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Bruce Wagner: Good evening. I'm Bruce Wagner, this is James Ellroy. We're each going to be reading from our work, as the poster said, today. I'm going to quickly introduce James, he's going to read a monologue or a section from the book. Joan Hurlehee is a forty-year-old architect, she works for a boutique firm in Venice, CA. She has not yet had one of her designs realized in terms of a building. She now finds herself somewhat miraculously for a very prestigious commission to build a memorial for a couple that were killed in the Asian tsunami, the Boxing Day tsunami of several years back. In this section, James will talk about Joan and her obsessive research, her conflicted feelings of winning or losing a memorial that commemorates the death of hundreds of thousands of people. Joan also commits what she considers to be a dubious sin, she sleeps with her client and potential benefactor, and becomes pregnant with his child. Ladies and gentlemen, James Ellroy. James Ellroy: Good evening cats, Mr. Wagner and I thank you for coming. We realize that you had options tonight. You could have attended to your sex lives, your drug habits, and your dubious Bay Area left-wing politics, but you didn't, you came and you saw us, and we're grateful. Bruce Wagner and I, great artists, and dubious human beings and without you we are big steaming piles of shit. We need an audience to feel whole and you fit the bill. Anne Sexton wrote, "My friend, my friend I was born doing reference work in sin and born confessing it. This is what poems are for mercy for the greedy, they are the tongue's wrangle, the world's pottage, the rat's star." And Mr. Wagner and I are here to give you our poetry, our wordage, our pottage, and hitch you to our rodent-like star. Bruce Wagner's novel Memorial, 2006, my novel The Black Dahlia, 1987, great works of fiction. Works that detail public catastrophe and private bereavement. These are books of momentous moral import. Big decision, big lives in big duress, and life and death and sex. These are books that celebrate the two great themes of literature: the possibility of love, and the inevitability of death. Also this book, Memorial, talks about the 2004 tsunami, and I had a girlfriend once named Sue Nami, and we had a stormy relationship. There's a 19th century Scottish piper's incantation, "The wild insistent pipes and the marching feet defiantly answer that there is no more death." But there is death, and it is inevitable. And here is where art holds the punch line. And that is this: with its own ineluctable logic, the power of love transcends the cessation of all human consciousness and prevails with an implacable will of its own. Bruce Wagner's Memorial. She'd immersed herself in the tsunami, ancient legend come to life before the contemporary world. In some ways she felt privileged because whether one knew it or not it was the defining event of her's, Lou's, and everyone's lifetime, like being on the planet during Vesuvius, Pompeii, Krakatoa, and maybe Hiroshima. She knew it was all wrong and that it didn't make sense, but in her mind the death in New Orleans was closer to the disappearance of the World Trade Center. She thought about the dogs and the elephants that nudged people to higher ground. Dolphins urging sailboat captains to the relative safety of deeper seas and afterward, when scarred, sentient pachyderms lifted dexterous from the injured or aided in the disinterment of the dead. All her life Joan had felt a strange closeness to that region, as her mother did, now racking her brains for this idiot's assignment, something asinine and collegiate about it, civic science fair, building the perfect memorial, though if she had her way, not just for richies who got tree-bound hanged but for everyone who died and everyone who lived, all the walking dead and the miracle folk, the incognizant motherless children, a monument to the broken and the unbreakable, impossible how to memorialize a myth of such potency. Now was the time of the memorial. It was her time. Yet to note the absence of the void, to note it, was a philosophical conundrum. There wasn't syntax for such a challenge, architectural or otherwise, what would be the point? Was she capable of erasing herself or of banishing hubris? Only from the silence could such a thing be born. Maybe that's why she rode Freeburg bareback, subconscious thought being that life growing inside of her was the only answer, an antidote to egotism, at least it would be a starting point. Womb to tomb! But what was a grave anyway? Something to mark the memory of a spirit? And what was spirit but the embodiment of myth? She laughed as she suddenly thought of Praheep telling her how his favorite, Ali G, sang the last phrase of the national anthem as, "Your home in the