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Court TV Presents A Killer Lineup

"And think about it: If they really were abused, they would not be convicted of murder," Lieberman added, which was so sweet and naive and so not what you'd expect from a horror flick director.

Court TV CEO Henry Schleiff, noticing all the red flags flying around, jumped in:

"I think it's a really good question, fine line between good and bad taste, fine line between how you tell these stories without glorifying spousal abuse in any respect," he said. "The important thing is, besides having a very active Web site -- we're going to treat some of these issues on that -- we think we have a pretty good reputation on that score. But most importantly, I think what you see substantively, all humor aside, is that these people are caught, punished and sometimes executed for these heinous crimes."

* * *

Author James Ellroy wants you to think he is one seriously messed-up guy with a compulsive need to shock and a Norman Batesian obsession with his dead mother, who was strangled when he was just a boy.

Naturally, Court TV asked him to revisit his mother's murder for an episode of its new series "America's Crime Writers: Murder They Wrote." He's one of five crime writers the cable network has recruited to share their insights on mysteries that have fascinated and touched them in some way, through actual footage and first-person accounts. The others are Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, Michael Connelly and Lisa Scottoline.

Sitting onstage in front of two large bookcases tastefully filled with copies of their novels, bottles of what appeared to be poison, carved heads, something floating in a pickling jar, and stuffed crows -- such a cliche -- the writers took turns doing the blah, blah, blah about his or her murder of choice for the TV critics.

Aside from Ellroy, they spoke rationally about the real-life murders they had picked and why, and mentioned how happy they were to get out of the little "burrow" in which they're holed up for hours, slaves to their art. If they'd been more observant, they'd have noticed how pasty the critics are, owing to the endless hours they spent in their little burrows watching TV shows and writing reviews, and they would have realized how that pity party would not play well here. They're not that observant -- which is interesting, since they're crime writers.

Anyway, Ellroy kicked off his blah, blah by calling the critics "peepers, prowlers, pederasts, [knickers enthusiasts], "punks and pimps" -- no doubt mistaking the gathering for a James Ellroy convention.

(In fairness, he also referred to himself as "the deliriously dystopian and darkly defined demon dog of American literature" and his colleagues on stage as "the greatest one-room aggregation of degenerates since the last Bush Cabinet meeting." Still, it's hard to warm up to a guy who's just called you a knicker enthusiast and a pimp.)

The skinny bald 57-year-old author, who sported small round glasses, a dark jacket, red shirt, khaki pants, maroon socks, brown shoes and a scowl, told critics that he was just 10 when his mother was killed in a "[poop]hole suburb 12 miles southeast of here."

"My bereavement was complex and ambiguous and she hot-wired me to sex and to crime in all its forms," he said, on a roll.

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