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My Dark Places

3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,437 Ratings  ·  294 Reviews
From the author of L.A. Confidential comes My Dark Places, an investigative autobiography by James Ellroy. In 1958, Ellroy's mother, Jean, was raped, killed, and dumped off a road in El Monte, California, a rundown L.A. suburb. The killer was never found, and the case was closed. It was a sordid, back-page homicide that no one remembered. Except her son.

James Ellroy was

Hardcover, 427 pages
Published November 5th 1996 by Random House Value Publishing (first published 1996)
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In Cold Blood by Truman CapoteHelter Skelter by Vincent BugliosiThe Stranger Beside Me by Ann RuleThe Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonTrue Hollywood Noir by Dina Di Mambro
Best True Crime
44th out of 585 books — 1,021 voters
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True Crime
70th out of 436 books — 536 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Apr 30, 2008 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: probably not to everyone
Recommended to Jessica by: most recently, cate peebles
I love this goddamn book, and I love James Ellroy. Reading this made me remember why I liked his books so much when I read them years ago, but this is much better than his fiction. Still, I think having read some of his other stuff definitely helped me appreciate this more.

Ellroy really gets it. He gets so many things that most people don't: Ellroy gets misogyny. He gets bigotry and racism. Ellroy gets brutality and violence. He gets crime. He gets sexuality, he gets desire, he gets pain. He get
Oct 18, 2009 brian rated it really liked it
in the grand tradition started by those two saucy goodreads wenches (that's karen and 'tambo, of course), i present my own offering: a pic of one of my heroes, james 'demon dog' ellroy, with his arm around me and manny. further down is another pic of him shouting profanities and right-wing slogans in the course of his reading. fucking gorgeous madman.

after the reading i took the bigass cardboard display featuring the cover of blood's a rover and had him to sign it to jack. jack is a pitbull. el
Sep 11, 2009 Chris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
You won, Mr. Ellroy. You won. It took 283 pages. Your short, staccato sentences finally defeated me. I couldn't take it anymore. So I quit. If I were to meet you in person, you'd laugh at me. You'd call yourself a genius. You'd call me a fucking idiot. You'd be right. You are a genius. I am a fucking idiot. That doesn't change the fact that your memoir is practically unreadable.

I was able to decipher a few things from what I read. I know that you're a weird dude. I know that your dad had a huge
Dec 09, 2009 Matt rated it really liked it
The murder rate in this part of the country seems to have steadily increased over the last fifteen to twenty years. I have no empirical evidence to back up this claim, only the fact that I have noticed a greater frequency over time in the local television station doing what I call the ritual.

The ritual consists of at least four distinct movements. The first is the sudden announcement that a murder has happened. No names or locations are released, thus getting everyone who is paying any attentio
Apr 17, 2009 Abailart rated it it was amazing
Relelentlessly energetic prose, thin with detail and thick with life: as autobiography bordering on fiction, it is largely a conscious reflection upon the thin procedural lines, maps, data of detective work and memory, and the thick emotional heat of memory as powerful as instinct. Though ‘factual’, incredibly fact-stuffed recording of events and contingencies, the end result is a wasteland of strewn debris where everything is disconnected: against the urge for connection, maybe the book’s core ...more
Aug 10, 2009 Alan rated it really liked it
Recommended to Alan by: Abailart and others
Although many of the books I read have crime in them I don't really read ‘crime’ novels, or 'true crime' books (or memoirs come to that) so I would probably have missed this altogether except for the GR reviews from friends and others. Really so much has been written on GR about this book I find it hard to add to. I agree with many assessments, like Abailart's:

This is a deeply, deeply moral book. The honesty of the author’s laying himself out like a corpse on an autopsy slab is brilliant and ter

At some time between 35 and 40 I started on this downward (?) spiral of crime shows. I was never one to really watch them and couldn’t understand the appeal, but after my fourth child I caught a Law and Order marathon and was hooked. It moved on from there… as did the spin offs and then came CSI and all its iterations and then Criminal Minds and oh hell, Dexter… love that guy…. It got to the point that my children would get that Dr. Phil look and ask me why I watched these shows. I really don’t
La Mala  ✌
Varios meses sufri las idas y venidas de la investigacion de Ellroy .

Muchas historias pertubadoras sobre crimenes paralelos a la pelirroja Jean . Muchas mujeres muertas solo por el hecho de ser mujeres . MUchos hombres que impusieron crueldad solamente porque podian , porque la sociedad lo permitia . Muchas , interminables injusticias que ELlroy explora sin esconder detalles . Mucha maldad , machismo y violencia de genero que brota por los poros del mundo y en particular , en esta nacion violen
May 04, 2016 Zozetta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
"Οι νεκροί ανήκουν στους ζωντανούς που τους διεκδικούν με τη μεγαλύτερη εμμονή. Ήταν ολοκληρωτικά δική μου".

