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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  August 3, 2017 12:30am-1:00am BST

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repaired a faulty gene in human embryos. the us and south korean team used gene editing to correct dna that causes a deadly heart condition. critics warn that eventually the method could be used to produce so—called designer babies. the rate of hiv infection in the philippines has become the highest in the asia pacific region. health officials have described it as a national emergency. and this video is trending on bbc.com: a scientist filming sharks off the coast of cape cod got some incredibly close up shots of a great white. luckily the three—and—a—half metre shark shows more interest in the camera than the scientist. that's all from me now. stay with bbc world news. now on bbc news, it's time for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur.
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my guest today has been called america's greatest living crime writer. in his la quartet and many other novels, james ellroy has painted a uniquely dark portrait of this city of angels, a nightmare world of psychotic killers, corrupt cops and depraved appetites. ellroy writes of what he knows, his own mother was murdered when he was a child. and is that simple, terrible fact the key to understanding all the words he's ever written? james ellroy, welcome to hardtalk.
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hey, boss, what's shaking? we are going to talk about 35 years of novel writing and of your books has been set in and around los angeles. absolutely untrue — right off the bat, bam. i've wrote three novels, the underworld usa trilogy, the american tabloid, which was time magazine's novel of the year year in 1995. the cold six thousand and blood's a rover are set outside la. right, but southern california is your world. i'm from there and it's where i go when women divorce me. i suppose what i'm getting at is whether you've ever been tempted to go for outside your own background milieu, where you're from and what you know. is that where you have to place your fiction? i have but i came back. i made a conscious decision with my new novel perfidia to craft a second la quartet, taking characters from the initial la quartet, the black dahlia, the big nowhere, la confidential
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and white jazz set in la between 1946 and 1958, and the aforementioned underworld usa trilogy, three novels set in america at large between ‘58 and ‘72. characters from those two bodies of work and place them in los angeles during world war two as significantly younger people. so i made quite the conscious decision to go back to la. going back is something i want to do with you too as we talk about the evolution of your fiction because it seems to me, and you've talked about it a great deal, that you can't discuss james ellroy‘s body of work without spending a little bit of time talking about the long—running impact of that terrible period in your life which began with your parents‘ breakup, marriage failure, and ended when you were ten years old with the murder of your mother, her body found on an la street. the actual impact of my mother's death reached cessation,
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first abatement then cessation, years ago. it's a fact, it will always be brought up by the media, and properly so, and it's the key to understanding the work that i do. but it's not the key to me as an individual now and hasn't been for decades. and there's an interesting distinction. if you don't mind, tell me why it's the key to understanding so much of the work. on june 22nd,1958, when i was ten years old, my parents were divorced, my mother was murdered. it was a sex murder. it was in a crummy dogtown east of los angeles called el monte. a man raped her and strangled her, unsolved to this day. parenthetically i wrote a memoir about it, my dark places. i went out with a brilliant retired homicide detective, tried to solve the crime unsuccessfully, hence it's my autobiography
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and my mother's biography. put that aside, my mother's death engendered a tremendous curiosity for all things criminal and historical in me. i got hooked on la's social history, then america's social history, la's criminal, america's criminal history. and it's history from the point of that transcendence to now that drives me. that makes it sound almost detached and like a series of conscious decisions you took to pursue a writing interest after this terrible event as you grew up, but you've also suggested that there is something much more visceral in your reaction to it. you've talked about the degree to which at the time you hated your mother and also, and this may sound perverse to some, lusted after her. i mean, there was a sexual element there too somewhere. good—looking, tall, red haired 43—year—old woman. here's a newsflash to our british
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viewers at all, young males are introduced to the idea of female sexuality within the home and their mother is the first archetype. this is basic freud. and with me it went a little bit beyond the basic. up until a certain point, you trot a red haired woman, tall and statuesque, in front of me and i'm way off the deep end. but we grew up over time and i grew up over time in relationship to my mother's murder. in the wake of her death, it wasn't a conscious decision but i made an internal decision to be happy, to be fulfilled. it's instinctively who i am. but you weren't for an awful long time? i was always happy. really? yes. when you were into booze, when you were into all sorts of different crime, you spent time injail,
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you lived rough for quite a while. you were happy? i was happy — you know why? i'm easily distracted and easily obsessed. give me a window to look into. give me a movie to watch. give me access to a public library and a book to read and way back when some kind of mind altering chemical and i can find joy and fixation within myself. it wasn't until i got sober as a young man at 29 and started writing books that i went beyond this kind of idiot happiness into a productive sober life. just to talk about one of the books, and people across the world will know this one well i'm sure, many will have read it, black dahlia, that took a real—life case in la. it wasn't your mum's case but it wasn't entirely dissimilar. it was perhaps just in terms of the detail of the murder an even more horrible murder
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of a young woman in la. it was. your book was fascinating but to me what's interesting about it is it seems in the detective in that novel there seems to be quite a lot of you and yet at the same time i'm wondering, as you were growing up and you were making sense of what happened to you as a kid, whether you really identified more with detectives all with criminals. i've always identified with detectives. i've always identified with police officers. i am a natural born authoritarian. i would rather live in a society that airs on the side of authoritarianism than in a society that airs on the side of permissiveness. i take myself and i superimpose my own loves, my own losses, my own sorrows and my own yearning, which is the chief thing. i write in my memoir, the hilliker curse, that yearning is the chief fount of my inspiration.
