The Black Dahlia

Written by: James Ellroy

The Black Dahlia Book Cover
On January 15, 1947, the torture-ravished body of a beautiful young woman is found in a vacant lot. The victim makes headlines as the Black Dahlia—and so begins the greatest manhunt in California history. Caught up in the investigation are Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard: Warrants Squad cops, friends, and rivals in love with the same woman. But both are obsessed with the On January 15, 1947, the torture-ravished body of a beautiful young woman is found in a vacant lot. The victim makes headlines as the Black Dahlia—and so begins the greatest manhunt in California history. Caught up in the investigation are Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard: Warrants Squad cops, friends, and rivals in love with the same woman. But both are obsessed with the Dahlia—driven by dark needs to know everything about her past, to capture her killer, to possess the woman even in death. Their quest will take them on a hellish journey through the underbelly of postwar Hollywood, to the core of the dead girl's twisted life, past the extremes of their own psyches—into a region of total madness.
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The Black Dahlia Reviews

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Wow.

Spare, but never threadbare prose with flashes of lyricism, but not self indulgently so (I'm looking at you, Chandler) (kidding, I love old Ray) (but still). Razor sharp descriptions, characters you detach from like falling out of reality into a mere dream. And dark, unflinching in its tour among horrors, and able to somehow make the heavy-handed bits work. And not utterly devoid of light and hope.

Ctgt
The murder of Elizabeth Short in 1947 is the backdrop of this story but this is essentially about three people and the complete upheaval of their lives during the investigation.
This takes places in the mid 40's well before Miranda so there are plenty of witness "confessions" and an abundance of corruption and graft.

The lives of officers Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert and Lee Blanchard of the LAPD seem destined to become intertwined from jump. They were both boxers with some local fame which the brass The murder of Elizabeth Short in 1947 is the backdrop of this story but this is essentially about three people and the complete upheaval of their lives during the investigation.
This takes places in the mid 40's well before Miranda so there are plenty of witness "confessions" and an abundance of corruption and graft.

The lives of officers Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert and Lee Blanchard of the LAPD seem destined to become intertwined from jump. They were both boxers with some local fame which the brass decide to use with a fight between the two as a promotional tool hoping to pass a proposal requesting more money for the LAPD. Blanhard is already working "Warrants", a plainsclothes detail with quick upward mobility and Bleichert sees an opportunity to jump into the fast lane. We also meet Kay Lake the third member of this weird "love" triangle.

Bleichert and Blanchard end up as partners in Warrants and in the process of another investigation stumble upon the early stages of Elizabeth Short murder scene. Blanchard immediately pushes to be included in the investigation even though it's not part of their division. B and B and the whole LAPD go into overdrive in the initial aftermath of the discovery but after a week or so Bleichert starts pushing to return to Warrants while Blanchard becomes more and more obsessed with the Smart case and just won't or can't let go. Initially it's only Lee who is focused on the case but as the story moves along Bucky takes his obsession to a whole new disturbing level and they both take Kay down the rabbit hole with them.

Madeleine spoke of her utter malleability,Betty the chameleon who would do anything to please anybody. I had her down as the center of the most baffling piece of detective work the Department had ever seen, the disrupter of most of the lives close to me, the human riddle I had to know everything about. That was my final perspective, and it felt bone shallow.
Malbadeen
I feel left ouf of certain genres which means I am left out of certain conversations which I hate because butting into conversations is pretty much my main hobby.
Ocassionaly I try to overcome this handi-cap by at least gaining the tiniest bit of knowledge regarding a genre.
And yet, try as I might I just can't seem to get into this crime stuff.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ellroy when Sarah and I did Wordstock and it really was a pleasure, if nothing else becuase he is such a character himself, I feel left ouf of certain genres which means I am left out of certain conversations which I hate because butting into conversations is pretty much my main hobby.
Ocassionaly I try to overcome this handi-cap by at least gaining the tiniest bit of knowledge regarding a genre.
And yet, try as I might I just can't seem to get into this crime stuff.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ellroy when Sarah and I did Wordstock and it really was a pleasure, if nothing else becuase he is such a character himself, and he knows it, and he works it.
So I thought I'd give this one a try on audio. I must have listened to the intro 4 or 5 times (each time realizing I had not been paying attention at all) before getting to chapter 1, which is titled "Fire and Ice" and proceedes to say things like "the blues" (meaning the police officers). I understand this is part of the "charm" of noir but my brain flat out refused to go there.
So I guess, like conversations regarding sports and financial investments, the topic of crime fiction is just going to be one conversation topic I wont be able to butt into.

A Good Man in Africa :: دکتر نون زنش را بیشتر از مصدق دوست دارد :: Cómo ser una mujer y no morir en el intento :: The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories :: The Forever War
Bill
Corruption, debauchery, scandal and murder. This one starts out as a character study of two former boxers turned cops and then gets deep in several intertwined plots that shine a light on the seedy underbelly of Hollywood in the 1940’s. Thick with atmosphere, this one drips with noir and never loses it’s true crime feel, even though this is a highly fictionalized account of the famous Black Dahlia murder and events surrounding the case. At once dark and chilling, this one from James Ellroy is a Corruption, debauchery, scandal and murder. This one starts out as a character study of two former boxers turned cops and then gets deep in several intertwined plots that shine a light on the seedy underbelly of Hollywood in the 1940’s. Thick with atmosphere, this one drips with noir and never loses it’s true crime feel, even though this is a highly fictionalized account of the famous Black Dahlia murder and events surrounding the case. At once dark and chilling, this one from James Ellroy is a beautifully written piece with all of the elements of a true classic. That’s because it is. Excellent. Solid 4+ Stars! Highly Recommended.
Bill
Very gritty, very grim with many, many twists and turns. Basic premise is two detectives assigned to look into the vicious, torture and murder of a woman who becomes known as the Black Dahlia. The search into this crime will bring both of them to the breaking point and affect their personal lives as well. It's not a quick crime to solve, time flows on and on, the crime is forgotten, rehashed, as the pieces are put together. Kind of grim for me, but also very interesting. There are three other st Very gritty, very grim with many, many twists and turns. Basic premise is two detectives assigned to look into the vicious, torture and murder of a woman who becomes known as the Black Dahlia. The search into this crime will bring both of them to the breaking point and affect their personal lives as well. It's not a quick crime to solve, time flows on and on, the crime is forgotten, rehashed, as the pieces are put together. Kind of grim for me, but also very interesting. There are three other stories in the LA Quartet, which I may read, but maybe not in a hurry.
Ed
This is a great read. Many thanks for the encouraging recommendations from the past readers, a big why GR is a valuable forum. The bullet prose is one appeal. I can't discuss the plot without giving up spoilers. Mr. Ellroy's take on the Black Dahlia is interesting. I read it straight through and out my other reads on hold until I finished it. That doesn't happen very often. So: that's my vote of confidence.
StoryTellerShannon
The fictionalized dark tale of the murder of a Hollywood hopeful that leads the investigator into despair and desire.

This audio was presented very well by Stephen Hoye.

Plotting and the twists were great, especially in the latter half of the audio. The beginning was a bit slow.

Years later I suspect I will remember the dark and light characters of this tale.

OVERALL GRADE: B plus.
Syndi
I read this book long long time ago. I vaguely remember. It is about the fame murder. Black Dahlia. I remember I can not really connect or even finish this book. The story is too gruesome and disturbing.
John
This is based on the 1947 gruesome murder in LA of Elizabeth Short (still unsolved), nicknamed the Black Dahlia because of her mode of dress. This is James Ellroy’s fictional attempt at solving it. I am not sure to what extent it is factually based.

There are many plots within plots which unravel throughout the book and grab the readers attention. No chance of me spoiling it for you: I’m not sure my short term memory is up to it!

Despite the endless Yank cop speak, for which a glossary is badly n This is based on the 1947 gruesome murder in LA of Elizabeth Short (still unsolved), nicknamed the Black Dahlia because of her mode of dress. This is James Ellroy’s fictional attempt at solving it. I am not sure to what extent it is factually based.

There are many plots within plots which unravel throughout the book and grab the readers attention. No chance of me spoiling it for you: I’m not sure my short term memory is up to it!

Despite the endless Yank cop speak, for which a glossary is badly needed by me, I’m giving it 4*.