Εφιαλτικό όσον αφορά τους αριθμούς και τα διότι των γυναικών που έχουν δολοφονηθεί. Σπαραχτικό όσον αφορά τη σχέση του Ellroy με τη μητέρα του. Όχι δεν είναι ένα νουάρ μυθιστόρημα. Είναι στην κυριολεξία τα σκοτάδια του.
Sep 21, 2015 Νατάσσα rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Απίστευτα βαρύ, σκοτεινό, δυνατό βιβλίο.
In 'My Dark Places' James Ellroy reenacts his mothers murder by canvasing the pages of the cold case murder book to deliver a matter-of-fact police procedural with a high degree of emotional detachment - more noticeable given the difficult primary subject. Initially overly descriptive and heavy on nostalgia, this open heart semi biography brings life to ghosts long forgotten and illuminates the troubles of a younger James Ellroy. Both inspiring and frustrating, the procession of the later invest ...more
May 27, 2012 Lee rated it really liked it
Loved the phrasing and the author's druggie homeless pervo life story more than the catalogue of vivisected women and the facts of various crimes. Descriptions of mucho paperwork and the prose form the life of the author's murdered mother in ellipsis. Read most of it on location in LA and maybe liked it since I'd just been on the same streets and freeways. Read it thanks to Bolano's recommendation in "Between Parentheses" and liked seeing how this one's occasional transition-less lists of crimes ...more
Erwin Maack
Dec 27, 2015 Erwin Maack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A busca do autoconhecimento no percurso feito para encontrar sua mãe. Mãe assassinada quando o autor contava com seis anos. Como as duas vidas acabam por se completar neste processo. Uma história contada em ritmo frenético e obsessivo. Passa por centenas de pessoas suspeitas, de nomes imaginados, forçados, e pesquisados incansavelmente. O palco é Los Angeles, o crime crescente, e os buracos da memória que teimam permanecer apesar das tentativas de reconstrução. Ele parece sugerir o melhor roteir ...more
Dec 11, 2014 gaby rated it really liked it
Obsessive, blunt, dark. Genuine. Painful. Lurid. Riveting. Never maudlin, never easy. Ellroy's dark places are spellbinding. This memoir reads like a tabloid, a film treatment, a dark opus, a final lovesong, full blooded and bloody. This is ground zero for Ellroy's fucked up skull. Dead women, dead ends, lust lost, love lost. His life. Her death. Los Angeles.
Rex Fuller
Jul 17, 2013 Rex Fuller rated it really liked it
The title is an understatement. Addiction. Alcoholism. Jail (multiple, totaling a year). Homelessness. Starvation. Incest fantasy. And that's not all. Less than half way through there is no doubt in your mind where Ellroy's novels of blackest corruption, death, and failure come from. His mother was murdered and dumped when he was ten. The first half of the book tells what happened to him afterward. The second tells about his investigation of her murder. It was never solved. Not by the police and ...more
Jun 23, 2013 Stuart rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-noir, favorites
Here is an intensely personal book by James Ellroy that explores the unsolved murder of his mother when he was just a young boy. It is more of a detective procedural story, without the flash and action of his fiction books. And yet for those familiar for his work, it clearly illuminates his fascination and obsession with the secret and desperate lives of unremarkable people that rarely gets exposed to the larger public. Highly recommended after you have read several of his other books first.
Victor Bruneski
Apr 20, 2015 Victor Bruneski rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have always felt that James Ellroy is one of the most powerful writers that I have read. His characters really pull you in to their internal world. I always thought his characters did tend to be a little similar, like the hypocritical liberal or the lost in time badass conservative.

My Dark Places is part biography and part true crime, and it makes you understand where he gets his characters from.

The book is divided up into four parts. The first part is the original investigation into his mothe
Jonathan Anderson
Oct 27, 2014 Jonathan Anderson rated it it was amazing
I've been having debates with friends lately about how much of what we know about James Ellroy is an image and how much is the actual person showing through. After reading My Dark Places, I THINK I have the answers I've been arguing in search of, but who's to say for sure?

Taken at face value, this book seems to prove that Ellroy is (well, was, might still be, this is where the doubt is coming in) exactly the damaged goods his books seem to indicate, but for the most heartbreaking reasons. It als
Kristi Lamont
I cannot rate this book. I hated it. But also hated that I couldn't quit reading it. I hated the writing style, I hated the content, I hated the whole Los Angeles as a character aspect of it, I hated that James Ellroy not only went to his "dark places" but dragged me there with him. (Some things? Some things just aren't meant to be shared.) So disturbing I had to actually stop in the middle of reading it and ingest some chick-lit cotton candy silliness in order to give myself a break from the bl ...more
Jean was such a goddamn secretive woman. Her life just didn't make sense.

This is probably more time than I would ordinarily want to spend in James Ellroy's company. I love L.A. Confidential, and I will certainly read more of his fiction, but the whole but-the-author-doesn't-really-think-like-his-characters defense kind of breaks down once you get to know the author. Or does it? The best thing about My Dark Places is that you get to know Ellroy intimately (intimately), but you still don't know wh
Sep 22, 2014 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My Dark Places is a memoir as only James Ellroy can write one.

