Barb’s smashing review of R J Ellory’s Saints Of New York reminded me of a fun interview I did with him last year.
So, here’s part of it.
I got into my private helicopter and flew to England to interrogate him with a series of questions worthy of Gore Vidal. Or Vidal Sassoon.
Anyway, we shared a jumbo kebab in Birmingham Bull Ring, next to that Tony Hancock statue. I think.
PDB: Your name is a bit like Roger Melly from Viz. Do you ever get confused with him?
RJE: Yes, all the time. In fact, only today, I was in a supermarket in Toronto and the supermarket attendant asked if I was THE Roger Melly, the one from Viz.
I told her I was, yes. She was so excited she said I could have all my groceries for free. Like a special gift for being Roger Melly. I went back later and told her the truth, that I wasn’t really Roger Melly. She asked me why I would do that. She told me she had already called her mother and her aunt and her uncle and told them that she had metRoger Melly from Viz. I said I was sorry. She said that wasn’t good enough, that a ‘sorry’ didn’t clean the slate, that I shouldn’t tell lies and fool people around like that. She made me pay for my groceries. She also fined me twenty dollars and said if I didn’t pay the twenty dollars she would call the cops. I paid the twenty dollars.
The rest of the time people think my name is Ellroy and they ask me if I am the guy that wrote ‘LA Confidential’.
PDB: How much research did you do for ‘LA Confidential’?
RJE: I watched the film twice before I didn’t write the book. While I was not writing the book I spoke to two other people who had also seen the film, and they helped me not write the book. Their help was invaluable. Had it not been for their input, I think I might have even ended up with an incompletely unwritten book. I also studied the history of the donut while I was not writing the book. The book talks a lot about American cops, and if you’re going to write about American cops you need to know everything possible about donuts. Or so I’m told.
PDB: You were born in Birmingham, lived in Canada and write in American. You travel a lot and your books have been translated into oodles of languages. Is this anything to do with the Witness Relocation Programme?
RJE: I was born in Birmingham, have never lived in Canada, but I did return from Canada this morning. I was only there for a week. This was not – however – part of the Witness Relocation Program, but part of the Toronto International Festival of Authors. The reason I write in American is so that people won’t recognize me in the street. I once wrote something in English, and I was interrupted while eating dinner in a restaurant. This was a traumatic episode in my life, and I hope never to repeat it.
PDB: A Quiet Belief In Angels has been optioned to be made into a film by the man behind the Edith Piaf film. Is it going to be a musical?
RJE: I hope so, yes. I heard a rumor that Benny from Abba was looking at the possibility of getting his cousin to write some music for it, but then I heard that Benny doesn’t have a cousin so now I am not sure. The difficulty with the film industry is that so much of what you hear is just gossip. You hear one thing from one person, another thing from someone else, and you don’t know what to think. The only rumor I have heard that got me enthusiastic about the musical adaptation was that Elton John was considering the part of Joseph Vaughan. I just have to be patient, as with all things. I know that also that despite what everyone has been saying, Clint Eastwood has not directed a musical before. I thought he directed ‘Singing In The Rain’, but I was wrong.
PDB: RJ is JR spelled backwards. How weird is that?!
RJE: Well, my mother gave me those initials because she didn’t want me to be mistaken for JR Ewing of ‘Dallas’ fame, you know? She knew that at some point during the series someone would shoot him, and she didn’t want me to be hurt because of a simple case of mistaken identity. I think it showed a considerable sense of foresight on her part, don’t you? Hence JR Ellory was never destined to be, and I was simply RJ Ellory. Brilliant!