Sometimes, you just find yourself in the right place in the right time. Tonight, that place for me was standing next to Jonathan Storm, TV critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer, who was invited over to talk with best-selling author James Ellroy (“L.A. Confidential,” “The Black Dahlia,” “The Big Nowhere”) about his new series for Investigation Discovery. When the publicist for “James Ellroy’s L.A.: City of Demons” – premiering on Jan. 19, FYI – realized that I, too, was a fan of Mr. Ellroy’s work, she immediately hustled me over to join the conversation, where I was privy to the author offering his thoughts on the murder of the well-respected Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen.
“What I think happened,” said Ellroy, “is that you have a guy, an ex-convict, living in a shitty hotel. He’s a dope fiend. He tells everybody on God’s green earth, ‘I’m a hit man. I whacked this guy, I whacked this guy.’ And everybody thinks, ‘Go whack yourself. Fuck you.’ And then he says, ‘I whacked Ronni Chasen.’ So someone stiffed a call to ‘America’s Most Wanted,’ and they just said, ‘Fuck it.’ Beverly Hills P.D., the world’s worst homicide bureau – they don’t have any murders! – they actually decided to execute a warrant off that, which is probably illegal. (But) the guy really did do it. People who knew Ronnie Chasen…she was an abrasive older woman. He pulled up next to her on this bicycle, they shared a look, she flipped him off, he capped her and then ran.”
Why, asked Storm, would he ride his bicycle out there in the middle of nowhere on Sunset?
“Because he’s a psycho,” responded Ellroy. “And because, almost always, the solution for a crime is that banal and that stupid. I talked to an LAPD guy who handled the suicide when the killer killed himself, and he said, ‘Beverly Hills PD’s got their dick in the wringer on this one.’ And then the ballistics matched. They found the gun. So Beverly Hills PD got lucky.”
But couldn’t somebody have seen that guy and planted the gun with him afterward?
“No,” said Ellroy, with a smirk. “That’s a crime novel.”