“On my 10th birthday,” James Ellroy began, “my mother Jean Hilliker hit me with a book I had read on spells and witchcraft. After that, I summoned her dead. Three months later she was murdered and it is a crime which remains unsolved to this very day. It’s a burden of guilt that I have carried for a half century. My mother, from the hereafter, mediates my relationships with women. Her death induced in me a tremendous curiosity for all things criminal. I had to go out and write.”
And write he did.
Dining with James Ellroy summons a conversation only found in novels written by James Ellroy. An austere staccato drove the narrative through all three courses, his dialogue came forth in great bursts in each of the three cities, and like in MUCH of his writing over the years, the discussion took several surprising turns.
With that opening line seared into us, The Luncheon Society began its three city odyssey with alpha dog crime writer James Ellroy. Seated next to James throughout was Erika Schickel, the woman who is central to his life and perhaps the key that unlocks The Hilliker Curse, his memoir on how his mother’s grisly death drove the tenor of his relationship with women.
Erika is also a friend of The Luncheon Society who has joined in the past. She also helped organize a wonderful gathering with her father, Richard Schickel, who is one of the best film writers in the industry earlier this year.
No slouch to the printed or spoken word, Erika published a knock-out memoir several years back titled, You’re Not the Boss of Me: Adventures of a Modern Mom, a self portrait of post-hipster life on the suburban plain. She also wrote a well-received play a decade earlier titled Wild Amerika, a “meditation on mating, monogamy, and motherhood – from a Darwinist point of view.” She is now hard at work on a follow up to her earlier book, tentatively titled “Adult Supervision.”