The dark , wet Glasgow evening started with a well rehearsed foul-mouthed tirade, encouraging gesture and mention of an independent Scotland. Ellroy read from Perfidia, his new book, first in the prequel quartet to his already established LA quartet. The prologue and part of chapter two to be precise. His reading was eloquent and powerful as he addressed the full house at the Mitchell Theatre.
This was followed by an interview, feet up on the table, obviously enjoying the evening . There was a lot of book character based chat and Ellroy spoke in detail about characters whose heads he had been inside and those he hadn’t. He spoke about the research for his new books. In this case he had hired a researcher to map out exactly what had happened in December 1941 in LA so that he could place his fictional characters precisely in that time. He later gave us a snippet of info about one character’s story in a future part of the quartet.
Twenty minutes of enthusiastic questioning from the audience ranged from talk about dogs, more character development, the best recorded performances of Beethoven and his mother’s death. He briefly touched on politics, the defence of the West and reiterated that his work is about an imaginary community built around a large-scale real life events. I thought there would be more talk of women and I forgot to ask if he had ever met Hunter S Thompson, if anyone finds out let me know. After the hour was up people queued to meet him and get books signed. The atmosphere friendly and relaxed.
The event was well organised, reasonably priced and apart from a few initial mic problems went smoothly. It fell under the umbrella of Glasgow’s Aye Write book festival and was sponsored by Waterstones. Fans of Ellroy wouldn’t have been disappointed, they heard about the characters in their favourite books, they got a taste of their future. The queue for book signing was massively long and it looked like nearly every person who attended wanted to meet him. This begs the question what do people want when they go to these events? Does the ‘meet the author’ experience hold more value than the stage presented spoken word part? Ellroy knows his way around a conversation, he intrigues and entertains. He is driven to write. He is very American. He uses a vocabulary that makes the USA sound exotic, exciting and fast as well as twisted, dirty and corrupt. He is a literary celebrity of the highest order. A classic. One of a kind. Go and see him if you can.