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The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women Audio CD – Audiobook, Unabridged

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookmarks Magazine

There are plenty of things to love about James Ellroy's mysteries--from intriguing yet morally questionable characters to the particular staccato character of his prose. Both are present in The Hilliker Curse, but critics were much less impressed with this memoir than with his fiction. Most felt his prose style confusing, particularly in cases where clarity would seem required. They also had trouble sympathizing with Ellroy's predations, even when he presented a reasonable explanation for his behavior. While many found in his story something to pity, that didn't mean they liked the book. However, Ellroy's most devoted fans may appreciate this added insight into the author's psyche. The rest can move on. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

There’s no doubt about it: James Ellroy is a fascinating character. Whether you go for his big-dog-howling-at-the-moon shtick or not, he’s as hard to ignore as a burning fire truck. As he becomes better known, it becomes harder to separate the man from his books—and this book won’t help. His first memoir, My Dark Places (1996), explored the murder of his mother, Jean Hilliker, when he was 10, and the woman-shaped hole in his psyche that he has been falling through ever since. In this short, breathless follow-up, Ellroy attempts to “remove The Curse” by owning his maternal bloodline and by giving us blow-by-blow accounts of his great loves and losses. At first, the revelations are compelling, as the author indicts the tough-guy persona he has so meticulously constructed. Though told with his customary braggadocio, his obsessiveness and neediness are so well limned that it makes the reader’s skin crawl. But his new introspection goes only so far: Ellroy sees himself through the heroic lens of a life writ large, his relationships ordained and heaven-sent. And as their number grows, and their duration lessens, our belief in this enterprise weakens. It becomes a more common tale of a big man with a bigger ego (he coins the word Ellrovian) who blows chance after chance at making relationships work. In the end, his insight fails him, and instead of lifting the curse, he seems more in its thrall than ever. --Keir Graff --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (September 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307875857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307875853
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.2 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,896,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. He is the author of the acclaimed L.A. Qurtet - The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential and White Jazz, as well as the Underworld USA trilogy: American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand and Blood's a Rover. He is the author of one work of non-fiction, The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women. Ellroy lives in Los Angeles.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Richard B. Schwartz TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is the second memoir from James Ellroy and it is different from My Dark Places. That book is more historical and journalistic. The Hilliker Curse is, for lack of a better word, more spiritual. Where My Dark Places spoke of Ellroy's search (with the help of Bill Stoner) for his mother's killer, The Hilliker Curse speaks of Ellroy's search for the love of women. The first book was an investigation; this book is a quest. One is not better than the other (despite what Ellroy might say); they are simply different.

Ellroy's angry love relationship with his mother (who struck him when he elected to live with his father) is deep, troubled and obsessive. It displaces into his search for the love of other women and into the writing of novels to win their hearts and attention. Now that he has found peace, with his new relationship, he is able to see the arc of his life, the arc of his work and the arc of the psychosexual dimensions of his identity with greater clarity. In The Hilliker Curse he charts them.

The writing is urgent, honest and impassioned. He gives us names and he gives us details. He exposes the raw nerves, the personal pathologies and the rhythms of his life. The book is one of the very few examples of confessional, high-romantic but (as he puts it) tory autobiography.

The book is an essential one for Ellroy fans and scholars. It illuminates the dark places but also floods them with unexpected light. It is an exceptionally good read, for those with a taste for fevered autobiography. Most important, it speaks to something which is not in high favor these days, but should be--the nature of the creative process. Ellroy is at his most compelling and most obsessive when he writes.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By G.I Gurdjieff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
At least ten years ago crime writer/novelist James Ellroy wrote MY DARK PLACES. It was a rather intriguing look at his mother's unsolved murder and the ripples that resonated throughout his life because of that loss. It covered his life which had fallen apart, a presumed redemption of sorts through writing, and the burning desire to find his mother's murderer. At that time it appeared that his life had finally turned around. As I recall, Ellroy was married for a second time and had relocated from Los Angeles (the city that made him) and was living in bucolic splendor in Kansas. Fast forward to now. Ellroy is divorced, in a new relationship that is presumably a keeper, and not in Kansas anymore.
THE HILLIKER CURSE revisits his life and peripherally skirts around his mother's murder again to reveal his abysmal track record with women, his unending search for 'her'(the ultimate muse/right woman), and his transition from career thief and druggie/drunk to well-known author.
My major problem with this book is the way it is written. Ellroy projects this
street hip personna through a first person account of his life which is peppered (or saturated) with Ellroy-isms. I'm going to describe his style as Sam Spade meets film noir. I found it interesting, but I suspect most readers except die-hard fans might find this an exercise in creative writing that is just plain irritating and distracting.
The other negative is that it becomes rapidly apparent that the narrative is going to drone on miserably re: Ellroy's problem with healthy relationships/personal intimacy. It seems sort of strange to devote an entire book to his problems with women that apparently stemmed from his lousy relationship with his mother.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By D_shrink VINE VOICE on September 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is another attempt by the author to exorcise the demons left by the tragic strangulation murder of his own mother in 1958 when he was only ten years of age. It is quite understandable how such a tragic occurrence could afflict a young mind, but it still remains a personalized account and we can't generalize how each of us individually would handle such an occurrence, nor should we hope to ever find out. In his earlier work My Dark Places he unsuccessfully attempted with aid of a retired police detective to solve his mother's murder. The title of this book derives from the fact that his mother's maiden name was HILLIKER. This book was an attempt to show how he tried to cure himself through various schemes as drug and alcohol abuse, paraphilias not limited to S & M,plus numerous visits to prostitutes and other one-night stands, in addition to writing books about his problem.

I think the book is okay, but certainly not up to his earlier works as L.A. Confidential or The Black Dahlia and which were later turned into movies. I simply liked his earlier works better, but for others who have not read them or who might be interested in a personalized account of clinical depression among other problems this just might be your cup of tea. It's not a literary masterpiece, but you still might like it, especially if you are a Ellroy aficionado.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
James Ellroy is known for his unusual yet appealing literary style, which is on full display in THE HILLIKER CURSE, his follow-up memoir to 1998's MY DARK PLACES. It is brutally honest and contains some of the best sentences I've ever read in my life (one in particular, in which Ellroy describes getting what he wants, should be on his tombstone; if he doesn't use it, I want it on mine) and some of the densest paragraphs you've ever wanted to stop reading. At times it's like watching someone walk into a brick wall --- you want to alert them, but something makes you stand quietly and keep looking. At other times, it is so painfully revelatory that it reveals the hidden history not only of the author but also of the reader.

A great deal of Ellroy's career concerns the death of his mother, Geneva (known as Jean) Hilliker. She was murdered by strangulation when Ellroy was just 10 years old, the victim of a crime that remains unsolved to this day. It is almost impossible to catalogue the multiple psychological traumas that a child of this age would experience as the result and in the aftermath of such an event. Ellroy discusses his efforts to obtain at least partial closure, including the hiring of a private investigator to re-open the case and determine the identity of the killer. He was unsuccessful in this regard. Similarly, his pursuit of women as significant others is darkly affected by his mother's death, as in many ways he seeks a surrogate maternal comfort that was denied to him early on.

Here is where the narration, difficult in its denseness, takes an uncomfortable turn. One sees Ellroy constantly in pursuit of women he cannot or should not have. He's attracted most strongly to females who seem to be his opposite in personality (those in relationships, for better or worse).
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