Gruesome in parts and not for the faint-hearted.
Michael Fierce
The Black Dahlia is the fictional account of Hollywood's most notorious murder case of Elizabeth Ann Short in 1947. The book, written by James Ellroy, is a reinvention in form of the noir gangster and detective murder mystery novels and films from the 30's and 40's. Borrowing much of it's language, imagery and style from the most famous of the bunch, The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, and The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, that both starred Humphrey Bogart in the lead roles of the movie ver The Black Dahlia is the fictional account of Hollywood's most notorious murder case of Elizabeth Ann Short in 1947. The book, written by James Ellroy, is a reinvention in form of the noir gangster and detective murder mystery novels and films from the 30's and 40's. Borrowing much of it's language, imagery and style from the most famous of the bunch, The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, and The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, that both starred Humphrey Bogart in the lead roles of the movie versions. Personally, I feel that The Black Dahlia is an even better, more captivating, albeit harsher and grimmer book than those two major classics. Not everyone agrees with me. The first 40 pages are a bit overwhelming due to the unique slang and language that was common in the time period it's based on. After that, I think it kicks in and really tells a story you've never read before that really gets under your skin. In 1987, a couple of months after this book came out, I went to purchase another paperback copy of it to give to my best friend for Christmas, from my favorite bookstore in the world, The Dark Carnival in Berkeley, CA, 15 minutes from where I live. When I got there, all the James Ellroy books that were stacked up on the floor in their own section - just a week prior - were no longer there where I expected them to be. I asked a clerk, "Hey! What happened to all the James Ellroy books that were right over there" and pointed to the section. He said, "Oh, we moved them for the signing". I said, "....the..signing?". He said, "Yeah, he just got out of the bathroom and should be ready in a minute". I was, of course, shocked and didn't know what to say. The clerk then semi-whispered in my ear, "Yeah, and it's a funny thing too, but I couldn't help notice that he had a peestain on his pants next to his pocket. Guess he's just like the rest of us". Again, I didn't know what to say to that. James Ellroy was a gentleman dressed in a dark and light grey suit, with what looked to be black penny loafers on. I was only 1 of maybe 3 customers in the store and ended up getting two paperback editions of The Black Dahlia signed by him, of which he did his entire signings while standing up. We chatted for a minute, and other than the fact he seemed more astute than the average man, and was a bit better dressed, he most certainly didn't seem much different than any other older upper middle-class man and definitely not the nearly famous writer who had written books like "Cop" that were made into movies, who would someday have "The Black Dahlia" and "L.A. Confidential" made into blockbuster films, who would even have his own TV show one day. Several years later, I wrote a song with my band (at the time), Mephisto Odyssey, called, "Dream Of The Black Dahlia", an acid jazz techno song that broke into the U.K. Dance charts that became quite popular in France and Italy and a bit in the U.S. Although when I listen to that song now I think it's just AWFUL(!), but I always think it's pretty cool that I have James Ellroy and The Black Dahlia to thank for helping me break into the music business. ANYONE who loves good murder mystery detective novels or film noir should find this book to be an all-time classic, even though it is a purely fictional account of the famous investigation. If you are a book connoisseur, like me, track down the 1987 / 1988 paperback or hardbound edition with the awesome Elizabeth Ann Short cover, that looks as if it was painted by Nagel - maybe, most famous, for the cover painting on Duran Duran's "Rio" album. It's a killer! And so's this book! Highly recommended and a personal favorite!!!
Ann Girdharry
We follow the lives of two Los Angeles police officers, Bleichart and Blanchard, as they stumble their way through personal addiction to drugs, to their lives as amateur boxers, to their lives as cops in a division which is full of bent cops and bribed cops who beat and kill at will. There is a woman both men are attracted to - and she also is complicated and not-so-lily-white. Then there is the murder of a young woman called Betty Short and the lurid investigation, corrupt and bungled, which en We follow the lives of two Los Angeles police officers, Bleichart and Blanchard, as they stumble their way through personal addiction to drugs, to their lives as amateur boxers, to their lives as cops in a division which is full of bent cops and bribed cops who beat and kill at will. There is a woman both men are attracted to - and she also is complicated and not-so-lily-white. Then there is the murder of a young woman called Betty Short and the lurid investigation, corrupt and bungled, which ensues. Bleichart becomes obsessed (plus sexually obsessed) with the gruesome details of the case.
In all, I found this book hard going and it didn't live up to its reputation. The story was disjointed, the writing style downright weird (surreal?) in places and firmly centred in the mind of Bleichart who veered from loyal partner, to a man dreaming of sex with a cadaver, to brutal cop, to corrupt cop to good cop. I like noir, but it has to be well written.
The book began to hook me in the last quarter and it became fascinating as the lurid plot spun itself out to its most gruesome, revealing practically nobody to be free of implication in the corruption of that era. However, it all came far too late for me. Three stars and I'm being generous.
Sara
This is probably the hardest to read of James Ellroy's novels, but it's also one of my favorites. Apparently, Ellroy modeled the tragic death of the young starlet in the novel after his mother's mysterious death. In typical Ellroy fashion, there's plenty of intrigue, corrupt government officials, intrigue and heart-stopping action. This is also one of the only books that has any emotional resonance for me, probably because the subject was so close to reality for him. What I love most about Ellro This is probably the hardest to read of James Ellroy's novels, but it's also one of my favorites. Apparently, Ellroy modeled the tragic death of the young starlet in the novel after his mother's mysterious death. In typical Ellroy fashion, there's plenty of intrigue, corrupt government officials, intrigue and heart-stopping action. This is also one of the only books that has any emotional resonance for me, probably because the subject was so close to reality for him. What I love most about Ellroy's writing is his ability to create strong, seemingly well-adjusted characters who have more flaws and vulnerabilities than anyone can imagine. I read this back in high school for an independent reading project, most of the plot I've now forgotten, but some of the imagery has lingered. If you've got a weak stomach, this might not be your kind of book.
El
I have been out of town for the past week and do not have much desire to go in-depth in my discussion of books I have read in that time. The Black Dahlia in particular is one that I was so highly disappointed in that I don't have the heart to give it much more than an "it was okay" rating. As much as I adore perfectly twisted murder mystery movies and books I found Ellroy's book sadly incompetent. Maybe I expected something a little more Sunset Boulevard-in-print than this. All in all I found it I have been out of town for the past week and do not have much desire to go in-depth in my discussion of books I have read in that time. The Black Dahlia in particular is one that I was so highly disappointed in that I don't have the heart to give it much more than an "it was okay" rating. As much as I adore perfectly twisted murder mystery movies and books I found Ellroy's book sadly incompetent. Maybe I expected something a little more Sunset Boulevard-in-print than this. All in all I found it hard to keep my attention which is really unfortunate in that it is considered, somehow, to be one of the "1,000 books to read before I die".

Well, I read it, and I tell you what... I would have been pissed had my plane crashed and burned with The Black Dahlia having been one of the last books I read before I died.
Chris
When I listen to Dexter Gordon, I feel that if you close your eyes you can almost smell the cigarette smoke, hear the commotion in the nightclub, and faintly taste the whiskey and feel the glass in your hand.

The Black Dahlia is like that. But more sinister. You can still hear Dexter's sax, but looking around you see that that the bar is not a friendly place to be---the women in the club are dangerous, and the men even more so. From under each fedora you see eyes that range from callously indiffe When I listen to Dexter Gordon, I feel that if you close your eyes you can almost smell the cigarette smoke, hear the commotion in the nightclub, and faintly taste the whiskey and feel the glass in your hand.

The Black Dahlia is like that. But more sinister. You can still hear Dexter's sax, but looking around you see that that the bar is not a friendly place to be---the women in the club are dangerous, and the men even more so. From under each fedora you see eyes that range from callously indifferent to those that appraise you maliciously. And there may be one set of eyes that reflect madness and murder.

Ellroy's 40's are a far cry from the Hope and Crosby 40's I remember from movies I watched as a kid. They are not on the same planet. Ellroy tells a tale of unimaginable cruelty, where money is the only thing that counts in life, where people seek and die for the emptiness of fame, and where people are used and discarded on the streets once their usefullness has expired. It is a soul-less place and any search for redemption or justice will leave you reeling on the street with your hands in empty pockets.

What an incredible novel.

Darker than you can possibly imagine, and then darker still. A compelling story with characters you will never forget. A complex, interlacing plot that left me in awe of Ellroy's craft. I can't imagine a better written crime novel. The whole time I was reading, I felt completely immersed in the story, in Ellroy's world, and deeply feeling and suffering for his wonderful characters.

I don't want to say anything about the plot. There are so many surprises in this novel. Do yourself a favor and avoid spoilers and just read....
Jessy
Se salvó un poco al final, y eso porque no me lo esperaba, pero creo que más de la mitad del libro podría haberse evitado sin ningún problema para la trama principal.
Lauren
One of the most famous unsolved murders in history makes for a great, atmospheric, and effectively nightmarish breakout novel. While some of the complications here are too Byzantine--and in some cases too clumsily depicted through lengthy explanations--Ellroy's rendition of detailed procedural work in an almost Expressionistic post-war Los Angeles is incredibly compelling.

Ellroy's trio here is made up of Bucky Bleichert, Lee Blanchard, and Kay Lake. Bucky is our conflicted narrator, who never me One of the most famous unsolved murders in history makes for a great, atmospheric, and effectively nightmarish breakout novel. While some of the complications here are too Byzantine--and in some cases too clumsily depicted through lengthy explanations--Ellroy's rendition of detailed procedural work in an almost Expressionistic post-war Los Angeles is incredibly compelling.

Ellroy's trio here is made up of Bucky Bleichert, Lee Blanchard, and Kay Lake. Bucky is our conflicted narrator, who never met two things he didn't want at the same time, and who starts off resenting the social fixation on the Dahlia case only to fixate on her himself. Lee Blanchard is his partner, an affable guy whose habit of popping pills to keep himself going during all-nighters turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of his secrets. Somewhere between them is Kay, ostensibly Lee's loyal and loving live-in girlfriend, with a long and tangled history of her own. Bucky and Lee were both minor boxers back in the day, and when they get recruited for a publicity-stunt inter-LAPD bout (Lee's "Mr. Fire" against Bucky's "Mr. Ice"), they wind up partners and friends. Even Bucky's desire for Kay--and hers for him--doesn't seem to throw off the delicate balance among the three of them.

