Sunday, March 04, 2012

Literary birthdays

It’s James Ellroy’s 64th birthday today. Here’s the demon dog of crime fiction on being knows at “the guy who wrote ‘L.A. Confidential’.” This quote also contains advice on the etiquette of talking to little old ladies.

‘L.A. Confidential’, the movie, is the best thing that happened to me in my career that I had absolutely nothing to do with. It was a fluke—and a wonderful one—and it is never going to happen again, a movie of that quality. Here’s my final comment on ‘L.A. Confidential’, the movie: I go to a video store in Prairie Village, Kansas. The youngsters who work there know me as the guy who wrote ‘L.A. Confidential’. They tell all the little old ladies who come in there to get their G-rated family flick. They come up to me, they say, “Oooooh, you wrote ’L.A. Confidential’. Oh, what a wonderful, wonderful movie. I saw it four times. You don’t see storytelling like that on the screen anymore.” I smile, I say, “Yes, it’s a wonderful movie, and a salutary adaptation of my wonderful novel. But listen, granny – you love the movie, did you go out and buy the book?” And granny invariably says, “Well, no, I didn’t.” And I say to granny, “Then what the fuck good are you to me?”

Alan Sillitoe would have turned 84 today. As regular readers of this blog know, I’m involved with the Alan Sillitoe Committee, a group dedicated to promoting Alan’s work through a variety of media, and to raising funds for a permanent memorial to Alan to be sited in his hometown of Nottingham. Please visit our website for information on forthcoming events and a variety of articles, archive photos and more. The website is an ongoing project which we intend to build into a major online resource. Please like our Facebook page, as well. If you can spare a little for a donation, it would be greatly appreciated and we’ll happily feature your name on our wall of honour.

Here’s Alan’s most famous creation – the belligerent Arthur Seaton in ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ – slogging through his National Service and resolutely refusing to let the bastards grind him down:

On his first parade the sergeant-major exclaimed that he couldn't make out the shape of Arthur's head because there was so much hair on it, and Arthur jocularly agreed to get it cut, intending to forget about it until the fifteen days was over, which he did. 'You're a soldier now, not a Teddy-boy,' the sergeant-major said, but Arthur knew he was wrong in either case. He was nothing at all when people tried to tell him what he was. Not even his own name was enough, though it might be on on his pay-book. What am I? he wondered. A six-foot pit-prop that wants a pint of ale. That's what I am. And if any knowing bastard says that's what I am, I'm a dynamite-dealer, Sten-gun seller, hundred-ton tank trader, a capstan-lathe operator waiting to blow the army to Kingdom Cum. I'm me and nobody else; and what people think I am or say I am, that's what I'm not, because they don't know a bloody thing about me.


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