The Black Dahlia
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The Black Dahlia (L.A. Quartet #1)

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  41,490 ratings  ·  1,288 reviews
Using the basic facts concerning the 1940s' notorious and yet unsolved Black Dahlia case, Ellroy creates a kaleidoscope of human passion and dark obsession. A young woman's mutilated body is found in a Los Angeles vacant lot. The story is seen through the eyes of Bucky Bleichert, ex-prize fighter and something of a boy wonder on the police force. There is no relief or humo...more
Hardcover, 325 pages
Published September 1st 1987 by Mysterious Press (first published 1987)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nikita T. Mitchell
I'm not big on this whole "going green" trend, but today I thought about one thing all book lovers can do to contribute to society: use your library card more often.

You probably thought I had something clever to say. Sorry to disappoint but let me explain.

My Analysis of The Black Dahlia:
-324 pages in the book
-67 pages until the plot begins to unfold
-300 pages before the book becomes unputdownable, as I like to call it

What does that leave us with?
...approximately 67 pages of wasted paper and 23...more
Tfitoby
This sure is a bleak one and that's an understatement. Aside from the unnecessary opening section focussing on the evolution of the partnership and an interminable chapter giving a blow by blow account of a boxing match this is pretty much classic Ellroy.

This is a true noir, not hard-boiled or pulpy but a story as black and self-destructive as they come. The memoir of a cop making bad choices, knowing that he is making them and unable to stop his own fate; leaving out the existential malaise tha...more
Ben
Ellroy, heard enough about him recently? Another GR craze. I’ve been putting off this review for two weeks now, and honestly, I still don’t want to write it. The thing is, while I only enjoyed this to an “OK” level, I really can understand the commotion surrounding the guy. He wrote this with great insight and intensity; it has a brilliantly complex storyline, and it is very well executed. The web of connections are aplenty, it has a ferocious acuteness to it, and there was a period of time duri...more
Izzy
Oct 19, 2012 Izzy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: You
The Black Dahlia is a thriller
Ellroy’s masterpiece
Gritty, seamy, LA noir

UGH. SHUT UP, me.

Okay, so – what’s the most important singular event that has ever happened in your life? Think of something good. Bonus points if it was tragic. Extra lives if it sullied your early youth. Mortal Kombat Fatality (in an arcade, after school in the ‘90s) if it also involved sex and your mother.

Even if this important singular event didn’t involve these specific elements, surely you must have something to cont...more
Brandon
The body of Elizabeth Short is found mutilated and the LAPD are tasked with nabbing the culprit. Superstar partners Dwight Bleichert and Lee Blanchard try to piece together Short’s missing days but with the media in a frenzy surrounding the brutal murder, making headway proves difficult. If that’s not enough, wading through the political waters of their post-war LA precinct offer an unnecessary distraction. Can the two warrants cops - dubbed Fire & Ice - put the perpetrator behind bars or wi...more
Shovelmonkey1
Jan 23, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of smoky bars and trenchcoats
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
* The door to the bar swings open and in strides a down at heel gumshoe with a cigarette drooping from his bottom lip. He strides through the bar, his stained raincoat flapping behind him as he pushes aside vacant bar stools and squints through the thinning veil of cigarette smoke. He spots his target and heads to a booth lined with vinyl seats at the back of the room. Pausing he grinds his cigarette butt beneath his heel, hands over the manuscript, tips his hat and leaves.*

And that is how this...more
Adam
I've had plenty of bad things to say about James Ellroy over the years, but his work continues to compel me. I found the writing style of American Tabloid unreadable, and the novels of his that I have read have ranged from awful (Brown's Requiem) to pretty good (LA Confidential and White Jazz), but no matter how powerful I found them in stretches or how vivid the subject matter, I always had reservations about his novels.

