Once a punk, prowler, pill popper and profligate panty-sniffer, author James Ellroy transformed his degenerate existence to become perhaps the greatest - if not most infamous - crime writer in the world. Ellroy's novels have been studious crossbreeds of fact and fiction, colliding in brutal fashion to create an alternative history of post-war Los Angeles. His obsession for the dark and unseemly, no doubt fueled by the unsolved murder of his mother in 1958, was clearly reflected in his characters - particularly the hard-edged, broken-down cops who struggle to redeem their violent natures through moral outrage brought forth by heinous crimes. His most enduring contribution to the genre was the <i>L.A. Quartet</i>, a series of dark, densely-packed novels spanning 1947-1958 and centering on four real-life Los Angeles murder cases investigated by fictional cops. The <i>L.A. Quartet</i> turned Ellroy into an international best-seller and landed him on the Hollywood map, thanks to the Oscar-winning adaptation of the third installment, "L.A. Confidential" (1997), making him the most celebrated practitioner of noir fiction since the 1940's Dashiell Hammett.