.I. who (like Ellroy) is obsessed with classical music; Freddy ‘Fat Dog’ Baker is an unhinged anti-semitic golf caddy, who is very loosely based on Ellroy as a younger man.

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