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i yearn for women, i yearn for history itself, i yearn for big lives juxtaposed against large geopolitical events, and to return to your question, yes, i take these authoritarian characters, rogue in nature, and i give them a great murder case. i give them a dead woman to fall in love with. it's the laura syndrome. otto preminger‘s 19114 movie, dana andrews and gene tierney. the lonely haunted detective falls in love with the portrait of the dead woman and she turns up alive. not surprisingly i have just been commissioned by 20th century fox to write the remake of laura. it's all connected. all right. but when you say to me you're a natural born authoritarian that raises questions in my mind because if you're an authoritarian you surely have to believe that authority works for the public good, that in essence the police,
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the authority, the security services represent good and the villains represent evil. yeah, i do believe that. your books are so much more ambiguous and ambivalent than that, your books are surely with a message that says actually the law enforcers can be and are corrupt, they can be deeply flawed, they can be almost as problematic morally as the wrongdoers. i take those characters who are problematic, ijuxtapose them against evil that is pervasive, it's in the outer world, they must interdict and suppress it. i'm on their side as far as their interdictive and suppressive methods go. they're not meant to represent american law enforcement at large. there are always rogue elements. you can't be on their side at times.
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some of the most famous portrayals of corrupt cops in literature come from you — la confidential for example. i love them anyway, they're my guys. how can you love them? these guys are absolutely abusive. they are unaccountably. .. i give you their souls, i give you their heartbreak, i give you the society at large, i give you malefactors who are a0 times as flawed and out on missions of systematic evil and my guys quash them. but if you are prepared to tolerate the corruption inside the public bodies that govern our lives, it's a recipe for society is going rotten, going very, very bad. if it takes hitting a child molester with a phonebook in order to secure his conviction, and ultimate imprisonment, or one—way ticket to the gas
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chamber, then i'm on the side of the guys who wield the phonebook. are you? yeah. and devil take the hindmost. you know what, i'm rewriting my assumptions about your work as we speak because i was going to quote to you the words of a very traditional british crime writer, pdjames, and i was expecting you to contradict them but maybe you won't because she said, "the classic detective story affirms our belief that we live in a rational and generally benevolent universe." i thought you would say that's nonsense. no, no, i agree with james. do you? yes. i think human beings are evolving, god isn't true with us yet. so much of modern crime writing, though, and a lot of it owes a lot to you in its noir sort of feel, so much of it is about ambiguity. as ian rankin says, writing fiction were good doesn't always triumph. where evil can't always be rationalised
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and the reader is sometimes invited to take sides with the assassin against the powers that be. that's never the case with me. i am an advocate of moral fiction. you always know who my good guys are. so you do believe in good guys? i believe in good guys and i think heroes of my books are in fact the good guys. they are the guys in first person or third person subjective viewpoints and you have access to their thoughts, you understand them, you understand the rationales, each and every one of them. the four characters, kay lake, and william h parker and even the evil irish cop, dudley smith. dudley smith, who says, "i control people and if i can't control them i destroy them"? he is on a slow, tortuous path to redemption. wow.