grave." Sri Lanka was called India's teardrop. Only this morning she read something in the paper about a killer convicted on the strength of DNA. Tears the little girl had shed onto the seat of his car. We are all made of water. And again, the images seized her: being fucked by Lou, fury of his DNA, her fury as well, he gripped her long hair, it had been twenty summers since some rough Berkeley Romeo did that in back of a station wagon, mournful Napa wind howling through Carter Memorial Grove as she got rimmed rattled and rolled in that haunted house lay. It began to rain, great backwater sheets of it, then Joan, embarrassed at her own wetness, hoping it wasn't a turn-off, it had been a turn-off for some of the men in her life, but they were babies, that's just how she was physically wired, she got so wet sometimes they'd ass fuck her by mistake. There it was, so true, body as earth in tsunami, crass dumb analogy, fucking as access to myth, fucking was myth, recession and floodwater, corporeal heat and gaseous gale-force wind, magnificent oblivion as tears, secretion and semen dissolved and commingled the blacking out animal rush of hearts and minds to higher ground. Eyes opening, closing all veils, thresholds akimbo, a tremble, reflecting pools reflecting ambient absence, sounds and swells and swelling screams and shadows gorged and engorged and failure to outrun the deluge, system collapse, that's how we were wired, that's how we vanished, kicking and screaming insufferable acquiescence, all the same, the sacramental memorial of two bodies as they rutted their way to birthing and deathing and grubby celestial silence. I'm a myth and I can't help but love you so. She wished those two had died in the Maldives, because that thousand mile long sea level spine of atoll lent itself more readily to earthen monument making. How awful she had become. A leech in the architectural house of God, slutty second rate talent who'd ceased to know herself even through multiple readings of her vetic astrological chart, it comically, macabrically, ordained that she caretake others, her rising sign in co-dependence, moon in the house of enabling, she especially knew how to make men feel good as she roiled and withered, washing away from the inside, her cervix of village brittle, with sea branches, vertiginous sea horses, tumbling mothers, and drowned wide eyed children gone salt water ass over heels. She was that woman in the Andaman Islands paid two rupees, four cents, by the local government compensation for the tidal wave death of her babies, there she was there was Joan, Joan of Ark, Joan of the diaphanous disastrous moon pull tide, parasite of Melville's Maldive Shark, riding the predacious wave. Sleek little pilot fish, azure and slim. That was she, how alert in attendance be. From his saw-pit mouth, from his charnal of maw, they have nothing of harm to dread, but liquidly climb on his ghastly flank or before his Gorgonian head, or lurk in the port of serrated teeth, in white triple tears of glittering gates, and there find a haven where perils abroad an asylum in jaws of the fates. They are friends and friendly they guide him to pray yet never partake of the treat. Eisenbrains as the daughter, lethargic and dull pale ravener of horrible meat. She picked up the phone to call her mother. On the dark cold morning of January 15th, 1947 the torture-ravaged body of a young woman named Elizabeth Short was found in a vacant lot in South-Central Los Angeles. She became known as the Black Dahlia and the investigation into her death stands as the most celebrated unsolved murder case in American history. My novel, The Black Dahlia, is set between the years 1947 and 1949. The narrator is a young boxer-turned police officer named Bucky Bleichert. Bruce Wagner will read the prologue. Bruce Wagner: I never knew her in life. She exists for me through others, in evidence of the ways her death drove them. Working backward, seeking only facts, I reconstructed her as a sad little girl and a whore. At best, a could-have-been. A tag that could apply to me. I wish I could have granted her an anonymous end, relegated her to a few terse words on a homicide summary report, carbon to the coroner's office, more paperwork to take her to Potter's Field. The only thing wrong with the wish is that she wouldn't have wanted it that way. As brutal as the facts were, she would have wanted all of them known. Since I owe her a great deal and since I'm the only one who does know the entire story, I have undertaken the writing of this memoir. But before the Dahlia there was the partnership, and before that there was the War, and military regulations and maneuvers at central division, reminding us that cops were also soldiers even though we were a whole lot less popular than the ones battling the Germans and Japs. After