The murder of Elizabeth Short not only ends that tentative paradise but reveals it was a lie all along. Bucky was never under the impression that Los Angeles was an orderly city full of nice people, but his investigation keeps turning up depravity and casual cruelty, until it seems like every rock hides a Gothic horror story all its own. (The eventual revelation of how a cop lost his Vice assignment alone is awful enough to be the centerpiece of another novel; here, it's stage-setting, a mere detail of a side-plot.) This could be simply particularly grisly noir, but Ellroy ups the ante by populating the novel not just with grotesques but with doubles, fantasies, disguises, and extraneous lies. Bucky stumbles across Short's double, a socialite named Madeleine who confesses having been powerfully drawn to her lookalike. Short had a habit of making up husbands and boyfriends. A rich woman humiliates her husband by using neighborhood children to stage elaborate pageants on their front lawn depicting events from his past. Houses are built out of shoddy scrapped movie sets. At various points, it seems entirely possible that everyone is corrupt, everyone has slept with the Black Dahlia, and everyone is concealing something.

(It's enough to make you want to hug Millard every time he shows up and does something decent and/or sensible.)

It would be easy for the weight of all this dark strangeness to tear through the fabric of the story, but Ellroy keeps things moving and keeps a tight focus on Bucky's journey into his own Hollywood heart of darkness. And, truth be told, the factual Black Dahlia murder was so grisly that it seems like the world Ellroy portrays here is probably, on some level, the one we really live in. The result is one of the best novels about obsession and what it feels like from the inside-out--like you're moving through a haunted world of symbols and signals and mysterious revelations. The occasional stumble (view spoiler)[(I'm still not entirely sure why Lee and Kay wouldn't make the status of their relationship clear to Bucky early on, especially after Lee apparently started wanting Bucky and Kay to get together, for example) (hide spoiler)] is a small price to pay for that, as the logical inconsistencies or implausibilities only serve to bolster that dreamlike feel.

We'll see some of these people again. And remember, cherchez la femme.
Ned
I read it fast, enjoyed it, yet feel a little guilty about only 3 stars. But something didn't quite hit me right. The main characters, Bucky and Lee, I just didn't quite believe. But they are cops, and I don't know any very well. The banter and crudities reminded me of testosterone infused locker room banter, and the peculiar vocabulary did ring true and was hilarious. The setting in LA in post WWII was unique, and I learned much about that time and place, and the impact of war on the returned v I read it fast, enjoyed it, yet feel a little guilty about only 3 stars. But something didn't quite hit me right. The main characters, Bucky and Lee, I just didn't quite believe. But they are cops, and I don't know any very well. The banter and crudities reminded me of testosterone infused locker room banter, and the peculiar vocabulary did ring true and was hilarious. The setting in LA in post WWII was unique, and I learned much about that time and place, and the impact of war on the returned veterans. It is easy for my generation to think of the 40s and 50s as simpler times of malteds and nuclear families. But greed, murder and misogyny are universal, and nothing is truly new under the sun. This is a true story, fictionalized, and tied to the authors own experiences with his mother. He may have been too close to his subject matter, as the plot is over-stuffed, histrionic at times, and the characters' emotions frankly mystifying. I just never quite bought the obsession with the murdered girl and Ellroy batters the reader mercilessly with it. But he does pull of some incredible sketches, such a when Bucky visits the new girlfriend's family, and reads the situation with his cop's intuition:

"Martha Sprague stood up on command. She was short, plump and blonde, with a tenacious resemblance to her father, blue eyes so light that it looked like she sent them out to be bleached and a neck that was acned and raw from scratching. She looked like a teenaged girl who'd never outgrow her baby fat and mature into beauty. I shook her firm hand feeling sorry for her; she caught what I was thinking immediately. Her pale eyes fired up as she yanked her paw away. Ramona Sprague was the only one of the three who looked like Madeleine; if not for her I would have thought the brass girl was adopted. She possessed a pushing-50 version of Madeleine's lustrous dark hair and pale skin, but there was nothing else attractive about her. She was fat, her face was flaccid, her rouge and lipstick were applied slightly off center, so that her face was weirdly askew. Taking her hand, she said, 'Madeleine has said so many nice things about you' with a trace of a slur. There was no liquor on her breath; I wondered if she was jacked on drugstore stuff."

And when he traveled through Tijuana (TJ), observing the corruption of the local cops on those attempting to cross the border:

"I drove down into it, quickly sizing up the burg as a seabreeze version of TJ catering to a higher class of tourista. The gringoes were well behaved, there were no child beggars on the streets and no barkers in front of the profusion of juice joints. The wetback line originated out in the scrub land, and only cut through Ensenada to reach the coast road- and to pay tribute to the Rurales for letting them through. It was the most blatant shakedown I had ever seen. Rurales in brownshirts, jodhpurs and jackboots were walking from peasant to peasant, taking money and attaching tags to their shoulders with staple guns; plainclothes cops sold parcels of beef jerky and dried fruit, putting the coins they received into changemakers strapped next to their sidearms. Other Rurales were stationed one man to a block to check the tags; when I turned off the main drag onto an obvious red light street, I glimpsed two brownshirts rendering a man senseless with the butts of their weapons: sawed off pump shotguns."

I suspect I'm being too hard on this author. It reminded me of modern-day noir (Chandler) for obvious reasons, and he is a talented writer. Just to close on this one.
Nate
Because I am unavoidably a weird kid grown into a weird guy, I have always had a weird fascination with the seamy, the sketchy, the greasy, the morbid and the disturbing. Post-war Los Angeles is the perfect petri dish for this stuff to ferment and tons of stuff ranging from movies to books to videogames have used this setting to tell stories of corruption, crime and murder. Even though there's a decent amount of this stuff out there Ellroy really impressed me as an original, fresh voice with the Because I am unavoidably a weird kid grown into a weird guy, I have always had a weird fascination with the seamy, the sketchy, the greasy, the morbid and the disturbing. Post-war Los Angeles is the perfect petri dish for this stuff to ferment and tons of stuff ranging from movies to books to videogames have used this setting to tell stories of corruption, crime and murder. Even though there's a decent amount of this stuff out there Ellroy really impressed me as an original, fresh voice with the ability and joyful will to present a truly gritty vision of late-40s L.A. during the media frenzy/circus that resulted from the creepy-ass as-yet unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, or the titular Black Dahlia.

Bucky Bleichert is a cop with some pretty questionable skeletons in his closet. He's the main character and narrator and I really liked him throughout the book. He's a good guy at heart who still does sketchy shit, a hardass boxer but never comes off as macho or egotistical and even has a set of prominent buck teeth. Ellroy sticks him perfectly on the line between genuine humanity and outright Mary Sue-ness. The rest of the characters were interesting if not vivid, especially Bucky's partner Lee and their(!) girlfriend Kay. Even though she's dead when the story proper starts Elizabeth might have been the most interesting character. The first time I read about this case long ago definitely impressed on me and it's easy to see why the main characters become so obsessed with her and finding out who killed her.
description
Elizabeth Short's mug shot from 1943 taken after she was arrested for underage drinking. She was 19 in this photo.

It's hard to sum up why this case is so fascinating, and I can of course only speak for myself. It has to do with the way she came to the city seeking fame and fortune and glamor after what was probably already a hard life and was transformed into something almost unrecognizable as human. The lady that found her thought she was a broken mannequin, for Christ's sake. It's almost like L.A. itself reached out, took one of its many hopeful pilgrims and just fucking mutilated her and left her in pieces in some weedy lot. Of course, it wasn't the city but another human being that did this to her and the reader is dragged on a journey in pursuit through the ugliest places and people you can imagine and some you can't with your helpful guide Ellroy at your side the whole time. It's wall-to-wall ugly but I couldn't stop reading until I was through and came away wanting more.

The whole book strongly resisted any easy genre pigeonholing on my part and presented a multifaceted story about complex relationships, harmful obsessions, mercurial moral values and of course the tragic story of Liz Short and the mystery of what happened to her. I'm holding back the Sacred Fifth Star because as good as this one was I have the feeling that Ellroy can do even better. His prose had a definite momentum to it and I loved his descriptive language. The peoples and places of this book certainly do come to visceral life in his sentences, almost like a more in-your-face, less cheeky Raymond Chandler. Check this one out if you're into crime, mystery and drama but be warned that it is pretty uncompromising and dark.
Michael
Fairly riveting account of the brutal and notorious murder of Elizabeth Short, aka The Black Dahlia. Ellroy brings the punches, literally, in this first foray of his L.A Quartet, which is why I knocked my rating down to four stars and not five. The first sixty pages is devoted to the character development of Blanchard and Bleichart, the detectives assigned to the Dahlia case, who happen to be sparring opponents in the boxing ring. Not really sure this helped out the narrative and for me I found Fairly riveting account of the brutal and notorious murder of Elizabeth Short, aka The Black Dahlia. Ellroy brings the punches, literally, in this first foray of his L.A Quartet, which is why I knocked my rating down to four stars and not five. The first sixty pages is devoted to the character development of Blanchard and Bleichart, the detectives assigned to the Dahlia case, who happen to be sparring opponents in the boxing ring. Not really sure this helped out the narrative and for me I found it tedious and long-winded. Other than that Ellroy is a master of dialogue delivery and kick-in-the-crotch prose. This is a dark, disturbing ride through Hollywood’s underbelly.
Carol Storm
Spectacular book, but like all of Ellroy's greatest works it's wildly uneven. The realistic detail about the nuts and bolts of being a cop in Forties Los Angeles is simply superb and incomparable. The brutal honesty about the racism and corruption of the LAPD of that era is compelling and gut-wrenching in the extreme.

