|The most significant event in James Ellroy's life occurred when he was only 10 years old. His mother, an aging model who had been dubbed "America's favorite redhead" by a large cosmetics company 20 years earlier, was raped and brutally murdered. Her nude body was discovered by neighborhood kids after being dumped by the side of the road. The killer was never caught. This event would affect Ellroy's childhood so deeply that he plunged into a life of alcoholism, homelessness, and deviant behavior that included voyeurism, burglary, and drug abuse. As he began to mature, Ellroy became a golf caddy and, in his spare time, started to write. After his first novel appeared in 1981, "Brown's Requiem", Ellroy followed with a string of dark and brooding crime novels that fearlessly and bluntly depicted the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles. His second novel, "Clandestine" (1982), was a fictionalized account of his mother's murder, a topic he would address directly in his 1996 autobiography, "My Dark Places." Ellroy's reputation has been built on his uncompromising ability to portray the inner workings of psychotic, disturbed characters, whether they are serial killers or the very policemen who track them down. "L.A. Confidential" (1990), his searing expos? of 1950s Hollywood culture and society, tore away at facades of mass media, police corruption, and the film industry. Ellroy knew the scene well. His own father, who died when he was 17, once worked as Rita Hayworth's business manager. Though he has called his father "a Hollywood bottom feeder," Ellroy plumbed a lot of racy gossip from him about who was sleeping with whom in Hollywood, all of which was good fodder for the honest, irreverent novels for which he has come to be known.