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James Ellroy

James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. His L.A. Quartet novels, The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz, were international bestsellers. He is currently completing his Underworld USA trilogy. The first novel in the series, American Tabloid, was Time magazine’s Best Book of 1995 and the second, The Cold Six Thousand, earned him GQ’s 2001 Writer of the Year. The film version of The Black Dahlia, starring Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, and Hilary Swank and directed by Brian De Palma, opens September 15, 2006.


My Mother and the Dahlia

Summer 2006 | Essays

My mother’s name was Geneva Hilliker. She dropped the “Ellroy” when she renounced my father. I laud her repudiation and commend her desire to live without a male-surname appendage. She haunts me in deep and unfathomable ways. I often travel her life at a brisk or painstakingly slow mental speed. I start in rural Wisconsin and end on an access road in L.A. The in-between stops are often filled with conjecture. I lived with her for ten years. The passage of time marks my childhood memories suspect. I later granted her a rich dramatic status and further distorted my memory. I did not know her in life. I am determined to know her in death. Summaries of her forty-three years often provide insight. Brevity enhances my process of refraction.