duty every day the patrolmen were subjected to participation in Air Raid Drills, blackout drills, fire evacuation drills, that had us standing at attention on Los Angeles St, hoping for a Messerschmidt attack to make us feel less like fools. Daywatch roll call featured alphabetical formations, and shortly after graduating the academy in August of 42, that was where I met Lee. I already knew him by reputation and had our respective records down pat. Lee Blanchard, 43-4-2 as a heavyweight, formerly a regular attraction at the Hollywood Legion Stadium. And me, Bucky Bleichert, light-heavy, 36-0-0 ranked tenth by Ring Magazine, probably because Matt Fleisher was amused by the way I taunted opponents with my big buck teeth. The statistics didn't tell the whole story, though. Blanchard hit hard, taking six to give one, a classic headhunter. I danced and counter-punched and hooked to the liver. Always keeping my guard up, afraid that taking too many headshots would ruin my looks worse than my teeth already had. Style-wise, Lee and I were like oil and water; and every time our shoulders brushed at roll call I would wonder who would win. For close to a year we measured each other. We never talked boxing or police work, limiting our conversation to a few words about the weather. Physically we looked as antithetical as two big men could. Blanchard was blonde and ruddy, six feet tall and huge in the chest and shoulders, with stunted bow legs and the beginning of a hard, distended gut. I was pale and dark-haired, all lanky muscularity at six foot three. Who would win? I finally quit trying to predict a winner, but other cops had taken up the question and that first year at Central I heard dozens of opinions. Blanchard by early kale, Bleichert by decision, Blanchard stomping on cuts, everything but Bleichert by knockout. When I was out of eyeshot I heard whispers of our non-ring stories. Lee coming on the LAPD, assured a rapid promotion for fighting private smokers attended by the high brass and their political buddies. Cracking the boulevard citizen's heist back in 39, falling in love with one of the heister's girlfriends, blowing a certain transfer to the detective bureau when the skirt moved in with him, violation of departmental regs on shack jobs, and begging to quit boxing. The Blanchard rumors hit me like little faint jabs and I wondered how true they were. The bits of my own story felt like body blows because they were 100% straight dope. Dwight Bleichert joining the department in flight from tougher main events. Threatened with expulsion from the Academy when his father's German-American membership came to light. Pressured into snitching the Japanese guys he grew up with to be alien squad in order to secure his LAPD appointment. Not asked to fight smokers, because he was't a knockout puncher. Blanchard and Bleichert, a hero and a snitch. This next monologue is rather epic, it's going to be the longest of the evening. Lou Freeburg who is the billionaire who impregnated Joan Hurlehee, our lovable architect, is obsessed with Larry King, the particular episode which is re-running, which James is going to declaim. He's with Joan in his Bel Air hotel suite, Bel Air Hotel being his nest when he's in Los Angeles. And in this scene Joan, who has a secret, that she's carrying his child, sits back and lets the tsunami-like force of Lou Freedburg wash over her. James Ellroy: Lou muted the TV. The tsunami anniversary was upon them and CNN was re-running Larry King. "Larry's such a horny old fuck and he farts. I know people who've been on that show, he farts during breaks. He just lets it rip." He rang room service for drinks and steak. "Look," he said, pointing to the silent screen, "It's that supermodel whose fiance died in Phuket. Larry just asked if she was in the shower when the big wave hit. The shower! Dream on Larry! That must've got him farting big time. So the supermodel says, "No." She's trying to be dignified. And Larry says, "I understand the force of the water tore off all your clothing. Look! Watch!" he says, "You're nude during all of this, nude out in the sun eight hours, did you have skin damage?" Lou slapped his knees in jubilation. "Not only is old Larry farting like a goat but now he's got a righteous furry goat hard-on, and then he specifically asks her about her pelvis." He was relishing his role as human subtitler. "And she says, 'Vell, yes.' She's got that supermodel accent. 