On the other hand, the actual story is very hard to swallow. Ellroy writes with so much complexity, in so many layers, that the book can be a white-knuckle read one minute and a ca Spectacular book, but like all of Ellroy's greatest works it's wildly uneven. The realistic detail about the nuts and bolts of being a cop in Forties Los Angeles is simply superb and incomparable. The brutal honesty about the racism and corruption of the LAPD of that era is compelling and gut-wrenching in the extreme.

On the other hand, the actual story is very hard to swallow. Ellroy writes with so much complexity, in so many layers, that the book can be a white-knuckle read one minute and a camp classic the next. When Bucky Bleichert describes the rage and frustration that can drive a "decent" white cop to brutalize black suspects and degrade black winos, the story is a masterpiece of realism and reporting.

But once the character of Betty Short, real life murder victim, is inflated into some sort of weird dead pin-up girl, the whole thing becomes like Edgar Allan Poe camp, written by a fifteen year old kid who is heavy into sniffing glue. The way Ellroy writes about cops is always vivid, original, and feels like first-hand experience. But the way he writes about the wealthy Sprague family is so melodramatic, so obviously ripped off from movies like THE BIG SLEEP, that it is more laughable than anything else. Nothing rings true about the Sprague clan, not the father's crimes, the mother's madness, or even the spirited daughter's sexual promiscuity. Ellroy demonizes all of them without ever making their evil deeds even remotely convincing.

It's a strange novel in that the least satisfying part of it is what the story is actually about, i.e. why was the Black Dahlia murdered. The background information on the hero's cop career and boxing career is much, much more interesting. And the general background on racial unrest in LA and the corruption of the LAPD is what's best of all.

Ally
I'm gonna be honest, I read the first bit of the book just due to the writing, just because Ellroy's so good with stringing words together without it being obnoxious even when nothing's happening. But it got exciting really freaking fast and I could go on forever about the relationships in this novel and how utterly screwed-up every single one of them was.

The crime, the main case of this book, wasn't really what creeped me out, not necessarily - 'cause I'd familiarized myself with the Dahlia bef I'm gonna be honest, I read the first bit of the book just due to the writing, just because Ellroy's so good with stringing words together without it being obnoxious even when nothing's happening. But it got exciting really freaking fast and I could go on forever about the relationships in this novel and how utterly screwed-up every single one of them was.

The crime, the main case of this book, wasn't really what creeped me out, not necessarily - 'cause I'd familiarized myself with the Dahlia before the novel - but how intricate the relationships were and how much of the emphasis was placed on the main character's lack of ability to differentiate between job and sex, which made for hella cool scenes. People start to notice, he's in denial, the case seems unsolvable, friends become foes and vice-versa.

Read this book, if only to analyze Ellroy's expertise. You might give it less than 5 starts if you only read for entertainment and not at all critically, but it's still worthwhile, I promise.
Edwin Priest
This book is listed as a classic roman noir, and except for the fact that I don’t know what roman noir means, it is exactly that.

It is noir for sure, with dirty cops, guns, alcohol and drugs, corruption, obsession, random and not so random violence, random and not so random sex, and depravity. There is a plot so convoluted it makes untangling my earbuds after a long journey in the bottom of my backpack look easy. And it is sure atmospheric. It just feels like a gritty post-war LA. And surprising This book is listed as a classic roman noir, and except for the fact that I don’t know what roman noir means, it is exactly that.

It is noir for sure, with dirty cops, guns, alcohol and drugs, corruption, obsession, random and not so random violence, random and not so random sex, and depravity. There is a plot so convoluted it makes untangling my earbuds after a long journey in the bottom of my backpack look easy. And it is sure atmospheric. It just feels like a gritty post-war LA. And surprisingly, it is educational. Who knew about the LA Zoot-Suit riots? I sure didn’t.

The roman stuff, well it didn’t seem very roman to me. 3-stars.
Joe Noir
The very finest post-modern crime novel. An intelligent, visceral novel that you will feel in your gut. A fascinating speculation on the most famous unsolved crime in American history. The Black Dahlia is a symbol of post war America, post war Los Angeles crime, misogyny, and the dark side of the Hollywood dream. This novel is all of these and a terrific read. A novel that takes you completely out of your world.
Gary
I would rate this book at 3.5 stars. At times I was captivated and wanted to read more and then at other times a little bored.
I thought generally that the story was paced unevenly but nevertheless was entertaining.
Steven Godin
For me, the weakest of the Quartet, but as this was Ellroy's starting point it's still a pretty good crime noir that sets the scene for the following three books, These are where Ellroy peaks, no doubt. My favourite being 'The Big Nowhere'.
Lance Carney
“The Black Dahlia” read like a long film noir script and I pictured Humphry Bogart, Allan Ladd and Veronica Lake strolling through 1940s Los Angeles acting out the parts. It is a fictionalized account of Elizabeth Short’s murder in 1947; author James Ellroy offers additional characters and his solution to one of the oldest, unsolved murder cases in Los Angeles history. The main characters are L.A. policemen Bleichart and Blanchard, gritty, twisted, and obsessed with the poor, mutilated woman the “The Black Dahlia” read like a long film noir script and I pictured Humphry Bogart, Allan Ladd and Veronica Lake strolling through 1940s Los Angeles acting out the parts. It is a fictionalized account of Elizabeth Short’s murder in 1947; author James Ellroy offers additional characters and his solution to one of the oldest, unsolved murder cases in Los Angeles history. The main characters are L.A. policemen Bleichart and Blanchard, gritty, twisted, and obsessed with the poor, mutilated woman the press dubbed The Black Dahlia.
Eira
Noen morsomme plot twists, men ellers er dette en haug med dritt ass.
Sheri
I wasn't impressed. Ellroy takes the bones of an unsolved LA murder from 1947 and then spins a long-winded, plot driven story. It was entertaining, but not believable and at times downright ridiculous.

It took me a few pages to get into the lingo. Ellroy uses a lot (and I mean a whole lot) of 1940s slang. He is also not afraid to be racist and sexist. I understand that this is necessary to portray the macho men of the 1940s (cops and solders), but it was hard to get into the tone.

I found lots of I wasn't impressed. Ellroy takes the bones of an unsolved LA murder from 1947 and then spins a long-winded, plot driven story. It was entertaining, but not believable and at times downright ridiculous.

It took me a few pages to get into the lingo. Ellroy uses a lot (and I mean a whole lot) of 1940s slang. He is also not afraid to be racist and sexist. I understand that this is necessary to portray the macho men of the 1940s (cops and solders), but it was hard to get into the tone.

I found lots of the dialogue implausible; Ellroy frequently uses dialogue to catch the reader up. I first noted this in Bucky's conversation with his father in which he ostensibly tells his dad, but really is telling the reader about his own family history. Later, Bucky overhears two of Madeline's conversations (one with Emmett and one with an unnamed solder) in which she talks about Bucky and her triumph over him. All of these were way too contrived to be in any way believable.

The twists in the plot were also a bit much. It was just too convenient and over the top for Ellroy to run around through all the main characters and give them all a piece of the Dahlia. First, we get the Vogal father and son angle, then we go to Emmett, then Georgie, then Ramona, then back to Madeline, and along the way we find out that Lee is also implicated in not only this crime but in the burglary which made him famous as a cop. Plot twists are nice and I liked that Ellroy didn't just pull us along to dead ends (because all of the characters are guilty for part of the crime), but there were just TOO MANY PEOPLE involved in this whole thing.

On the flip side, it is way too convenient that when Ellroy is ready to reveal the next part of the plot, there is someone waiting to spill the beans to Bucky. In Mexico, he meets up with the PI; then back in LA he finds Linda Martin, then Sally Stinton, then Kay reveals some info, then Madeline spills her guts, finally Ramona confesses all. Really, there is no reason for any of these people to talk at any point, but they do...and only when Bucky is ready to move along to the next segment.

On another note, I did like his afterward (written to address both the release of the 2006 movie and the murder of his mother). I was able to better grasp his reason for portraying Lee and Bucky in the ways he did, but was not completely convinced that it made them more authentic.

Overall, it was an entertaining and quick read. A bit on the gory side and not well justified, but entertaining enough.

