Ilan Mochari
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BlogDecember, 2009
Q & A with James Ellroy

I dropped $12 on the latest edition of The Paris Review (Fall, 2009). It was worth every penny, mainly because of a superb 30-page interview between senior editor Nathaniel Rich and James Ellroy. The article also includes a handwritten manuscript page from Blood’s A Rover (2009).

There’s an excerpt at The Paris Review site, highlighted by Ellroy’s explanation for calling Dashiell Hammett “tremendously great” and Raymond Chandler “egregiously overrated.” Here are four other pearls from the Q & A: 

  • “It’s disingenuous when writers say that they have no control over their characters, that they have a life of their own. Here’s what happens: you create the characters rigorously, and make clear choices about their behavior. You reach junctures in your stories and are confronted with dramatic options. You choose one or the other.”
  • “The LAPD will not let civilians see the file on the Dahlia case, which is six thousand pages long. When I started working on the novel, I was still caddying. I was living in Westchester County and realized that I could get, by interlibrary loan, the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Herald-Express on microfilm. All I needed was four hundred dollars in quarters to feed the microfilm machine. Man, four hundred bucks in quarters – that’s a lot of coins. I used a quadruple reinforced pillowcase to carry them down from Westchester, on the Metro-North train. It took me four printed pages to reproduce a single newspaper page. In the end the process cost me six hundred dollars. Then I made notes from the articles. Then I extrapolated a fictional story.” 
  • “There are big gaps in my literary knowledge. I’ve never read anything by Faulkner. I haven’t read anything by William Gaddis or James Baldwin. I tried to read True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey, because I met him, but I didn’t buy his style. I tried to read a Cormac McCarthy book and thought, Why doesn’t this cocksucker use quotation marks? I picked up another Cormac McCarthy book and saw that there were six or seven consecutive pages in Spanish. I didn’t know what it meant. My name isn’t Juan Ellroy, OK?”
  • "Critics want racism, and secondarily homophobia, to be portrayed as a defining characteristic, rather than a casual attribute. Racist language uttered by sympathetic characters confuses hidebound liberals. Who gives a shit?"  

Ilan Mochari's fiction has been published in Keyhole and honored by
Glimmer Train. In 2009, he received a Literature Artist Fellowship grant from the Somerville Arts Council, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. He is a former staff writer for Inc, and he has also written for Fortune Small Business and CFO. He has a B.A. in English from Yale University.

    © 2008 Ilan Mochari  
Ilan Mochari