Bibliography of James Ellroy

After his turbulent youth, Ellroy chose to pursue his passion – crime fiction. While working as a caddy at a golf club, he composed his first published work, Brown’s Requiem, and since then, he has continued to publish successful novels, short stories, and essays in the genre of American crime fiction. See a full list of his works below:

Early Publications

Brown’s Requiem (1981): Ellroy’s first published work tells the story of detective Fritz Brown. Set in 1980, the novel tells the tale of Brown’s pursuit of an arsonist known as Fat Dog. In 1998, the novel was adapted to become a movie directed by Jason Freeland.
Clandestine (1982): In his second published novel, Ellroy writes about Fred Underhill, an ambitious LAPD officer working to solve a string of murder cases. Notably, this novel introduces three L.A. Quartet characters: Mike Breuning, Dudley Smith, and Dick Carlisle.
Killer on the Road (1986): Originally published as Silent Terror, this novel tells the story of a serial killer who uses a van as a mobile killing room. This novel marks the first time in Ellroy’s career that he composed a story from the criminal’s point of view.

Lloyd Hopkins Trilogy

Blood on the Moon (1984): This novel marks Ellroy’s first experimentation with multiple perspectives through an omniscient narrator, and its graphic violence led seventeen publishers to reject the novel. The novel begins a trilogy that focuses on detective Lloyd Hopkins, a former National Guardsman and LAPD Sergeant who tracks a serial killer after finding a woman disemboweled in her apartment.
Because the Night (1984): As the second installment in Ellroy’s Hopkins Trilogy, the novel begins with Hopkins investigating a triple homicide at a liquor store where nothing was stolen. Hopkins is led to believe the murders were a thrill killing, and he crosses paths with deranged psychiatrist John Havilland, who coerces his gullible patients into committing acts of violence.
Suicide Hill (1986): Suicide Hill is the final installment of the Lloyd Hopkins Trilogy. In the novel, Hopkins eludes compulsory retirement by manipulating his way into robbery and homicide investigations.
L.A. Noir (1998): Over ten years after the publication of Suicide Hill, Ellroy published the Lloyd Hopkins Trilogy in a single omnibus edition under the title L.A. Noir.

L.A. Quartet

The Black Dahlia (1987): Ellroy’s first installment in the L.A. Quartet gained Ellroy critical attention as a serious literary author. In the novel, he focuses on the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short in Los Angeles, which received wide attention due to her horrifically mutilated corpse and the police corruption scandal that followed the investigation. The novel blends fact and fiction, painting Los Angeles as a hotbed of political corruption and depravity through the 1940s and 1950s.
The Big Nowhere (1988): The second installment in Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet twists two separate tales together to create a multilayered, complex, and engaging plotline. The novel focuses on Danny Upshaw, an LA Sheriff’s Deputy working to capture a brutal sex murderer while acting as a decoy to expose communists in Hollywood. The story takes on issues such as homophobia and corruption.
L.A. Confidential (1990): Ellroy’s third L.A. Quartet installment is the most comic of the four books. Set in the 1950s, the novel focuses on a tight-knit group of LAPD officers who become embroiled in corruption, sex scandals, organized crime, drug trafficking, prostitution, and even murder. Throughout the novel, Ellroy parodies major Los Angeles figures from Walt Disney to the mob.
White Jazz (1992): In the final L.A. Quartet novel, Ellroy focuses on David Klein, a veteran policeman who also moonlights as a hitman for the mob. However, after investigating a robbery at a heroin dealer’s home, he uncovers a plot between corrupt city officials and the city’s crime syndicates. Because Ellroy eliminated verbs in his writing to shorten the novel, the prose in White Jazz is particularly strange.

Underworld USA Trilogy

American Tabloid (1995): The first installment in Ellroy’s Underworld USA Trilogy chronicles events surrounding three rogue law enforcement officers in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In the novel, the officers become entangled in the affairs of the FBI, the CIA, and even the mafia, and they eventually become involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
The Cold Six Thousand (2001): The sequel to American Tabloid follows the three officers and their involvement in various events throughout the 1960s. Beginning minutes after the JFK assassination, the novel explores the officers’ role in “managing” the aftermath of the JFK assassination, entanglements in the mafia’s Las Vegas operations, and tensions over race relations and the Vietnam War.
Blood’s a Rover (2009): As the final installment of the Underworld USA Trilogy, Blood’s a Rover continues the three officers’ journey through the corruption and collusion of the 1960s and 1970s. Though he steers clear of issues such as the Watergate scandal, Ellroy brings his characters through events such as FBI infiltration into militant black power groups as well as mafia activity in places like the Dominican Republic.

The Second L.A. Quartet

Perfidia (2014): Though the series is still in progress, Ellroy has begun his second L.A. Quartet with Perfidia. The novel spans a twenty-three-day period and is told in real time, and it also includes a dramatis personae, a list of characters (real and fictional). The main characters include a Japanese LAPD chemist, a young woman in search of adventure, an LAPD captain with a drinking problem, and an Irish LAPD sergeant.
This Storm (2018): The second installment of Ellroy’s Second L.A. Quartet 2018 will extend the narrative of Perfidia and feature characters from his previous bodies of work.

Short Stories and Essays

Hollywood Nocturnes (1994): This collection of short stories is primarily set in the 1940s and 1950s. The first section of the collection, titled “Dick Contino’s Blues,” tells the story of Contino tracking down a serial killer while simultaneously attempting to repair his public image after being labeled as a draft dodger. The other stories in the book often resurrect deceased protagonists from Ellroy’s other works to recall major events in their lives prior to their deaths.
Crime Wave (1999): Originally published in GQ, this collection of eleven works includes both fictional stories and non-fiction pieces. The book includes a short story, called “Hush-Hush,” two novellas, Hollywood Shakedown and Tijuana, Mon Amour, and eight pieces of crime reports, including a section on O.J. Simpson.
Destination: Morgue! L.A. Tales (2004): This collection includes twelve short works by Ellroy. Some works were previously written for GQ Magazine, some are autobiographical, and others are previously unpublished novellas.
LAPD ’53 (2015): In collaboration with the Los Angeles Police Museum, Ellroy composed a collection of his writings about crime and law enforcement during that era presented alongside photographs from the museum’s archives.

Autobiography

My Dark Places (1996): Part memoir and part investigative journalism, My Dark Places focuses on the murder of Ellroy’s mother, Geneva, in 1958. This event sparked Ellroy’s interest in crime and crime fiction, causing his particular fixation with the murder of Elizabeth Short, known commonly as the Black Dahlia case. The book contains Ellroy’s account of his attempt to solve the mystery of his mother’s murder by hiring a private detective as well as his explorations of how this murder shaped his life.
The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women (2010): A departure from his normal fixation on crime, this memoir and autobiography chronicles Ellroy’s life from his childhood to present day, focusing on the women in his life.

Works as an Editor

Ellroy also contributed to collections of crime fiction and related genres as an editor. These works include:
The Best American Mystery Stories (2002)
The Best American Crime Writing (2005)
The Best American Noir of the Century (2011)