In his 1996 memoir, My Dark Places, Ellroy explains that the murder of his mother when he was 10 as well as the murder of Elizabeth Short aka “The Black Dahlia,” and the writings of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett impacted his writing. A technophobe, Ellroy’s works are written in long hand on legal pads and typed for editing and publication.
The James Ellroy Archive at the University of South Carolina contains manuscripts, typescripts, drafts, notes, and research material for most of Ellroy's works. These items show the steps, from initial story outline to publication, that were taken to bring his writing to life: the author uses extensive longhand in writing out his ideas. Many of the manuscripts contain handwritten corrections made during the revision process. The largest sections of material are for his novels The Cold Six Thousand, L.A. Confidential, memoir My Dark Places, Blood’s a Rover and Perfidia. The majority of the material for L.A. Confidential documents the Academy Award-winning movie which was based on the book. The collection also contains material for all of his published works including his writing in popular magazines such as GQ.
James Ellroy with is mother, Geneva Odelia
The arrangement of the collection is chronological based to highlight the manuscripts, typescripts, drafts, notes, and research material used in the author’s writing: this pattern was followed for each series. Following the biography and correspondence series the book series is divided into novels and nonfiction material. The major representation in the nonfiction section is the author’s book My Dark Places. Each section is based on the publication chronology of the books. The "About James Ellroy" series includes written material about the author and his work. The majority of it is from magazines and newspapers, but also contains different forms of expression; a Master’s thesis and book draft. The Photographs series is focused on pictures of the author and his mother when they were children and adults. Audio / Video contains many recordings of interviews given by the author. In addition it also includes a T.V. series’ production dailies.
The Realia & Miscellanea series includes a child’s nurse costume. It was made by Ellroy’s mother and friends. Their handiwork was given to a child who was born at the hospital where they worked. Years later when the recipient was an adult it was given to the author with an explanation of the history behind the gift.
The James Ellroy Archive is open for research and the finding aid to the collection can be accessed by following the link on the left.