I did check out the movie recently and it was not very compelling. Certainly, I wasn't fond of the book (so what could I expect), but I found the movie to be almost un-watchablely slow.
Eibi82

Le pongo tres estrellas porque he conseguido acabarlo, pero, si soy sincera, no he disfrutado mucho leyendo el libro.. algo raro, porque es uno de mis géneros favoritos.
Me ha resultado pesado, me ha dejado muy mal cuerpo y no he conseguido empatizar con ningún personaje.
Este libro parte de un hecho real, el asesinato de Elizabeth Short, La Dalia Negra. Entiendo que retrata Los Ángeles de los años 40, pero el mundo que recrea Ellroy aquí, es muy muy sórdido, las descripciones tan tan detalladas
Le pongo tres estrellas porque he conseguido acabarlo, pero, si soy sincera, no he disfrutado mucho leyendo el libro.. algo raro, porque es uno de mis géneros favoritos.
Me ha resultado pesado, me ha dejado muy mal cuerpo y no he conseguido empatizar con ningún personaje.
Este libro parte de un hecho real, el asesinato de Elizabeth Short, La Dalia Negra. Entiendo que retrata Los Ángeles de los años 40, pero el mundo que recrea Ellroy aquí, es muy muy sórdido, las descripciones tan tan detalladas (no se corta un pelo en describir cómo y de qué forman encuentran el cuerpo de Elizabeth entre otras cosas), acaban resultando pesadas y desagradables, al menos para mí.
Todos los personajes son estereotipos, el ritmo es muy pausado, y no es que me disguste pero en este libro, me ha resultado tedioso.
A pesar de los puntos negativos, lo positivo para mí de esta lectura es que no abandoné, me faltó poco, eso sí, pero continué hasta el final porque mantiene la incertidumbre y la curiosidad por saber qué pasó realmente con La Dalia Negra.
En cierto modo, me da pena la sensación que me ha dejado, porque L.A. Confidential me encantó, y no lo recordaba para nada así...Imagino que entre las expectativas altas que llevaba, la lentitud de la lectura y que tal vez no fuera el momento de leerlo, es lo que me ha impedido disfrutar de este libro.
En algún momento quiero seguir leyendo el resto de los que componen esta serie, El Cuarteto de Los Ángeles, aunque creo que pasará un tiempo antes de volver hacerlo.

Andrew
A deep slow dive into the darkest waters imaginable. An expertly constructed Whodunit and an even more expertly constructed depiction of Hell on Earth.

In the 30ish years since the publication of The Black Dahlia, its basic plot has become both an overused cliche and the subject of much deserved Feminist criticism (Thanks, Nic Pizzolato!). There's plenty of television shows and paperback novels about Bad, Broken Men seeking redemption by solving the murder of an innocent young woman. But The Bla A deep slow dive into the darkest waters imaginable. An expertly constructed Whodunit and an even more expertly constructed depiction of Hell on Earth.

In the 30ish years since the publication of The Black Dahlia, its basic plot has become both an overused cliche and the subject of much deserved Feminist criticism (Thanks, Nic Pizzolato!). There's plenty of television shows and paperback novels about Bad, Broken Men seeking redemption by solving the murder of an innocent young woman. But The Black Dahlia is the best, most haunting version of this plot I've encountered. Ellroy's LA is a paranoid fever dream of Racism, Greed, Sex, Death, and Silver Screen Dreams. His antiheroes are venal, violent, obsessive, cowardly, and honestly trying to change their lives for the better. Elizabeth (Beth, Betty, Liz) Short isn't just a tortured body either. Ellroy gives a sympathetic and heartbreaking account of her life and her unfulfilled aspirations. He lays out the clues and misdirects in a way that's both clever and fair to the reader. And good God, can this man write a scene. The shootout. The brutal interrogations. The discovery of a body. The long drives down skid row. The most uncomfortable "Meet the Parents" dinner scene of all time. This is true-to-life ugliness that does not let you look away or forget it.
Nathalie
The Black Dahlia is a bleak and raw work of art and I love the masculine tone it holds.

As the title already explains, the novel revolves around one of the more famous murder cases from the 40's, which happened in L.A. shortly before Hollywoodland became Hollywood. The gruesome murder of Elizabeth Short.

I'm beginning to believe that this is a difficult novel to explain. I've got a gut feeling that I like this novel, for the mere coldbloodedness mixed with a guiltridden conscience the narrator po The Black Dahlia is a bleak and raw work of art and I love the masculine tone it holds.

As the title already explains, the novel revolves around one of the more famous murder cases from the 40's, which happened in L.A. shortly before Hollywoodland became Hollywood. The gruesome murder of Elizabeth Short.

I'm beginning to believe that this is a difficult novel to explain. I've got a gut feeling that I like this novel, for the mere coldbloodedness mixed with a guiltridden conscience the narrator portrays. These two aspects seemingly not able to mix, lift this novel about a police man trying to find out what happened to a young, beautiful woman one night in January.
As his own life is set out to fail, he sets his sight on finding this killer, losing himself in the process to the longing he feels for the victim.

His search takes him through the ugly underbelly of LA and he gets mixed up with the wrong people which ultimately costs him his career.
Still, you never know where you are with this novel. It keeps you tense until the very last page and it is far from being predictable.

It's not a style everyone will prefer, but in my opinion the bleakness feels like a fresh take on what would otherwise be a mediocre novel. Ellroy makes his characters out of blood and tears and that's what make The Black Dahlia a work of art. There's no black or white, only grey and just enough cruelty in every person so make it so damn believable.
Kay
If I hadn't been on a road trip and had little else to listen to, I would never have finished this. By the end I was thoroughly and completely SICK of Bucky Bleichert and his fixation on a dead woman he'd never even met (alive).

I didn't know anything about James Ellroy going in, though after listening to the postscript (which went on forever it seemed), I read up on him on Wikipedia. So the guy is obsessed with his mother's murder and transfers it over to the real-life Black Dahlia case and, fo If I hadn't been on a road trip and had little else to listen to, I would never have finished this. By the end I was thoroughly and completely SICK of Bucky Bleichert and his fixation on a dead woman he'd never even met (alive).

I didn't know anything about James Ellroy going in, though after listening to the postscript (which went on forever it seemed), I read up on him on Wikipedia. So the guy is obsessed with his mother's murder and transfers it over to the real-life Black Dahlia case and, for some reason, I'm supposed to give a s**t?

I like hard-boiled stuff, and I revere the novels of Raymond Chandler, among others. Unfortunately, Ellroy's The Black Dahlia is more a psychic purge than a detective story. There were overtones of Chinatown and Silence of the Lambs, except (and this is a big "except") the central character's motivation is completely unbelievable and he's unlikeable to boot. No Sam Spade here, I'll tell you. Just a confused cop mucking around in a sort of sexual/self-flagellatory/self-destructive haze.

Blech!
Nancy Ellis
I had to give this 5 stars rather than 1 star because it really is an amazing book, although when I finished it, I said I was not sure if I liked it or hated it! Ellroy is an amazing author and pulls you into the story right from the beginning. It is probably the darkest book I have ever read, and if you have a low view of humanity and don't expect Jack Webb and Dragnet's LAPD, then this is the book for you. There is not a single decent, likable character, but there's no avoiding getting caught I had to give this 5 stars rather than 1 star because it really is an amazing book, although when I finished it, I said I was not sure if I liked it or hated it! Ellroy is an amazing author and pulls you into the story right from the beginning. It is probably the darkest book I have ever read, and if you have a low view of humanity and don't expect Jack Webb and Dragnet's LAPD, then this is the book for you. There is not a single decent, likable character, but there's no avoiding getting caught up in their lives. The story itself is dark, heavy, and gruesome, a perfect setting for a black and white movie. It's a story about life in and out of the Los Angeles Police Dept., beginning in 1946 with some flashbacks to WW2, more than just a story about the Black Dahlia. I'm surprised that I enjoyed the book so much, and I still don't know why I couldn't put it down. Don't read it for light entertainment; read it because it is a masterfully written story.
Anne
Hope you picked one up while the picking was good. This book's not on sale anymore, but it is still only $6.84 for Kindle, so you might consider getting it anyway.

*********************************************

Now on sale for Kindle for only $0.99, this book is a steal. It's gripping, suspenseful, and true. The murder of Elizabeth Short is still unsolved, but the investigation still fascinates, and the speculation is rampant. If you like true crime or murder/detective fiction, give this one a try. Hope you picked one up while the picking was good. This book's not on sale anymore, but it is still only $6.84 for Kindle, so you might consider getting it anyway.

*********************************************

Now on sale for Kindle for only $0.99, this book is a steal. It's gripping, suspenseful, and true. The murder of Elizabeth Short is still unsolved, but the investigation still fascinates, and the speculation is rampant. If you like true crime or murder/detective fiction, give this one a try. For the price, you definitely can't be disappointed. Get your copy here.
Kim
A modern recreation of the investigation into the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short, better known as the Black Dahlia.

A dark and at times disturbing book there are truly no holds barred. Ellroy depicts a grimy, corrupt LA from the top to the bottom. His writing can be quite confrontational being fairly racist and sexist but I know that he is writing for the times.

The book was compelling and I didn't want to put it down til it was over. The ending was good, though a little underwhelming and anti-cli A modern recreation of the investigation into the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short, better known as the Black Dahlia.

A dark and at times disturbing book there are truly no holds barred. Ellroy depicts a grimy, corrupt LA from the top to the bottom. His writing can be quite confrontational being fairly racist and sexist but I know that he is writing for the times.

The book was compelling and I didn't want to put it down til it was over. The ending was good, though a little underwhelming and anti-climactic. I won't say more as I don't want to ruin the surprise.