The book comprises three sections—the first is a third-person narrative of his mother’s murder in 1958 and the criminal investigation that failed to solve the crime. For the second part, Mr. Ellroy switches to a first-person POV and tells us the story of his troubled youth and young adulthood. The third, concluding section maintains the first-person perspective and recounts how Mr. Ellroy teamed up with a retired homicide detective to
Dec 07, 2014 Arpad rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Arpad by: Christmas present from MARLON MAGAS
Shelves: geek
James Ellroy is still a con man. His prose is long lists of facts spiced with the perfect amount of cursing and slang. He tricks you into painting portraits. Side story fills you in on California's coming of age. A history of crime from the case file facts, how LA changed from 1950 to 1990, how crime changed with LA.
James's mother was murdered when he was a kid. He approached the mystery of who she was after several decades of throwing his own life away before becoming an award winning blah blah
My Dark Places is an interesting combination between investigative journalism/true crime and memoir of James Ellroy and his struggle to find answers to the unsolved murder of his mother, Geneva. She did when he was 10 years old and started his love affair with the Black Dahlia case and all things crime related (especially books; beginning with the Hardy boys and moving onto the hard-boiled greats). Needless to say the death of his mother was particularly hard on him and caused a very self destru ...more
Bernard Rodriguez
Jun 15, 2010 Bernard Rodriguez rated it it was amazing

Part true crime murder mystery, part creep-o confessional; Ellroy's romansbilding is a tale of multiple shames, and indignities. The guilt of not doing his mother's death justice by loving her in life, and the shame of dragging her murder into the public eye for personal exploitation.

Meeting critics head on and confronting them with brutal honesty about his motivations, Ellroy's candidness severs through any judgements of the man you can make today. Scumbag first class? Sure. Grave robber? Mayb
Jason Chester
Sep 06, 2007 Jason Chester rated it really liked it
Having suffered previous dissapointments with Ellroy's convoluted brand of fact inspired fiction, I was slightly apprehensive when I picked this one up. However it's biographical status, hinged with its unflinching honesty and clipped, poetically charged sentences makes this an excellent read.

Ellroy's work has often been described as 'psycho-sexual', and indeed with novels such as 'The Black Dahlia' sexual urges - repressed or expressed, deviant or otherwise - cast long shadows across his sun dr
Jun 08, 2010 Marissa rated it liked it
Shelves: crime, non-fiction
This is the first James Ellroy book I've read, although I've been aware of him by reputation for a while. Overall, I really liked the book, especially the earlier parts of it where Ellroy gives us a gritty and naked accounting of his mother's murder and his early life growing up without her. The book is disturbing and complex, with a hard-edged, tightly controlled, yet eternally seething emotional energy, which gives the voyeuristic reader a pretty horrifying taste of what Ellroy has had to live ...more
Michelle Bacon
Sep 10, 2015 Michelle Bacon rated it liked it
Shelves: true-crime
I dunno if this could be classed as an autobiography or not. The beginning of this book was far from autobiographical. It was more of a list of people who'd committed crimes and were potential suspects in the killing of Jean Ellroy. I see how Ellroy became obsessed with the Black Dahlia murder tho, which I found to be the better book of his (only comparing that one to this). I rips me apart to know how James Ellroy saw his mother and wonder if his father was the reason for it all.
Not the best of
Jan 25, 2016 Mhinchley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
I have actually never read any of James Ellroy's novels, but this book was recommended to me by my husband who loved it.

James Ellroy's mother was murdered when he was a young child, which played a massive part in shaping his whole life. With the murder still remaining unsolved, this book is Ellroy's journey in to trying to solve the mystery. The book opens up a lot of demons and old wounds for Ellroy. It is not just a journey to solve the murder, but also a journey of self discovery.

The murder
Nov 15, 2015 Arlene rated it liked it
The full title is "My Dark Places, An LA Crime Memoir". Not being familiar with crime detective novels or with James Ellroy, author of acclaimed books such as LA Confidential and The Black Dahlia, I did not know what I was getting into with this crime memoir aptly titled My Dark Places.

James Ellroy's style of writing has been called telegrammatic prose with staccato sentences (omitting words and using short sentences). The first thing I thought about when I started reading this memoir with this
Carson Gilmore
For an author who, despite his reputation for "pushing the limits" of the crime/noir genre, is consistently faithful to tidy narrative closure, James Ellroy leaves readers of My Dark Places with an uncomfortable yearning for symmetry, and thus with his memoir succeeds not only in breaking the bounds of crime literature, true or otherwise, but in capturing more than a sense of the monotony and confusion of any cross-generational investigation.

To state this is hardly to be guilty of unleashing a
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James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. His L.A. Quartet novels—The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz—were international best sellers. His novel American Tabloid was Time magazine’s Best Book (fiction) of 1995; his memoir, My Dark Places, was a Time Best Book of the Year and a New York Times Notable Book for 1996. His novel The Cold Six Thousand was a New York ...more
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“Dead people belong to the live people who claim them most obsessively.” 15 likes
“She quoted a dead playwright and called me a bullet with nothing but a future. She understood my lack of self-pity. She knew why I despised everything that might restrict my forward momentum. She knew that bullets have no conscience. They speed past things and miss their marks as often as they hit them.” 11 likes
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