The Hilliker Curse:
My Pursuit of Women
by James Ellroy
$24.95 List Price
James Ellroy is nothing if not self-aware. Throughout his career, the pulp-crime master has spared himself no quarter, cultivating an alarmingly frank public persona as a creep and a curmudgeon, a speed freak and shoplifter–turned–snarling and sober sexual obsessive. In his new memoir, The Hilliker Curse, he unpacks the latter with the profane detail that is his stock-in-trade, crafting a lean, mean portrait of the artist as a young Peeping Tom—and the old, paranoid perv he grows into.
The subtitle of this latest self-dissection, My Pursuit of Women, lays bare Ellroy’s agenda. The Hilliker of the title is his mother, Jean, raped and murdered in 1958, when her son was ten years old. Ellroy investigated her murder—and the calamitous number it did on his own psyche—in his 1996 memoir, My Dark Places. This new work is a follow-up of sorts—or, perhaps more accurately, variations on a theme. As seen through the dark glass of Ellroy’s obsessive, warped relationships with women, this reworked autobiography writes and rewrites the arc of his doomed “love story” with his mother, spinning tales to both make sense of his own chaotic history and romanticize his serial failings.
The book chronicles Ellroy’s search for salvation through women—his quest for the reborn Her who will allow him to make peace with She who was strangled and dumped by the side of the road. (The portentous capitalizations of female pronouns are Ellroy’s, it need hardly be added.) On this mission, he burns through two marriages, an engagement, and innumerable intermediary liaisons. He constructs elaborate fantasy