Tuesday, September 15, 2009

James Ellroy and the 5 words that inspired THE FURY

Five words.

Five words that have stayed with me for years, always on the back burner of my brain ever since I read them in a fairly worn copy of a paperback book purchased at the Strand bookstore in New York City.

Five words that on the page seem fairly innocuous, but reading them over ten years ago inspired nearly two hundred thousand words and two books that will be published within two months of each other this Fall/Winter. These five words epitomize the depth, strength, vitality and pain I try to infuse in my books and within my characters. Five simple words.

Bud White refused to die.

When I first read James Ellroy’s L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, it was because there was a movie adaptation hitting the screen. It starred two Australians (Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce) in the role of Los Angeles cops, and I had heard terrific things about the book it was based on. The year was 1997, and I was still something of a novice when it came to crime fiction. I was not yet eighteen years old when the film came out, and my thin history with the genre was thanks solely to my father. Every week or so, he would come back with a stack of books from The Black Orchid, a lovely independent mystery bookstore on the Upper East Side, and upon finishing each tome he would pass it along to me. Needless to say in 1997, I had a lot of catching up to do.

So that year, in advance of the film release, I picked up a used copy of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL at the Strand (I could not find a new edition), took it home and sat down to read. Just a few short days later, I was done. And I was stunned. And despite the labyrinthine plot, the myriad characters all with dirt under their fingernails, and the snapshot of an era before my time taken through a cracked lens, it was these five simple words that stayed with me: Bud White refused to die.

Those words haunted and inspired me. I wanted to write a book that, like Ellroy’s could be massive and complex, yet populated by characters whose breath you could smell through the pages. A book that began with what seemed like a simple, isolated crime (in Ellroy’s book, the Nite Owl Massacre), but as you read further you realized it was simply the tip of the iceberg.

When it came time to write my fourth Henry Parker novel, I wanted to try something like what Ellroy had done: start the book with a supposed isolated crime (in my book, the murder of a good-for-nothing junkie named Stephen Gaines), that unraveled into something far more sinister. I wanted the crimes and in this book to be symptomatic of the era I lived in, as Ellroy’s’s books were. And as I began to write, I realized my saga needed to span two books.

THE FURY will be released on September 29th, and the concluding volume, THE DARKNESS, will be released on November 24th. As many of you are aware, the economy has sapped a great deal from our country, and perhaps no industry looks different now than finance. So the questions these two books asks is this: If your wealth were to simply disappear, just how far would you go to get it back? Would you lie? Would you steal? Would you kill?

These books are my ode to Mr. Ellroy’s creation, Officer Wendell White. May he never die.

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Blogger Dave White said...

I remember that scene. I read the book for the same reason and same time you did. Great one.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Jeffrey said...

The 'demon dog' is something special, ain't he?

As much as I adore his L.A. books, his revisionist historical (or, horror of horrors, ACCURATE historical) books starting with AMERICAN TABLOID have completely blown me away. Some of us write with a pen, others with a laptop... Ellroy writes with a pump-action shotgun!

Just discovered your books and your blog through Bookreporter.com, Jason. Looking forward to reading your stuff, all sounds terrific!

10:46 PM  
Anonymous dissertation writing said...

Thanks for this post! i really enjoyed reading it!!!

10:26 AM  

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