A decent book though I'm not sure it makes me want to read more Ellroy.
Gisela Hafezparast
I'm uming and ahing a bit about the rating here. The book is very well written and the characterization is very good. So why can't I decide, it's probably because this 1950's realism and tough guy crime is not really my cup of tea. The description of low-life Los Angeles after the war is very well done, but I would have liked a bit more additional psychological information about these extremely complex characters, but I guess this is very much a feature of more recent crime fiction. Great read a I'm uming and ahing a bit about the rating here. The book is very well written and the characterization is very good. So why can't I decide, it's probably because this 1950's realism and tough guy crime is not really my cup of tea. The description of low-life Los Angeles after the war is very well done, but I would have liked a bit more additional psychological information about these extremely complex characters, but I guess this is very much a feature of more recent crime fiction. Great read about an unsolved murder. Not sure how Ellroy came to chose his "murderer" and I'm not sure I by "his one" for the one whose done it, but I guess we will never know.
Kelly
I had a hard time getting into this book. While I enjoy noir, the just plain horrible behavior of pretty much all of the policemen in this book bothered me given current events and while it might be historically accurate (I don't know what the LAPD was like in Post WWII Hollywood), it distracted me from the story. As far as plot twists, it certainly had it's share, and it has served the purpose of wanting to know more about the actual unsolved murder that this is based on, but I had a really tou I had a hard time getting into this book. While I enjoy noir, the just plain horrible behavior of pretty much all of the policemen in this book bothered me given current events and while it might be historically accurate (I don't know what the LAPD was like in Post WWII Hollywood), it distracted me from the story. As far as plot twists, it certainly had it's share, and it has served the purpose of wanting to know more about the actual unsolved murder that this is based on, but I had a really tough time reading it.
Paras Allana
This book has been a ride. It wasn't easy to read at first with all 40's language but I adjusted to it eventually. The story is a murder mystery with quite some twists and turns and drama. The characters, real, multi-dimensional, human. You won't hear about a hero character in this book but you get to judge every character with your own choice which are developed through out book with layers of good and bad. If you are looking for a real villain you can trash on, or a hero to sing praises for, w This book has been a ride. It wasn't easy to read at first with all 40's language but I adjusted to it eventually. The story is a murder mystery with quite some twists and turns and drama. The characters, real, multi-dimensional, human. You won't hear about a hero character in this book but you get to judge every character with your own choice which are developed through out book with layers of good and bad. If you are looking for a real villain you can trash on, or a hero to sing praises for, well, you wont get it in this one.
Arwen56
Finalmente sono arrivata al termine. Non ne potevo più. Questo romanzo mi ha tediata a morte: confusionario, poco credibile, scritto coi piedi e con un finale che fa venire il latte alle ginocchia. E meno male che ne avevo letto delle buone recensioni. Che non so proprio come abbiano fatto a scrivere coloro che le hanno redatte, perché trovarci anche solo un minimo pregio, è un lavoro da certosini.

In buona sostanza, col piffero che leggerò qualche altro romanzo di questo autore.
Kia76
Urca, che libroooo! Da restare incollati fino all'ultima pagina, col fiato sospeso e ipnotizzati dalle vicende della Dalia e di tutti i suoi amanti, amici, nemici, polizziotti, difensori, sfruttatori.... Che scrittore Ellroy! Veramente uno dei migliori noir/gialli/thriller/polizieschi letto negli ultimi anni.
Darcy
In the afterword, Ellroy claims that Josh Hartnett is "brilliant" in the film version of the novel. That should give you a clue right off . . .

For the rest . . . meh. It's alright. If you are interested in a fictionalized crime novel that can really draw out suspense and explore the implications of seemingly random violence, then this is not the novel for you. Try In Cold Blood.
Angus McKeogh
This one was tough to nail down to a certain number of stars. Parts of it were borderline brilliant and then other parts were dreadful to the point of creating a catatonic reader. It was just so back and forth. At times highly ridiculous and uninteresting. Other times gripping and determined. Albeit better than just okay but a far cry from truly awesome. Ehhh...three it is.
Olga Kowalska (WielkiBuk)
A closure so needed for one of the most fascinating murders in history - a legendary victim becomes an obsession for two fictional detectives in the corrupted city of L.A. Very noir, very dark crime story that brings chills to one's spine.
Tim Pendry
There is a great book and a not-so-great book here. In fact, it seems like two successive books - the first is an atmospheric but realistic police procedural bringing to life the Los Angeles of the late 1940s (the book was written in 1987) and the second is a piece of 'grand guignol' in which sexual obsession and the noir morals of James M. Cain's characters surge their way through a plot out of Raymond Chandler with a dash of Hammett's political cynicism.

It cannot be said that the two 'books' m There is a great book and a not-so-great book here. In fact, it seems like two successive books - the first is an atmospheric but realistic police procedural bringing to life the Los Angeles of the late 1940s (the book was written in 1987) and the second is a piece of 'grand guignol' in which sexual obsession and the noir morals of James M. Cain's characters surge their way through a plot out of Raymond Chandler with a dash of Hammett's political cynicism.

It cannot be said that the two 'books' merge perfectly seamlessly. The use of period slang at the start can confuse rather than enlighten so that we have to contend with some linguistic confusion as well as the plot confusion essential to the atmosphere of a 'noir' novel (although the loose ends are tidied up neatly enough by the end).

Similarly, the obsessional aspects may thrill the reader and may be closer to the partly repressed and sometimes brutal sexuality of the period than is obvious now but they sometimes appear hysterical. The trajectory of the book from procedural to theatrical seems more like a loss of control in the author than a carefully planned artistic endeavour - it may, however, be the latter.

But, these caveats aside, the book is a great read, filled with fine writing and incident. Only the reasonable convention that you do not spoil the story for others stops me from providing more details.

The central character, the morally compromised and rather ordinary boxer-cop Bucky Bleichard, is believable and likable despite his flaws. He is run ragged by others throughout the novel but, to be fair, we don't see the twists and turns any more than he does. Part of the hysteria perhaps lies in the fact that Ellroy must make sure that the reader does not see those twists and turns unless he has a mind of exceptional cynicism, deviousness and, possibly, cruelty. Most of us don't.

As for the writing, there are brilliant set-pieces throughout and I can't mention the later ones for fear of the plot - but you could start with the description of the Bleichart-Blanchard boxing match in Chapter Four. Boxing matches have always been precisely described because they became popular through radio but this is a version from the inside.

The plot may be hysterical and some of the behaviour of the characters extreme and not entirely sane but the actual characterisation is brilliant. These are (mostly) real people and there are a lot of them. You are immersed in a world of cops who are in the front-line of an economic frontier city and whose methods and psychology are derived as much from past war service and redirected patriotism as from any other consideration.

One important credible aspect of the book is the way Ellroy positions policing in 1940s California as situated half-way between the frontier imposition of law and order of the older West and the sort of disciplined urban policing we see (mostly) today.

This is a macho buddy culture which is as defining of the male as the small town might be defining of the family, one in which migration, sex, drugs and corruption are all in the process of being corralled into some sort of order by what amounts at times to a superior form of thug - although the decent man doing a tough job is equally represented, not in our hero but in the higher-ranking officer Russ Millard and others.

Behind the police lies an uneasy relationship (as indistinct as in a Chandler novel) of official order with the other force maintaining order in the street - the businessmen-gangsters, the big business of disorder which is as interested in taming the street as the cops. America in the twentieth century is the history of big community compromising with big private enterprise for the sake of order and policing is no exception - the morality and consequences of this are for another time and place but the novel is another chapter in a long tale.

The book is highly recommended. The caveats could just be me being precious about credibility and continuity of mood. It could be that Ellroy has shown some genius in taking the Hammett-Chandler model and setting it in a realist police procedural of its time but, if so, perhaps he has been an edge too clever by half. By the end, the plot is resolved in every mechanical detail but some of the soul of the first half has dissipated.
Matty-Swytla
I didn't like this book and there are several reasons why. First off, the author's writing style didn't agree with me at all. He crams in so many unnecessary details and sideplots that it takes an absolute age to get to the titular Black Dahlia. In the end, you get the feeling she is only a convenient plot device to explore the life of one detective working on her case and hardly a study about her. I hated that, and the overall portrayal of LA police force too. The author is so enamored of this I didn't like this book and there are several reasons why. First off, the author's writing style didn't agree with me at all. He crams in so many unnecessary details and sideplots that it takes an absolute age to get to the titular Black Dahlia. In the end, you get the feeling she is only a convenient plot device to explore the life of one detective working on her case and hardly a study about her. I hated that, and the overall portrayal of LA police force too. The author is so enamored of this seedy, corrupt environment that you can hardly pucture the story taking place during daytime hours. In fact, I pictured the entire thing taking place at night (which is kind of odd, but maybe it works for noir). No, I wasn't sucked into the story.

The next big thing bothering me was the characterisation - some cops are so badly portrayed that they almost entirely blended together in my mind. Ouch. Not that it was hard to make this mistake - everyone is corrupt in his own way, shape or form. Not a brilliant endorsement of the police force, and it gets progressively worse with each chapter. Detective work takes a backseat to politics and money, so it is no wonder that nothing constructive is actually done on the Dahlia case and is only barely connected to the actual crime. So, bad advertising can be laid at this book's feet as well.

