Wolverines, Werewolves and Demon Dogs: Animality, Criminality and Classification in James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet offers a vivid tapestry of literal and symbolic beastliness. From the savage brutality of the “Wolverine Killer” in The Big Nowhere to the warped, ornithological mutilations of Loren Atherton in LA Confidential, Ellroy’s novels trace a potent convergence between animality and deviancy. This convergence becomes forcefully energised by rigid racial, sexual and political classifications, as manifestations of animality are repeatedly articulated via stark depictions of homosexuality, communism and “blackness”. Whilst the political dynamics of animality as a generic symbol of “otherness” are further solidified by the role actual animals play in Ellroy’s work, animals are, nonetheless, frequently situated as victims of monstrous human behaviours over the course of the Quartet, raising broader questions about human/animal binary. Through varying articulations of human/animal exploitation, the real villain of Ellroy’s work is a ruthless and detached post-war industrial culture that transforms both animal and human life into useable commodities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAnimals in Detective Fiction
EditorsRuth Hawthorn, John Miller
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-09241-1
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in Animals and Literature (PSAAL)

Cite this