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he is on a slow, tortuous path to self—sacrifice, salvation and redemption. even as we speak in my brain. in your brain. maybe the conversation we're having or the explanation you give for ultimately the sympathy you have for the cops who even are very bent, very corrupt, maybe that's one reason why some people in the united states have come to see you as a defender of, for example, the lapd, even during the rodney king fallout when the videotape beating of a black citizens seemed to so many so egregious and you said, "you know what, give the lapd a break." if you see the entire three—minute sequence of events pertaining to rodney king, you will notjudge the lapd anywhere near as harshly.
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iam the i am the yearly mc of the jack webb awards. even with the human rights abuses within the lapd, i wonder whether you are blind because you are too close to them. i am not blind to the idiocy of these human rights groups and the impacted
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stiffnecked sensor victimisation. -- sense of. this is james ellroy, who earlier in his career, i think gloried in the idea that you were a demon dog, who would say it like it really is in american culture, even despite the forces of liberalism and pc... demon dog, i love dogs. i love bulldogs. i love banned dogs. dogs can be dangerous. i am shocked that pit bulls are banned in a climate of hysteria in great britain. i stand up for staffordshire bulls — a british dog that i have had three off. bullterriers. let's not get too hung up on dogs, but that is applied a little bit to american culture today, and the political atmosphere. we're not going to talk about politics in america today, no. i don't mean party politics, whether you are a republican or democrat.
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i just mean the flavour of the times. for example, in your latest book, perfidia... finally, we get to it. it is an important book. it is a very interesting book because you place it around the time of the pearl harbor attack and soon after. mm—hm. and what you portray is a southern california which is in the grip of a fear, a fifth column of an enemy within. and because of that fear, corners are cut. the constitution is sort of... mm—hm. ...adapted, shall we say, to ensure that for example 100,000 japanese americans can be locked up, can be interned in camps. i just wonder whether you see a parallel today? no, i see no parallel today. let's cut right through that right now. i write my books in a state of immersion. as far as i'm concerned, franklin d roosevelt is the president of the united states. come on... no, you hold on.
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i know he's not. but that is the world that i live in. it is 1941. there are no corollaries to any event preceding or following december 19111. that book is written in blood, and in real time. bombs fall on pearl harbor, 80 pages in. then we are through, around the clock, up until the 29th. abrogation of civil liberties — we know it happened. it was the japanese internment, and it was wrong. and i say that it was wrong. and we are inside the perspective of a closet homosexual japanese—american police chemist. he knows it is wrong. the other cops, even dudley smith, the corrupt cop, will come to view it as wrong. because people, in my books, are always on a tortured road to self—knowledge. but even if you say you wrote this book in the mindset of 1942, and you refuse to move that mindset to today, you as, as you know, an important literary voice in america today surely
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have a view as to whether there is a justification for things like the patriot act, that we saw in the bush administration, or indeed the mass surveillance that... no, i don't. no? no, i do not. it does not interest me. i do not acknowledge anything outside the history that i write about. and it is that very quality, the fact that i deny the world today, do not use a cellphone, have never logged onto a computer in my life. that gives these books their power. and it gives these books their immediacy, and the feeling that they were written in that time period. and yet, i am here. i'm 66 years old. i will die in sa years, slightly after my 100th birthday. but i will have a lot of books that will stand. and they will stand because they were written in history's fire. will you, in the course
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of the next 3a years, that we both hope you have, will you turn your mind to events that go beyond the period of the united states in rthe which has been the focus of your attention so much of the time? no. will you address what has happened in the last ten years, or the next ten years? my historical curiosity runs out in may of 1972, when my novel blood a rover, my most recent novel before perfidia, concludes with the death ofj edgar hoover. i am going to write the second the la quartet. i am going to write a post—war trilogy that will run concurrent in its timeframe with the first la quartet. and at that time i will be old and i will be tired, and hopefully i will have enough money in the bank to live the rest
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of my life. let me ask you about the genre, if that is the word you use. crime fiction, detective fiction. you have been a pioneer, and i have mentioned people like ian rankin that say they owe a huge debt to you in the uk. there has always been this discussion, maybe based purely upon snobbery in the world of literature, whether crime fiction should be allowed in to the sort of literary circle. does that matter to you? no. no, i am not crime writer, nor am i a noir writer. i have written a bunch of books written in la in the height of the noir era. and so noir has been applied to me. i am a historical novelist. that is the novel that is resting under your left hand right now, and i am happy to have influenced a generation of crime writers. and i think the designation of crime writers, historical writers, all of this, it is interesting in the moment. really, in the end, it only pertains towards your books. i suppose, i have been reading some
