In 1958, in the Californian city of El Monte, Jean Hilliker was murdered. Her killer was never brought to justice. In what would become a well-established backstory, this cruel event was to shape both the life and career of her then-10-year-old son, James Ellroy. Readers will already know from the hard-boiled LA noir of 1987's The Black Dahlia - a fictionalised investigation of the crime - and the author's 1996 memoir My Dark Places.
The Hilliker Curse, Ellroy's second autobiographical work focuses less on the loss itself, more on the destructive impact it has had on his own personal relationships. The book's subtitle, My Pursuit of Women, reveals much, speaking not to flowery notions of romantic love, but to an ever-present obsessive-compulsive drive.
Throughout the narrative, Ellroy makes no secret of his own dysfunction, heavy-breathing through a timeline of Oedipal fascination, voyeurism, addiction, mental-health issues, failed marriage and doomed affairs. It's brutally honest, occasionally hilarious and, most of all, compellingly discomfiting stuff.
The Hilliker Curse