James Ellroy Adapting His ‘American Tabloid’ Novel Into Scripted Podcast Series With Audio Up

EXCLUSIVE: James Ellroy, the demon dog of American crime fiction, is doubling down on the world of podcasting.

Ellroy, who Deadline revealed in April was working on true crime audio series Hollywood Death Trip, has teamed up with podcasting firm Audio Up to adapt his American Tabloid novel into a scripted podcast series.

The idea is that the L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia author and the Jared Gutstadt-run company are going to go where many others – including David Fincher, Bruce Willis, Tom Hanks and James Franco – have tried and failed before and take his book from the page. But rather than make it as a film or a TV series, he’s going to turn it into a 12-part audio project.

Ellroy will adapt himself with Audio Up’s CCO Jimmy Jellinek. The series, which will be exec produced by Gutstadt, Jellinek and COO Phil Alberstat, will launch on July 4, 2022. Casting will begin immediately.

The book which forms the basis of his Underworld USA trilogy, tells the fictional story of JFK’s murder from the point of view of those who killed him. The cast of characters is a rogue’s gallery of bloodthirsty Cuban Exiles, rogue CIA operatives, mafia killers, pimps, shakedown men and FBI Agents all chasing money, sex and power.

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American Tabloid blasts a bullet hole into the myth of American innocence and hope that pervaded the Eisenhower years and was exemplified by Kennedy’s Camelot. In Ellroy’s hands, JFK is transmogrified into “Bad Back Jack” an underhung playboy with a penchant for call-girls, amphetamines and the power derived from his father’s money. It’s RFK, in Ellroy’s telling, who is the moral center, but seals his brother’s fate and that of the family by chasing the mob and Jimmy Hoffa. Inserted into this milieu is a morphine addicted Howard Hughes, J. Edgar Hoover, the Chicago Outfit and a low rent twist queen who becomes their ticket to blackmail. They all converge in Dallas to rub up against history and watch the world spin. This is American history torched and served up a la carte as the truth.

Ellroy is already working with Audio Up on Hollywood Death Trip, which will debut on October 8.

“Movies and TV drool! Radio rules! That’s my muckraking mantra since I signed up with audacious Audio Up for Hollywood Death Trip. Next year the epic American Tabloid,” said Ellroy. “I read the narration. Hotshot actors read the dialogue. Now I know why God made me a bass-baritone. This Podcast will work some jolting juju and incite incendiary insurrection in Radioland!!!! Camelot will burn, baby, burn-and you’ll be there as the gang at Audio Up fans the flames. It all adds up to the hottest of hot dates with History-so get ready to pile into the pyre!!!!!”

“Audio is the perfect medium to deliver American Tabloid,” said Jellinek. “We can build out the book’s massive internal world through sound. Traveling from the Jungles of Guatemala to Castro’s Cuba, Mid Century Chicago, Los Angeles, 1963 Dallas and the Jim Crowe South alongside these characters would be prohibitive unless you were making a film on the scale of the Irishman. Instead, we’re creating what may very well be the first true, scripted epic of the podcast era for what it would cost to feed the grips for half a day on one of these sets. When were finished you’ll hopefully know we’re the HBO or 70’s Paramount of audio, full stop. The fact that James has entrusted his legacy to Audio Up is enormously gratifying and speaks volumes to the way we work with other people’s IP.”

“James Ellroy trusting us with his legacy is a huge testament to how we handle other people’s IP,” added Audio Up Founder and CEO Jared Gutstadt. “At the outset, we sought to become an ecosystem where super creators can rely on us for entry into the world of podcast. This is a big moment for Audio Up.”

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