Renowned crime author James Ellroy takes us through the history of Los Angeles crime with his new TV series James Ellroy's LA: City of Demons
If anyone knows their way around the history of Los Angeles crime, it's author James Ellroy. After the still-unsolved murder of his mother in 1958, crime became an obsession for the writer, who is best known for his "L.A. Quartet" novels - The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential and White Jazz, two of which were turned into feature films. James Ellroy makes his television debut with James Ellroy's LA: City of Demons, which premieres on Wednesday, January 19 at 10 PM ET on Investigation Discovery. The six-part series features the author and his canine sidekick Barko taking us through some of the most famous and infamous crimes in the City of Angels. I recently had the opportunity to speak with James Ellroy over the phone about this new series and here's what he had to say:
I was curious where the idea for this series came from. Did Investigation Discovery approach you or did you approach them?
James Ellroy: There have been documentary movies made about me and my writing career. The most recent one of them, preceding this TV show, I did with Court TV and a gifted filmmaker named Rob Kirk from Digital Ranch Productions. We decided that, at one point, that it might be a great idea to have a crime magazine show, LA-based, with me as the host, speaking in scandal language, with a computer-generated police dog sidekick. So we did it.
During all of your writings in the crime genre, have you always wanted a sidekick?
James Ellroy: Barko was a dog I had with my first ex-wife. He was a hell of a dog and I wanted to honor him.
Your interest in the crime genre started in a dark place.
James Ellroy: My mother was murdered in '58 and it's an unsolved crime. I got hooked on crime. My mother's death engendered a tremendous curiosity for all things criminal. I was hooked on The Black Dahlia case from there and then I went to LA's social history and America's social history. It's an ever-mutating ball of curiosity that's been going on for half a century.
Can you give us a glimpse of the kinds of stories we might be delving into with this series?
James Ellroy: Episode One is called Dead Women Own Me. It's the story of my mother's murder case, The Black Dahlia murder case, the story of a young girl named Stephanie Gorman in 1965 and the murder of the 17-year-old daughter of some friends of mine in '09.
Will this catch up to more current events? I know everyone is still talking about the Ronnie Chasen case.
James Ellroy: I know nothing about the Ronnie Chasen case. What this first episode does, is set up the whole world of misogynistic violence, how the current-day LAPD was built and the scandals that preceded it, which lead to the reformation of the LAPD. The third story is about the scandal magazines, Hush-Hush, Lowdown. There is another piece about the mob followed by the concluding piece, which is the episode I just described about the tabloids. Everything is LA-themed. Everything is spoken by me in the most outrageous language and I have a talking dog.
With everything that's been happening lately, where do you see the genre that you write in moving towards?
James Ellroy: I don't know because I never read. I only read my own books. I don't go to movies and I don't watch TV shows. I don't compare any of my rivals. I just figure my job is to do better than them.
Are you hoping to get this picked up after this six-episode run?
James Ellroy: Oh, nothing would thrill me more. These are wonderful colleagues at Digital Ranch Productions.
Do you have any idea what kinds of things you'd delve into if there was a Season 2?
James Ellroy: No, we are working with the format right.
Are there any new novels that you're working on right now?
James Ellroy: In three years there will be a new historical novel. Look for my TV show in the meantime.
Is there any movement on any more of your books becoming adapted into movies?
Have you seen a print of that yet?
James Ellroy: I have not.
Aside from this show, is there anything else you'd like to do in a multimedia format to expand this crime genre?
James Ellroy: Absolutely not. I'm a full-time novelist, full-time or occasional screenwriter. My own TV series, I'm working as fast as my can.
What would you like to say to anyone who might be curious about the show or a fan of your work about why they should tune in to James Ellroy's LA: City of Demons starting on the 19th?
James Ellroy: Because it makes crime a gas again. Crime should not be about meth labs in the Inland Empire and sexually abused kids. We want some good scandal, we want some good murders, we want some good some good mob stuff. This show delivers it to them.
Excellent. Well, that's about all I have for you, James. Thank you so much for your time and best of luck with the show and anything else you have coming up.
James Ellroy: Yes. Thank you very much.
You can watch James Ellroy (along with his computerized talking dog Barko) explore the true crimes of Los Angeles in James Ellroy's LA: City of Demons, which will premiere on Wednesday, January 19 at 10 PM ET on Investigation Discovery.