Novelist James Ellroy in the City of Demons

The iconic novelist on his new TV series, L.A., City of Demons.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

Novelist James Ellroy in the City of Demons

James Ellroy is America’s greatest living writer. Just ask him.


He’s been the subject of multiple documentaries and TV specials. So, rather than let everybody else keep having fun at his expense, Ellroy decided to create his own true crime television series, L.A., City of Demons.


He’s the author of the award-winning L.A. Quartet novels: The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential and White Jazz. He also penned the Underworld U.S.A. series: American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand and Blood’s A Rover. Ellroy’s most recent memoir, The Hilliker Curse (based on his mother’s death), was recently published by Alfred A. Knopf.


Infamous for his anachronistic, hard-boiled, 1940s detective lingo and f-bomb layered interviews, Ellroy strives to be entertaining and controversial anytime he’s  on display. Now, the writer of novels like LA Confidential and The Black Dahlia has a new partner in crime, a computer-generated, corrupt, drug addict police dog, Barko.


The bull terrier joins Ellroy as he investigates the criminal realm that’s become his specialty, the seedy, back alley crimes of Ellroy’s birthplace – urban Los Angeles. The show premieres January 19 at 10 p.m. ET on the Investigation Discovery Network. 


CraveOnline: You were born in LA, and your mother was murdered there in 1958 when you were 11 years old. Were you destined to be a crime writer?


James Ellroy: I am a master of fiction. I am also the greatest crime novelist living today. And some of that is due to me growing up in a city full of some really fucked up crimes. From my mother’s death – which I examine in the first episode of City of Demons – to the Black Dahlia to the here and now, this is the city of demons. And my mother’s dead made certain that dead women would own me.


CraveOnline: So, after so many successful novels,why create a television show now?


James Ellroy: Television had to find me sooner or later, and a show examining LA crime is perfect. This city has celebrity crime. It has the movie business. There’s a lot of money in this town, too.And you have the greatest police force in American working to solve those crimes.


That Los Angeles police force was corrupt until William H Parker came in as chief and installed a military model for running the department. It was an ingenious, essential step because big cities need that sort of model to function – especially when you’re a force as understaffed as the LAPD covering such a large area.


It makes for great stories that appeal across the spectrum of ages and cultures.


CraveOnline: You study and write about so many of LA’s classic crimes – like the Black Dahlia murder. Have you constructed any theories about who killed her?


James Ellroy: I have no clue who killed the Dahlia, and I could not give a f**k. It doesn’t matter anymore. The crime is now a part of the fabric of the city.


CraveOnline: But you examine that case in City of Demons, yes?


James Ellroy: Yeah. The show is divided into both historical recent crimes that are thematically linked. For example, we look back at the crime-filled scandal rags of the 1950s and compare them to the tabloids of today.


CraveOnline: Your work is very gritty and your personality has never been sensitive to people’s manners. Still, you are successful in Hollywood and in the publishing business. Your famed for introducing yourself as “the foul owl with the death growl, the white knight of the far right." How do you get along in what can be very uptight, politically correct world?


James Ellroy: There has always been tension there, but like I say, f**k them. I have to be James Ellroy. I was never a peace-nick. I was an anti-liberal. And I think they love that. I’ve always spoken my mind on Hollywood and celebrities. I’ve said before that I think Frank Sinatra was a fucking macho-named mama’s boy. I think he was a fraud and a rat. There aren’t a lot of people out there willing to speak their mind like that, but I’m James Elroy – the devil dog.


CraveOnline: Speaking of dogs, what’s the deal with the talking dog following you around in City of Demons?


James Ellroy: Barko was my first pit bull terrier. On this show, we’ve made him into a a corrupt LA police dog who’s addicted to drugs. He’s a drug sniffer who smuggles what he finds and sells it to other dogs. On this show, he serves as my mouthpiece, my ego. And, he always gets paid more than I do.