Female characters get the short end of the stick and I couldn't help but wince with each new woman entering the scene because she'd most likely to be a prostitute, a loose woman, or a crazy one. In fact, the author would have you believe LA is an open lunatic asylum - there's maybe one or two 'normal' characters to be found in the entire book. It gets boring, not shocking at some point, you know.
Andy
This really had the stuff for a straight-from-end-of-teaching read! Deceptively sharp writing, prose that conjures the 1940s, and granular intimacy with Los Angeles. Going to dive into L.A. Confidential as soon as possible.
RB
James Ellroy may not have solved the crime, but he sure as hell found the heart of a larger problem associated with the murder--the corrupt police department. In "The Black Dahlia" it takes about sixty pages to wade through the set up that includes bombastic boxing scenes and classic three-way love story (or, "triad") and then the murder occurs. We keep turning the pages as big-toothed Bucky rampages through Los Angles on a mission to solve the murder, keep his partner's dame safe while keeping James Ellroy may not have solved the crime, but he sure as hell found the heart of a larger problem associated with the murder--the corrupt police department. In "The Black Dahlia" it takes about sixty pages to wade through the set up that includes bombastic boxing scenes and classic three-way love story (or, "triad") and then the murder occurs. We keep turning the pages as big-toothed Bucky rampages through Los Angles on a mission to solve the murder, keep his partner's dame safe while keeping the partner from his own destructive self, and also start up a romance with a rather creepy family that ticks off just about every box on the Greek-tragedy related illnesses in the DMV along with other gossip you'd expect to read in some book by Kenneth Anger. There is a lot here, and that neither Bucky or Ellroy properly solve this crime is not a problem, for as Ellroy is trying to convey, this city was blood soaked in those days and two hundred officers assigned one case is absurd and distracts from all the other crime that Ellroy smartly chooses to include. And the torture pad scenes in the end are gruesome, the real life murder a disgusting act, and the hookers and hopheads that scatter the remaining pages are no less insane. James Ellroy succeeded here in doing what most crime novelists that came before him forgot or were unable to accomplish: a history novel with a noir bent that is a full world opposed to, say, the slick, sparse prose of an Lou Archer mystery and Ellroy's approach can be seen in other modern writers such as Dennis Lehane and the mystery novel is a hell of a lot better off because of this book.
Oscar Calva
For someone self-proclaimed "the greatest crime novel writer of all time" Ellroy's huge ego does not match the mediocrity of this his first work, maybe on later works I'll find that greatness he says he has.

I had high hopes for The Black Dahlia, but only found a very dull novel trying too hard to be a stylistic breakthrough on crime fiction literature. How can you write a crime fiction novel without any suspense whatsoever?, a lot of critics have praised this book for its "machine-gun" storytell For someone self-proclaimed "the greatest crime novel writer of all time" Ellroy's huge ego does not match the mediocrity of this his first work, maybe on later works I'll find that greatness he says he has.

I had high hopes for The Black Dahlia, but only found a very dull novel trying too hard to be a stylistic breakthrough on crime fiction literature. How can you write a crime fiction novel without any suspense whatsoever?, a lot of critics have praised this book for its "machine-gun" storytelling style, but to me the writing is just an overrated blurb full of lots of slang, visceral characters and dialogues full of testosterone, exaggerated depictions of the worst of the human condition and the gross ambiences of the LA darkest sides in the 40's, while the story building and narrative itself lefts a lot to be desired. Not for me, sorry, I prefer quality writing, even if it's not as "innovative".
Elizabeth
Reading this was like watching a B movie that should have been rated a C movie. The words coming out of the characters' mouths sounded scripted and so heavy on the "Dick Tracey" lingo - pitiful. I looked into James Ellroy and into many of his books before reading one. I feel like I wasted my time caricatures of so-called "real" detectives and one "doll". No offense to anyone who thought that this was a great book. It ain't my cup of tea now, and I doubt it ever will be. Maybe some of Ellroy's ot Reading this was like watching a B movie that should have been rated a C movie. The words coming out of the characters' mouths sounded scripted and so heavy on the "Dick Tracey" lingo - pitiful. I looked into James Ellroy and into many of his books before reading one. I feel like I wasted my time caricatures of so-called "real" detectives and one "doll". No offense to anyone who thought that this was a great book. It ain't my cup of tea now, and I doubt it ever will be. Maybe some of Ellroy's other books deserve to be read. If anyone happens to read my review and has read an Ellroy book that they felt privileged to read, I'd love to know the title, and I'd give it a shot.
Jacquie
Don't usually write reviews, but this one left me with so, so many thoughts. I've read some true crime books about the Black Dahlia Murder, so for the first part of the plot I had to keep reminding myself that this is FICTION. Nonetheless, it is haunting and, although fictional, there is an eerie sense of plausibility as the story draws to a close. While I enjoyed this and want to read the remaining books in the LA Quartet series, I'm going to have to take a break from Mr. Ellroy for a bit after Don't usually write reviews, but this one left me with so, so many thoughts. I've read some true crime books about the Black Dahlia Murder, so for the first part of the plot I had to keep reminding myself that this is FICTION. Nonetheless, it is haunting and, although fictional, there is an eerie sense of plausibility as the story draws to a close. While I enjoyed this and want to read the remaining books in the LA Quartet series, I'm going to have to take a break from Mr. Ellroy for a bit after this heavy work.
Tori
I have to write this because I know there's somebody out there like me who squirmed and struggled with this book. I'll borrow a phrase and say 'book club made me do it.' I'm aware this author is hailed as a fantastic writer. Blah. If I can't stomach the topic, then I'm not paying attention to how he writes it. How about I be fair and say I should have known better? I don't like violence, I don't like weak characters. I like heroes. None here.
Melissa
I re-read this again in anticipation of reading the entire L.A. Quartet & realized that I really dislike Bucky Bleichert. The push and pull of his relationship with Lee kept me up late reading, but once (view spoiler)[Lee disappears (hide spoiler)], this stopped cooking & I had to struggle to keep up with it. It'll be a little time before I get to The Big Nowhere, not only because I've got a hundred other things to get to but because Bucky sort of soured me for the whole deal.
Deah
I had a hard time reading this book. The boxing parts didn't interest me at all, and the late 1949's lingo was difficult. Eventually even the murder mystery got so convoluted that I just didn't care who killed her anymore.
Kasper
The beginning of James Ellroy's 'L.A. Quartet'. These four novels are amazing reads. They are dark, enticing, disgusting and slightly flawed. Together they constitute what I (and many others, I believe) consider perhaps the best contemporary (that is, neo-)noir writing. Skip the film adaptation.
Dan
I read these out of order, and I should keep a spreadsheet to track the overlapping characters.
Having said that, this is my review:

Sick, sick, sick.
More, please
Allison Barilone
Forever a favorite! The movie was just as good.
Pam Carmichael
I feel it was a great book!! I read it awhile back and enjoyed it very much!!!
Daniel
It made me feel like I needed a shower and hugs from puppies.
Evelia Garibay
No sé si darle tres o cuatro estrellas, el principio se me hizo algo tedioso, pero de la mitad hacia el final agarra velocidad y me gustaron todas las sorpresas que presenta, disfruté la lectura
Katie
I got to the end of this book and couldn’t decide whether I disliked or just thought it was intensely average. And I don’t know which one is a worse conclusion.

So, I decided to read this as a) I adore LA Noire with all my heart and this is set in the same city, in the same year (most of the time) and follows the LAPD, and b) a good friend recommended it to me. I’m just going to put it out there: I thought LA Noire was written SO much better. It didn’t take me long to work out why. The character I got to the end of this book and couldn’t decide whether I disliked or just thought it was intensely average. And I don’t know which one is a worse conclusion.

So, I decided to read this as a) I adore LA Noire with all my heart and this is set in the same city, in the same year (most of the time) and follows the LAPD, and b) a good friend recommended it to me. I’m just going to put it out there: I thought LA Noire was written SO much better. It didn’t take me long to work out why. The characters in LA Noire are intriguing and varied and, even if they have huge flaws, they at least have a human side. I cared for them all the way through the game – Cole Phelps trying to deal with his idealism and war-torn guilt complex in a very ugly city which starts to eat away at his own morality, the determined but flawed film noir blue-collar hero Jack Kelso, the varied cop partners who illuminate so many sides to 1940s LA, even the slimy and smirking corrupt Roy Earle.

HOWEVER, the lead character in the Black Dahlia, Dwight ‘Bucky’ Bleichert, has no qualities that I gelled with. I don’t care if a character is written as unlikeable, as long as they are interesting and don’t commit the cardinal sin of literature and annoy me. Unfortunately, he did. I just got exactly what I was expecting from him – cliché cynical detective, casual racism and sexism under the guise of ‘oh that was what it was like back then’ and an almost try-too-hard gritty style of first-person narrative. In that respect, it didn’t surprise me in any way. And I think that was partially the reason I didn’t get into this book as much as I maybe wanted to. Every chapter I felt like shaking him and saying, ‘okay, pal, I get it, you’re sexually obsessed with the Black Dahlia and you imagine every woman to be her’. I got it during the first sex scene. And the second and the third and the fourth and...

I’m not denying that James Ellroy paints a harshly real picture of 1940s Los Angeles. He doesn’t pull any punches at all, and it’s not a happy book. The corruption and the back-room deals within the LAPD and the wider LA (rich) community is laid on very thick, and starts to affect Bleichert deeply. It is shocking, all the more horrific as it is based on a true murder. But I think within all James Ellroy’s twists and turns, it kind of lost the sense of a coherent plot and narrative. One minute we’re in LA, then we’re in Mexico, then we’re in Massachusetts and the conclusion tying everything together just seems pretty dry and like ‘okay then...’ after such a fast pace. I think, at times, the book just tried to hinge its impact on that shock rather than any intensely strong plot, all the way stuffing it full of clichéd and lingo-spouting characters until I kept thinking ‘wait who’s that again?’.

Any bits I liked? Hmm. Well, I gave it two stars because it’s a book, and I finished it. I kinda liked Russ Millard. He seemed pretty refreshing in a cast of cut-outs. The search for Lee Blanchard was quite interesting. And the little details of worldbuilding and all the name-drops of the real locations set a nice background. And, oh, when they have to chase a serial killer through the catacombs of an abandoned church after he leaves them a string of cryptic messages throughout the city. No, wait, that was LA Noire again.

