James Ellroy lined up his contracts; two more TV pitches, two more chances to get it right. He saw Frank Darabont trying to muscle in on his territory, knew he had to put the squeeze on him before that lurching bastard ran him right out of 1950s Los Angeles. This was his quasi-fictional town; he’d run this neo-noir racket for decades. He’d be damned if he’d end up plugged in the back like some kind of slobbering mope. Two pitches at two networks—a 50/50 shot he’d have his own show about all the crime, corruption, and Hollywood hopheads in L.A. within the year. And then he’d get coin. He’d 86 the latecomers. He’d be on top again.
One of these, the tabloids were calling it a sequel to L.A. Confidential; on the QT, they both were, if you want to get down to it. But the one being shopped around through New Regency was official—it “continues the themes and stories from L.A. Confidential, a murder mystery which examined the intersection of organized crime, police corruption, celebrity and tabloid journalism in 1950s Los Angeles.” It wasn’t an adaptation of White Jazz—wasn’t as easy as all that—but still. The rags made it sound pretty; they said multiple outlets wanted a piece, and it could go straight to series. Maybe Ellroy could finally get the taste of that failed L.A. Confidential pilot out of his mouth. He still saw Kiefer Sutherland on the street sometimes, couldn’t meet his bloodshot eye after what happened in ‘03. Bad thoughts; bad dialogue. One good pilot and bid adieu to all that.
The other is Shakedown—FX taking a big old belt straight from the greasy paper-wrapped bottle of Shakedown, that novella he’d cranked out for a pretty penny last year. FX had forgotten about working on Throwdown Gun with him a couple years back; forgotten and forgave. They wanted him back writing about cop-turned-private dick-turned-Confidential stooge Freddy Otash, sneakiest rat in the City of Angels. Shakedown also scratched “the tabloid world and underbelly of Los Angeles circa the late 1950s;” Ellroy could pitch these things two at a pop, watch the networks fall all over themselves to get partnered up, put some tough sons-of-bitches in hats and pin badges to their chests. And meanwhile he’d just clout the cash, collect his pension, make it biggggg. He’d keep walking his beat, through the pushers and hustlers and boozehounds, right into the basic-cable back alleys. And Ellroy would show them all who really ran 1950s L.A.