The legendary crime writer gives us a raw, brutally candid memoir—as high intensity and as riveting as any of his novels—about his obsessive search for “atonement in women.”
The year was 1958. Jean Hilliker had divorced her fast-buck hustler husband and resurrected her maiden name. Her son, James, was ten years old. He hated and lusted after his mother and “summoned her dead.” She was murdered three months later.
The Hilliker Curse is a predator’s confession, a treatise on guilt and on the power of malediction, and above all, a cri de cœur. James Ellroy unsparingly describes his shattered childhood, his delinquent teens, his writing life, his love affairs and marriages, his nervous breakdown, and the beginning of a relationship with an extraordinary woman who may just be the long-sought Her.
A layered narrative of time and place, emotion and insight, sexuality and spiritual quest, The Hilliker Curse is a brilliant, soul-baring revelation of self. It is unlike any memoir you have ever read.
James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. He is the author of the Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy—American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and Blood’s A Rover—and the L. A. Quartet novels, The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L. A. Confidential, and White Jazz. American Tabloid was Time magazine’s Best Book (fiction) of 1995; his memoir My Dark Places was a Time Best Book of the Year and a New York Times Notable Book for 1996. The Cold Six Thousand was a New York Times Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2001. He lives in Los Angeles.
Meet Ellroy on his book tour
From our Q&A with the author
Q: The Hilliker Curse is very different from your previous memoir My Dark Places. What inspired you to write this part of your story now?
A: My Dark Places dealt with my mother’s 1958 murder, and was her biography and my autobiography, couched in the narrative of my unsuccessful hunt for her killer. Years later, I realized that the more profound story was my mother’s influence upon my wildly passionate quest for “atonement in women”.
Q: The subtitle “My Pursuit of Women” might lead some people to assume that this is a book chronicling your “conquests,” so to speak, but it isn’t that at all. It’s a deeply personal account of your lifelong search to find The One. Was it difficult for you to reveal so much about yourself?
A: I enjoy the process of self-revelation, because I consider my life to be universal in its moral import, and—why mince words?—a deep journey worthy of the memoir form. Here’s something most memoirists are afraid to admit: that writing about yourself is fun—if your narrative supersedes the personal and enters a metaphysical realm.