Seriously though, back to this book. I just was really unimpressed with the whole thing. It was just – meh. And it was a real struggle to carry on after that lacklustre beginning revolving around the boxing. Why start it like that, James? Mediocre beginning, mediocre ending, and a middle section plugged full of the thought processes of an annoying character. Ouch. I *really* didn’t want it to be like that. I wanted to be grabbed by it. I just...wasn’t. I think it just proves to me how much my interest in books hinges on how well I gel with the characters and narrative style.

Because somewhere in there, is a good story.

But all I want now is to play LA Noire again. It takes the ideas of this and makes into it a much better narrative. Thanks, James, for reminding me how much I love that game. Bucky Bleichert, you ain’t Cole Phelps.

Side note: I’ve also read that James Ellroy thinks he’s the greatest crime fiction writer ever. I only have one thing to say about that...

The Professor
“I walked to the heart of the neon smear.” Rogue One: A Black Dahlia Story. James Ellroy uses the ‘missing week’ of notorious murderee Elizabeth Short to nuke 1940s Hollywood from orbit and take down some demons of his own. The world depicted here is stygian, this is not a beach read, but it is rivetingly written by a writer obviously, screamingly, in total command of his art. ‘Dahlia’ would be a career capper for most authors; for Ellroy, as we now know, he was just revving his engines.

“Dahlia “I walked to the heart of the neon smear.” Rogue One: A Black Dahlia Story. James Ellroy uses the ‘missing week’ of notorious murderee Elizabeth Short to nuke 1940s Hollywood from orbit and take down some demons of his own. The world depicted here is stygian, this is not a beach read, but it is rivetingly written by a writer obviously, screamingly, in total command of his art. ‘Dahlia’ would be a career capper for most authors; for Ellroy, as we now know, he was just revving his engines.

“Dahlia” has far more in common with dystopian science fiction than noir or hardboiled fiction. We have a horrifying world in a Godless universe meticulously depicted, in which even the sovereignty of the human body is sliced and diced. I’m sure the academic and fan communities that Ellroy’s work has accrued would argue he is actually sui generis and while he’s obviously on a direct line down from Chandler I’m not going to disagree with that. This is the crime novel smashing through the walls of the literary novel. This is Dostoevsky goes to Hollywood.

Thank God, there is a plot and while it is serpentine Ellroy keeps tight control over it. Two ex-fighter cops – “Blanchard and Bleichert: a hero and a snitch” – encounter each other during a riot and a politically useful show-fight sets them up as partners. Lee Blanchard is shacked up in a conspicuously flashy crib with his rescued gangster’s moll Kay who is no mere cliché. Blanchard also had a sister who, natch, wound up dead and who, of course, drifts like gun smoke through his jittery psyche. He and buck-toothed, impressionable, Bleichert, ‘Fire and Ice’ as they’re dubbed, work jolly well together beating the living daylights out of various monsters until the discovery of Elizabeth Short’s bisected cadaver tears into their world like a rent in the fabric of space-time.

The Dahlia is “the most baffling piece of detective work the Department had ever seen, the disrupter of most of the lives close to me, the human riddle” and the case seriously messes with Lee ‘Benzedrine’ Blanchard and incrementally starts taking Bleichert down too. So we have multiple women cosplaying as the Dahlia in bed and out – the image of Elizabeth Short violated even after death – a meat-hook torture scene one suspects Scorsese must have read (a scene capped by the Shakespearean “So were Kay Lake and I formally joined”), a trip to that fine eatery Club Satan, Kay commenting that her ex “photographed me with animals”, a nightmare sandpit, a shack and house of horrors and more psychosexual games than ‘Love Island’. This could be, in the hands of a lesser writer, completely ridiculous and stories in which girls turning up dead overturns a whole anthill of troubles are ten-a-penny. In Ellroy’s hands, however, “Dahlia” reads like a crie de coeur which, a cursory Google informs me, the novel pretty much was.

The good stuff here is not just the prose or the whole tour de horizon, societal sweep of the novel. It’s the range of human responses depicted. It’s the empathy. It’s the sense of sickness, of soul attrition, of inner lives being corrupted. Ellroy has Blanchard and Bleichert beat each other’s brains out in the ring and has Bleichert wiping tears away when he visits his incapacitated father. He delivers a pitch black, genuinely laugh out loud Russian Roulette scene (“Five to go. Prepare for doggie heaven, Hacksaw...”). There’s also the final chapter. The final word. This isn’t a thriller. This isn’t ‘True Detective’. It’s a mournful prose poem by someone who has been to hell and back.

I anticipated Ellroy would be fairly hard work going in and indeed the richness of the prose, the slang and the argot, made “Dahlia” comparatively slow-going. Worth it though. What kept me reading was the richness of the world, Ellroy’s control, the occasional precis, the rogues gallery of characters, Bucky Bleichert’s heavily tested humanity but above all the through-the-roof beauty and brilliance of the writing.

And by ‘through-the-roof beauty and brilliance’ I absolutely do mean: ‘Fuck it, lets roll’.
Rachel
I know it's a low rating, and it might just be that it's not the genre I should linger in. But everything in here was dark and perverse. You keep reading out of a kind of sick fascination. I didn't like that the author tried to write it as if from the lingo of someone from the 40s. I mean, admirable idea, but you don't know half of what is being said. I thought that the added note by the author at the end of the book (for the book's republication after the movie came out 20 years later) was a bi I know it's a low rating, and it might just be that it's not the genre I should linger in. But everything in here was dark and perverse. You keep reading out of a kind of sick fascination. I didn't like that the author tried to write it as if from the lingo of someone from the 40s. I mean, admirable idea, but you don't know half of what is being said. I thought that the added note by the author at the end of the book (for the book's republication after the movie came out 20 years later) was a bit of a saving grace for the book. It was an eloquent explanation for where the author was coming from. And it was cool to take a true cold case and utilize fiction as a means of solving it. But ugh. Explicit and macabre.
Eva
Based on a true murder unsolved case that took place in the 1940s in California, a woman was found in an empty lot cut in half and mutilated. The media later labeled the victim Elizabeth Short the black dahlia. In the book two ex boxers who are partners become obsessed with wanting to solve the case. Bucky the main character and also one of the ex boxer cops ends up finding out everyone involved in case has secrets along with the two people he loves the most. I really enjoyed the way the author Based on a true murder unsolved case that took place in the 1940s in California, a woman was found in an empty lot cut in half and mutilated. The media later labeled the victim Elizabeth Short the black dahlia. In the book two ex boxers who are partners become obsessed with wanting to solve the case. Bucky the main character and also one of the ex boxer cops ends up finding out everyone involved in case has secrets along with the two people he loves the most. I really enjoyed the way the author wrote the story line. His writing was very detailed and the characters were easy to get to know. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good true mystery. The book is way more interesting than the movie that was made based on the murder investigation.
James Glass
The story started out okay. I liked the idea of two former boxers working together. Their partnership started out rocky but blossomed into a good relationship. Then the wheels fell off the plot. The story seemed to go in too many directions to follow. I also didn’t like the fact the story is titled The Black Dahlia but much of the story seemed to revolve around the two boxers, their past, and other plots that only added to the confusion. The book would have been much better without so many direc The story started out okay. I liked the idea of two former boxers working together. Their partnership started out rocky but blossomed into a good relationship. Then the wheels fell off the plot. The story seemed to go in too many directions to follow. I also didn’t like the fact the story is titled The Black Dahlia but much of the story seemed to revolve around the two boxers, their past, and other plots that only added to the confusion. The book would have been much better without so many directions.
Andy
Lurid! And... whimsical? Weird tone, weird book. But it works.

Grateful to have read an edition that featured Ellroy's afterword, which contextualized the disturbing misogyny of the novel's narrator. Despite its pulpy nature, the story was deeply personal to Ellroy, a means of processing the murder of women in his real life, women with whom he had complex relationships, including his mother. Dark stuff.
Melissa Charlton
I really, REALLY wanted to like this book but I found it dragged in many places. There were too many instances of unnecessary detail and it really took me out of the moment and made me just want to finish the book so I could move on (because I don't know if it's just me but once I start a book I HAVE to finish it!)
M Griffin
Top notch crime drama, more fiction than fact, though obviously based upon the real-life murder of Elizabeth Short, who in death became known as The Black Dahlia. The investigation moves fast, accumulating complexity and weight, and Ellroy never falters. This is assured, capable storytelling, full of compelling characters and raw, dark emotion.
Karen
I honestly didn't like the graphic violence and depravity in this book. Ellroy's afterward was interesting, because he explains how he became enthralled with the Black Dahlia case. The author follows the details of the murder case with accuracy of what is available about the case.
Greg
I read this a number of years ago after seeing the movie and was disappointed, as I liked the movie better.
Annie Machuca
Esta libro es una total sorpresa, pero para mal. Durante la lectura no quería juzgar el libro tan severamente pero ¡Por Dios! fue un tremendo suplicio, entre información paja y descripciones tan explicitas y únicamente centradas en Sexo.

Creo que el caso sobre este asesinato da para más.

En conclusión creo que de los 37 capítulos que contiene el libro solo se rescatarían entre 15 o 17 como buenos y que en verdad tienen que ver con la historia, todo lo demás en paja.
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