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criticism of you and one thing that struck me is that a lot of writers have compared you, perhaps surprisingly, with james joyce, for your inventive use of language — stream of consciousness at times. others have compared you to conrad. 0ne critic said the conrad comparison works because you explore the savagery at the heart of man. is that right? do you think we are — have a savage heart as a species? ithink we... i think we have a savage heart, mitigated by conscience. and i think the very best of us come
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to spiritual flashpoints, points of explication in our personal lives where we see ourselves in the context of the world. other human beings, i believe that we are all as one, human beings. we are one soul, united under god. i believe in the spiritus mundi, the collective unconscious. and in that respect i am perhaps as one with james joyce orjoseph conrad, who i have never read, or dostoevsky, who i have never read. but put all of that aside, i don't think of this stuff. what do i think of? i wasn't fighting you or baiting you just to fight you or bait you when i was talking about history versus the contemporary. that is where i live. i live in history. i live in yearning. i have always been that way. if i'm not yearning for some woman, i'm yearning for history itself. i am yearning for conjunction of men
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and women within history. are you yearning as much now as you ever did? we talked at the beginning about the murder of your mother, about what a difficult childhood you had. and i can understand the yearning that came from that. but still today in your 60s, you are yearning... because i'm in love with a british woman. that sense of yearning that has driven you on... yes, it still drives me. it still drives me. that's why the demon dog analogy is so good. that's why i love pit bulls. it is why i am — why i am chagrined that they're banned here in britain. and why you are still barking. i bark on, yes. i bay. my girlfriend and i are going to dartmoor, and we are going to find the hound of the baskervilles, and he is going to say, what has taken you so long? james ellroy, thank you. thank you very much. hello.
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the area of low pressure that brought the rain on wednesday is still close enough during thursday to produce showers across the uk, making it quite windy. it is edging north—east gradually. not quickly enough for many of us before it gets to scandinavia and our weather improves. plenty of showers from the word go across many parts of the uk. the north and west in particular.
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some will be heavy. the risk of thunder and hail. a look at the picture. eight o'clock in the morning, showers scattered in south—west england. much of central and eastern england will be dry at this stage. sunny spells around. england and wales, it is a windy day, unseasonably for the time of year. gusty winds at that. plenty of showers in northern england and northern ireland, beginning to pull away. showers in scotland to the west. longer spells of rain in the northern isles. easterly winds. brisk south—westerly gusts of wind in england and wales will be noticeable during the day. showers fading in the afternoon, especially in england and wales. they linger in scotland. slow—moving with light winds. thundery downpours especially in eastern scotland during the afternoon. temperatures, high teens, low 20s. the first day of the women's british open. we have the threat of some heavy showers moving through.
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some will fade thursday night and to friday. could well see some spells of rain in ireland and scotland. edging southwards here for a time around the area of low pressure which has not gotten to scandinavia yet. the breeze is a notch down. more in the way of sunshine. feeling pleasant between showers. for the bulk of the uk, the showers away from scotland will be few and far between. those temperatures, well, the low 20s. most in the high teens. the big picture going into the weekend, a ridge of high pressure trying to go in. we will still see showers on saturday, especially in north england, north wales, scotland. they will be more numerous in that area. temperatures in high teens, low 20s.
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a chilly night on saturday, sunday with drier weather. a weather system is poised to come in from the west later in the day. i'm sharanjit leyl in singapore. the headlines: fixing faulty genes to eradicate inherited disease. a scientific breakthrough brings hope to millions of people around the world. president trump reluctantly approves new sanctions against russia. moscow says the move amounts to a full—scale trade war. i'm babita sharma in london. also in the programme: will he become the world's most expensive footballer? neymar could cost paris st germain a quarter of a billion dollars. he'll earn $1 every second. and exploring the edgy world of singapore in the 19705:
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we speak to the star who inspired and directed the movie wonderboy.
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