Interviewer: Let’s talk about American Tabloid. Tell me about the Kennedy assassination, and the FBI, and America in the 1960s.
Ellroy: I had read Don DeLillo’s novel Libra, and it blew my mind, fucked my soul, and scorched my sexuality. I felt that, holy shit, now I’m tremen-dously interested in the Kennedy assassination, but now I can never write about it—because the book is just that seminal. Then I began to see that I could write a novel where the assassination would be but one crime in a long series of crimes. I wouldn’t even have to use Lee Harvey Oswald, who DeLillo portrayed so brilliantly. I began to see that all the harbingers of the assassination started to percolate in the late 1950s, and that I could write an epic-length novel about government/criminal collusion with a huge cast of characters. I knew the historical elements I wanted to co-opt: the CIA and their war against Castro’s Cuba; the Bay of Pigs invasion; the Kennedy as-sassination; Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters; Bobby Kennedy’s war on orga-nized crime; J. Edgar Hoover; Howard Hughes. I realized that these people were all in bed with each other, and more than anyone else, it was Joe Ken-nedy who got his son killed—because it was Bobby Kennedy’s Oedipal dra-ma that resulted in Jack’s murder. Bobby had a strong moral sense, and he understood that the gangsters he was chasing were his father once removed. As I started writing the book, I realized that this isn’t just one novel. This is a trilogy about America between the years 1958 and 1973. I’m going to write an epic trilogy that nobody else would have the stones or the patience to write.