'But Larry, you don't even think about being nude.' So she's in a palm tree in her birthday suit and these guys come along and she says they try to lift her but she's in too much pain. Did you read about this chick, Joan, remember her, she was all over the place, the cover of People, she really milked it. She broke her pelvis, she shattered it, she write a memoir and formed a charity, Give to Asia Happy Hearts. I'm serious, Give to Asia Happy Hearts. Fuck that, give to Larry's Happy Farts. Brilliant, huh? "She's a real Vassar chick. So our lady of a martyred supermodel says the guys leave and she doesn't think they're coming back, she's nude in a tree looking the way she looks, she probably shaves her bush, waxes her pee-hole, and she doesn't think they're coming back, fuck no, of course not, why would they. They're gonna go rescue some fat-assed village woman instead, right? They're gonna go save some babies, they're gonna dig a cow out of the mud. "So supermodel says, lo and behold, 'The guys come back,' and she's so shocked at their fucking kindness, you know how teary-eyed supermodels get when someone lends a helping hand. But this time, she says not only Thai guys, but Swedes and Bulgarians and whoever show up, like a whole fucking brigade. Do you know what's funny Joan? This stuff I always find so fucking interesting, Larry asks about the fiance, if they had a wedding date set, and supermodel says no but they talked about it on the night before the tsunami. The night before! "Supposedly she says in her memoir that when the two of them met on a photo shoot, 'There was no bolt of lightening,' like a dead connection. Then six months later in Miyorka on another shoot she suddenly realizes they're soul mates. Soul mates, Joan. Did you ever notice how in big tragedies people always seem to be talking about a really important shit the night before? They're planning out their whole fucking lives together like that couple who died in the earthquake in Iran. I don't know why this shit sticks in my head, that's how whacked out I am, I bet you haven't noticed, huh? "Okay, the Iran thing. This American couple, I think they were from the Bay Area, maybe that's why I remember, they're both kind of eccentric, not so young, they've been dating awhile, they have a little money between them, they love to travel, they're on one of their chic weekend getaways, strolling along the Champs Elysees a poster in a travel shot for fucking Iran. So being the intrepid soul mates they are, they decide to go to fucking Iran for a fucking holiday, and where they go, to the quaint city of-- Bam!, right when the earthquake hits, and in every single interview, baby it's all about the interviews, the woman, she's the one who survived, why does it always seem to be the woman who survives, though I guess Esther would argue with me about that one, the woman in all the interviews says that the guy proposed to her the night before. There it is again, the night before. "Of course the next day the quake hits and the ceiling fan goes through her fiancee's fucking chest but at least he got the chance to get down on his knees and propose. I mean it's like all these fucking victims have the same fucking publicist. Look, Joan, look." He pointed to the screen like a ten year old on a sugar jag. "There's Larry asking our lady of the martyred supermodels about the funeral for her fiancÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â©e and she says-- Joan, Joan, you got to look at this, she's dumb as a fucking pony, she says 'Listen you horny fucking goat I'll tell you about the funeral.' "In her memoir she says they toasted the deceased with some drink called a slippery nipple. Jesus. That's what the memoir says, I am not shitting you. The guy is fully ignited and she writes about how she's getting tipsy, I guess that's what you call a Polish cremation, and by the way I think she semi-cops to being addicted to laxatives, I can't believe this diarrhea is actually in my head, which her soul mate was in the process of detoxing her from right before the big wave took him out. And the funeral is in London or wherever, and she talks about how Super FiancÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â©e wouldnt've wanted anyone to be sad, he'd want everyone to have a good time, and I hate that. When people, if you can call a supermodel a person, when people make that bizarre fucking leap in their heads so they can feel better you demean the dead by projecting how instead of mourning, they'd have wanted you to have this big celebration and fight for your right to party. "So they all go out and dance, I don't even want to think about the Motley Crew who showed up for her fiancee's burial, it is all too fucking horrible, they danced through the tears, the poignancy of it all. Yeah right, I'm sure, that's exactly what her soul mate would've wanted. 