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FX, James Ellroy Developing Drama Based on Famed Detective Fred Otash

Period entry "Shakedown" is inspired by the life of the former private eye who claimed to have listened in on some of Hollywood's most personal matters.

James Ellroy Headshot - P 2013
Getty Images
James Ellroy

FX is turning its lens on one of Hollywood's top former private eyes.

The cable network is developing Shakedown, a period drama inspired by the life of Fred Otash from writer James Ellroy, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Shakedown is set in the tabloid world and underbelly of Los Angeles circa the late 1950s. The drama centers on the city's top informant/operator/wire tapper/fixer, Fred O'Tash, who lives and works where the glamor and grime intersect.

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Ellroy will pen the script and executive produce the FX Productions vehicle alongside Joe Roth, Clark Peterson, Steven Hoban and Palak Patel.

For Ellroy, the small-screen project marks his latest work to feature Otash. The crime writer previously used a fictionalized version of Otash in two of his novels from the Underworld USA trilogy: 2001's The Cold Six Thousand and 2009's Blood's a Rover. He's also the central figure in another Ellroy short titled Shakedown, which featured the character in purgatory.

Otash, who died in October 1992, was a somewhat dubious 1950s private eye who claimed to have listened in on Marilyn Monroe having sex with John F. Kennedy; worked for Judy Garland and others; and taped Rock Hudson telling his wife he was gay. Mike Wallace famously confronted him in a heated interview.

His career collapsed in the 1960s when Congress began to scrutinize some of the sleazy magazines for which he worked. He was one of the people on whom Jack Nicholson's Chinatown character was based.

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At FX, the project joins a development roster that also includes Kurt Sutter's Diva, Clown, Killer; a bank robbery drama with Tim Roth; and a former detective-turned-fixer entry from executive producer Ryan Seacrest, among others. The news comes as the cable network is ramping up originals as it prepared to launch comedy-themed network FXX. 

Fixer dramas appear all the rage at the moment, with ABC's Scandal solidifying its place on the network in its second season and Showtime launching celebrity fixer drama Ray Donovan in June.

Ellroy, whose novels include L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia, is repped by Intellectual Property Group.

Stephen Galloway contributed to this report.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit