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James Ellroy: “Crazy suppressed s— came out and blew up in my face.”

Posted Oct 12 2009 10:00pm

From How James Ellroy lost his mind, The Week, October 8, 2009.

James Ellroy In 2001 the best-selling noir novelist had a nervous breakdown while on a book tour.

James Ellroy has an intimate knowledge of despair, says Sean Woods in Rolling Stone.

In 2001 he was at the top of his professional game, a best-selling noir novelist with a history of excess and homelessness. Then, while on a book tour, he had a nervous breakdown.

“I was in love with a married woman,” he says, “who was never gonna leave her husband.”

He also thinks he was just plain burned out. “Flew too high, worked too hard. Crazy suppressed s— came out and blew up in my face. Raging panic attacks and horrible insomnia fits. More than anything else, it was just being alone in the cosmos and knowing that you’re gonna die.”

During his breakdown, Ellroy was institutionalized, repeatedly.

“Overnight at the nut ward in Monterey, overnight in the nut ward in Tucson. There was no rubber hose, but I was bombed, what can I tell ya?”

But losing his mind, he found, was a necessary step toward sanity.

“Let me tell you about my life. I’m 61. I exercise a lot, I don’t drink, I don’t use drugs, I don’t sleep very much. I wanna continue to write big-ass, s–t-kicking, profound books. I’m arrogant, and I’m fearful. But I’m not as fearful as I used to be. The crackup took a lot of my fear away.”

Several of James Ellroy’s books have been adapted to film, including L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia.

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