'Listen, I died drowning, getting flacked by garbage and dead babies, breaking the bones in my face as I screamed and my lungs sucked in animal feces and gasoline but party on! And now I'm in some kind of waterworld Dante-esque hell but you should be dancing, dancing, dance the night away.'" He looked back at the TV, finally un-muting it. He was drunk, Joan was drunk. "You dumb lady," he said, staring at the model. "Oh! And people are calling in to ask her shit, I am telling you Joan, I have this fucking show memorized." "I can see that," she said, with a smile. "It's on my hit parade! I had someone burn dvd's, I'm serious, I'm giving them out for Christmas, she keeps talking about the garbage crushing her pelvis. Look, look!" he said, raising then lowering the volume. "One of the callers, a guy of course, is asking Supermodel if she'll need further surgery on her hips. On her hips! Loose lips, super hips, he's just like Larry, he's a horny motherfucker, you can tell all he really wanted to know was, when can you get back to spreading your legs. A woman calls and says, 'Do you think you'll ever fall in love again?' and super whore says something like, 'Ja, ja, but it's too soon, ja ja, it's too soon, but I am looking for the future, whatever the future may bring.' Shit. Bringing Up Baby, coming soon to a theater near you, coming soon to her shattered pelvis. And another guy, he has trouble spitting out a question, but he finally says he was a survivor, that's why Larry's people probably put him through, he says he was just up the beach from where Slippery Nip Super Mod was stuck in the tree, but oh Larry is a hard ass, he is a tough ass Jew, he sat there, man he was rough on this call-in motherfucker. Old cardio-farting Larry keeps cutting the slob off, saying 'What's your question, what's your question,' just like he was back at a bar with the gang, then he hangs up on the guy. You see, Larry doesn't want the fellow victims bonding with her, she's his, he wants that wack fractured pussy all to himself. The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind. See, Larry doesn't dig the idea of some guy who was on the same beach when the big wave hit, he don't dig it at all, so Larry's passing gas under the desk, it sounds like a fucked up muffler, he's soiling his jock, marking his turf, it's a surf and turf, look at him he's got new suspenders, look, new suspenders, a fresh blow dry and horny as hell. I look at that bitch and all I can think of is my sister-in-law impaled on that Sundari. I guess God smiles on the beautiful, Esther, God Bless Her was no prize, and let's face it, Supermodel's fiancÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â©e and Supermodel are beautiful, she's up in the tree nine hours, it held her in its arms, Esther's whorefuck tree wasn't so benevolent and at least they found Super mod's boyfriend's body, poor fiancÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â©e, Samuel wasn't that lucky, maybe if he'd had a manicured bush the bureaucrats wouldn't have misplaced him, the stupid fucks." Joan brought up a Faulkner story she read in college about a Mississippi River flood. A pregnant woman stranded in a tree, in direct reference to Katrina, which she always tried to avoid around him, but she was inebriated and couldn't help it, a convict rescues the woman. Then Joan blurted out that she was pregnant, she not Faulkner's lady, not Esther, not Super Whoever, but she, Joan Hurlehee and Lou was quietly, quizzically uncomprehending before soberly nodding his unsober head. She had not expected such speedy, almost eloquently impersonal acquiescence, but that was why he made billions, he could refrain and conform his energies to the wildly brand new. His expression became that of someone listening to a confession of illness, humbly attending the details of what could or could not be done to effect a healing. She didn't stay much longer. He asked her not to leave but suddenly Joan got nauseous and emotional and didn't want to be that way around him, not now, not tonight, and didn't want to hear the inevitable question, whether she was certain but more whether she was certain it was his, didn't want to hear that now, not tonight. Joan knew she would have to take a paternity test, both parties would demand it, she would reserve the right of dignity to beat him to the punch and suggest what she knew his attorneys would require anyway, that she was going to keep this child, Joan knew it was his and wanted to raise it but not tonight, she did not want to discuss any of it tonight, did not want to feel anything more, no strength or will or heart or bowels to engage in dialogue, spoken or unspoken, not tonight. In the next two scenes Bucky Bleichert discovers the shack in Hollywood Hills where Elizabeth Short was murdered and describes his moral and sexual conundrum with the spirit of Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, and two women named named Madeline Sprage and Kay Langford. Bruce Wagner reads. I walked in. The side walls were covered with pornographic photographs of crippled and disfigured women. Mongoloid faces sucking dildoes. Nudie girls with withered