Adam Hill meets James Ellroy
Hey, I’m Adam Hill. I wrote a book called Old Timer’s Blues. It’s based on the Stringbean murder that happened in 1973 up in Ridgetop. But really, it’s about Nashville and change. It’s about tradition and loss.
Tonight I’m writing you off of West End at Dose. The old Dose. Usually I’m writing from my car waiting on my kids. Writing on my phone. Writing from Nolensville Pike. It’s been raining like a b. Now it’s dried up and turned cold. Some sort of space age hip hop is playing but the guy next to me has his laptop playing Katy Perry like he’s in his living room. Let me tell you about meeting my favorite author.
I met James Ellroy a few years ago when Perfidia came out. First, I didn’t really meet him. I stood in line and talked to him. But I’ve always thought our interaction was a good yarn. As well, I’d give it a notch above an author liked something you said on the internet scenario. For instance, Tommy Stinson was bored at an airport on Twitter about a decade ago. He asked for laughs. I wrote him, “It was bigamy (big of me) to have three wives.” He starred it or whatever it is you do on Twitter. The Ellroy event was a step up from that. That did make my day though.
First something else, don’t worry, I’ll tie it up. When you start to plan a book the editorial staff at the Publishing House will make a wish list of who you could get to give a blurb for the book if you ain’t famous. No matter what, infamous does not mean, “More than famous.” I worked on a house design book once and a large part of the buzz around the office was that Reese “Local Girl” Whiterspoon would give the book a blurb. Well Reese never gave the book a blurb. I don’t think it was the author’s fault. They were a damn plucky go getter. They might as well have been Reese herself if you want to get real. I mean other than starring in a bunch of movies. I love Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama. I guess if you live in Italy all the women are Sophia Loren. If you live here they are Reese.
But anyways, the blurb. The ever elusive blurb where someone already known tells the people, aka the platform, that gives them hard won attention that they need to get hip to this new book by one of the unwashed masses. Tell them dear reader, will dig this book. Run, don’t walk, drive, don’t bike, to the bookstore and pick it up today. Put it on that stack by your bed. The Nashville music scene works a-lot like this. If people don’t tell the “cool” people that your band is “cool” then no amount of “cool” is going to help. The “cool” people also will never make this judgement call on their own. They need the “cool” to come vetted.
I got a blurb from Alex Segura. “That’s pretty badass,” as my friend Joel says. Alex writes like an FX TV Show that hasn’t been made yet. Things go boom. People die. Gun fights. Car chases. Car chases on the Interstate with gun fights. Snappy dialogue. Bitchin chics and a Private Eye that digs The Replacements. Alex’s Private Dick is Pete Fernandez. I’m awaiting his next one. Besides all this, he agreed to let me interview him a few years ago for The Search Artist, my blog series where I interview authors about the research that goes into making their books. Alex, kicks ass. Established. I asked him for a blurb he read Old Timer’s Blues and he was nice enough to say this:
Adam Hill’s OLD TIMER’S BLUES is a gritty, heartfelt period piece that serves as a noir love letter to Nashville. A strong debut from a writer to watch.” - Alex Segura, acclaimed author of DANGEROUS ENDS and BLACKOUT
If I made my wish list of authors who would give me a blurb at the top would be James Ellroy. Well, that’s probably not gonna happen anytime soon. James is living the dream of no internet, no TV, nothing but classical music and lunching at the high end diners. That’s the life. But he does blurb on books. He does. I’ve seen it happen. Maybe I’ll send him a smoke signal.
Let me tell you about the one encounter I had with Big Bad James. I saw him speak at The Southern Festival of Books. I’d recently decided to write a crime novel. My motivation was sleep. Being in bands was always a push on my 9:30 bedtime. He was speaking at 3pm in the afternoon? Something like that. So here we go, books are my game. How much fun did I have? Eh not much. The few authors I went to see were snoozes. Too intellectual. Too sitting in chair. I didn’t see anyone I knew or really wanted to so maybe it was just the pickings.
Anyways. Main course. James. I show up early. The line starts to form. Men, women, old dudes, young dudes. All walks. They file us in. He makes the scene. He’s a giant. He gives you the salutation you’ve seen if you watch a video of him talking. “Good evening, peepers, perverts, etc etc. “ It was a good talk. I wonder if anyone recorded it. I’d look but I’m so tired of the internet knowing things. Memory is more fun and less trustworthy. At some point he talked about God. I’d read before he credits God with what I remember him calling, “The big save.” No joke. If death is The Big Sleep. Then God is The Big Save.
I went to the signing with my copy of The Cold Six Thousand. Because it was one that I had in hardback. Posterity is a hardcover right? So I wait in line. I listened to conversations around me. I probably laughed and made snide comments to myself. Though I really try to like everyone. I do. So finally my moment came. I stepped up.
Me-“Hey, I’m a big fan. I’m a Christian guy and I dig your books. I dig the right and wrong. I dig the certainty.”
He cocks his head sideways and says, “Get the fuck out!” Like, “Man that’s cool,” not like, “Leave town.” He swings his head in a yes and says,
“Man, I got tired of keeping it quiet. No one gets it in LA. I tell you…”and he did. I wish I could remember it all. He stops and holds up the book, the Cold 6 I’d handed him. He’s got a pen in the other hand.
“So who do I sign this out to.”
“My names Adam.”
“Of course it is! Damn!”
So he scratches it out.
“‘Yours in Christ James Ellroy’. How about that?”
I say “Awesome man.”
He says, “Take care brother, bless you.”
I walked off and called my friend Rob.
He had a good point. Of all the people who talk to him, I fit into a very small category.
It was a really validating moment. I further decided writing crime novels was my new groove. I like to think this had some sort of impact on him. I like to think his faith is real and strong and he’s not doing it to piss people off. I’d like to think, one day I have a Publisher and an agent and they know a guy who knows a guy and someone calls up James and says, “Remember this guy in Nashville at the book signing who said he digs crime and Christ? He needs a blurb.”
Well, props to James. Recently a short story was published by him in The Hollywood Reporter about the murder of Sal Mineo. It’s fine. It’s a mag article. He’s probably building up to This Storm coming out in summer 2019. It comes out right when I go to the beach. Yeah. I’ll be doing that. Archie’s Bar and an Ellroy novel sounds solid.
Also during the holidaze I got hard up for some right noir and ordered L.A.P.D. 53
The reviews were mixed. The most positive were reluctant. But I dug it. He riffed on right and wrong. He riffed on a collective concept of these things. Short stories. Hits and missives. Anyways, that’s it.