and brace-clad legs spread wide. Limbless atrocities leering at the camera. There was a mattress on the floor. It was caked with layers and layers of blood. Bugs and flies were laced throughout the crust, stuck there as they feasted themselves to death. The back wall held tacked on color photos that looked like they were torn from anatomy texts. Close up shots of diseased organs oozing blood and pus. There were spray and spatter marks on the floor, a small spotlight attached to a tripod was stationed beside the mattress. I wondered about electricity then examined the light's base and saw a battery hook-up. Blood sprayed stacks of books stood in one corner, mostly science fiction books with Gray's Advanced Anatomy and Victor Hugo's The Man Who Laughed standing out among them. "Bucky?" I turned around. "Go get ahold of Russ. Tell him what we've got, I'll do a forensic here." "Russ won't get back till tomorrow, and kid. You don't look to healthy to me right--" "Goddamn it, get out of here and let me do this." Harry stormed out, spitting crushed pride. I thought of the proximity to spray property and dreamer Georgie Tilton, bone shack dweller, son of a famous Scottish anatomist. Then I opened up my kit, and raided the nightmare crypt for evidence. First I examined top to bottom. Aside from obviously recent mud tracks, Harry's tramps probably, I found narrow strands of rope under the mattress. I scraped what looked like abraded flesh particles off them. I filled up another test tube with blood matted dark hair taken from the mattress. I checked the blood crust for different color shadings, saw that it was a uniform maroon and took a dozen samples. I tagged and packed the rope away along with the anatomy pages and smut pictures. I saw a man's boot print, blood-outlined, on the floor. I measured it, I traced the sole treads onto a sheet of transparent paper. Next it was fingerprints. I dusted every touch, grab, and press surface in the room. I dusted the few smooth spines and glossy pages on the floor. The books yielded only streaks. The other surfaces brought up smudges, glove marks, and two separate and distinct sets of prints. I took a pen and circled the smaller digits on the wall, door jamb, and wall molding by the mattress headboard. Then I got out my magnifying glass and Betty Short's print blow up and made comparisons. One identical point...two...three...enough for a courtroom....four, five, six...my hands shaking because this was unimpeachably where the Black Dahlia was butchered. Shaking so hard I couldn't transfer the other set of plates, I hacked a four digit spread off the door with my knife and wrapped it in tissue. Forensic amateur night. I packed up my kit, tremble walked outside, saw the running water, knew that was where the killer drained the body. Then a strange flash of color by some rocks next to the stream caught my eye. A baseball bat. The business end stained dark maroon. I walked to the car thinking of Betty alive, happy, in love with some guy who'd never cheat on her. Passing through the park I looked up at Mt. Lee. The sign now read just "Hollywood." The band was playing. There is no business like show business. James Ellroy is going to read the penultimate passage tonight. Joan Hurlehee has a relationship with a man named Prodeep. Prodeep is the Indian consul that resides mostly in San Francisco where the Indian Consulate is, he comes down to Los Angeles and they have...they've had kind of a long-term affair, and in this passage, hopefully subtle and tender, she describes the nature of her relationship with Prodeep. James Ellroy. Prodeep had actually done a sneaky thing. He suddenly announced that his consular term was ending earlier than he thought and he'd soon be returning to Delhi. She vaguely knew this was coming. The commissions were recycled every four years, but the timing of his disclosure was canny. Ever the diplomat, Prodeep softened the blow by deflecting or deferring to the mystery of her own family matters. He wanted Joan to have something else to focus on beyond the trauma of his eminent departure. It was the part of him she resented and the part she found irresistibly compelling too. This nomadic yet grounded man that was calmly present and peripatetic in the absolute responsible and reasonable way to so many, sex with Prodeep was always intense because she knew he was on his way. A moving target that appealed to her own emotionally itinerant nature, she felt like a consort at a consular feast, the prendevy of a pretend Siva, nothing could touch them because they were divine gypsies, abrim with the jittery ambrosia of adolescence, which they had managed to catch in a bottle, hormonally undistilled, they were built for speed and tender abandonments. She could never stay mad at Prodeep for long because she knew he'd be long gone yet