For whatever reason, however, I thought The Black Dahlia was really good, a...more
Ginny_1807
Montagne russe
Una storia torbida, di corruzione, imprudenza, squallore, disillusione e morte. Ma anche la storia dell'ossessione che accomuna due uomini, dilagando insidiosamente nel loro intimo fino a minare il loro equilibrio, la loro amicizia e la loro stessa esistenza.
Questa ossessione contagia in qualche modo anche il lettore, che viene come risucchiato nel meccanismo ammaliante - e al tempo stesso inquietante e insidioso - di una indagine minuziosa, che mette via via in luce i cupi retrosc...more
Eric_W
"I want to be known as the greatest crime novelist who ever lived." Strong words from James Ellroy, whose novels combine the harsh dialogue and dark characters of Raymond Chandler and the evisceration of dirty family secrets that Ross MacDonald was so good at. The Black Dahlia takes place in Los Angeles just after the end WW II. Two officers, Mr. Ice and Mr. Fire, as they are nicknamed for their boxing styles -- they are both ex-boxers -- return to the ring for the glory of the LAPD and its tax...more
Jemidar

So gripping that I read this virtually in one sitting, but definitely not for fainthearted. This is 1940s LA at it's gritty, sleazy best with lashings of testosterone, violence, sexism, racism, blackmail, corruption, bad cops, shoddy developers, family secrets and the odd necrophiliac. The characters are way past being flawed; they are totally f*cked up. And the details of the murder are grisly.

Classic noir based on true crime, with the investigation being fictionalized into one man's obsession...more
Josh
The first book in the LA Quartet proves Ellroy is the epitome of noir. Not only does he exemplify the hallmarks of the genre but adds a realism and sense of desperation few can muster. Turning the pages of THE BLACK DAHLIA will infuse the reader with a keen sense of time and place via a perfect blend of heinous fact and deeply disturbed fiction. Making it all the more harrowing is the believability – not only of the details of the Black Dahlia case itself, but the actions of the officers and oth...more
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...more
Alex
"I give The Black Dahlia three stars for me, five stars for people who like plot so much that they just can't get enough of it. 'You know what this book needs is more fuckin' plot,' is what people who will love this book say about a lot of books. 'What about a book that has a plot and then it ties that up in a satisfying manner and ends?' says people who weren't really into this book. 'Oh, that's for wusses,' says people to whom I would recommend this book. 'More plot!'

When people who are reall...more
Anastasia
Oggettivamente questo libro non ha assolutamente nulla che non va.

Anzi, ha una copertina talmente phaiga che me la sposerei. Sul serio, sarei capace di riportare in biblioteca il libro, tanto non è che me ne importi molto, ma la copertina la frego senza rimorsi, me la tengo io, è mia, t-u-t-t-a mia.
Non si tratta solo dell'aspetto esteriore, eh, anche l'interno non è niente male. Una storia ben amministrata, i colpi di scena al momento giusto, la giusta dose di romance e crudezza tipica da thrill...more
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,...more
Jim
Pretty good. I liked the reader & the basic story. I think it went on too long, though. There sure were plenty of twists & turns. I really liked the way the case was worked, none of this instant stuff I see on the TV all the time. Lots of footwork & brute concentration.

The convoluted & hidden agendas of everyone involved was interesting & very real. There was a perfect character in the entire book, but all of them were interesting & understandable. Even when I was rooting...more
Taka
Haunting--

If you weather through the slightly dull first 68 pages, you're in for a treat. Lies, betrayals, deceptions, frauds, frames, corruption, and all imaginable sorts of grime are loaded to be splashed on you. It's a damn good ride all the way to the climax where plot twist upon twist pummels you to half stupor. Although I thought the last twist was a bit too much, I gleefully turned the pages, immersed in the dark, dirty, intense world of the book and enjoying every moment in it.

James Ellr...more
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...more
El
Aug 16, 2008 El rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to El by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (193/1001)
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...more
Kua
Nonostante la seconda parte non mi abbia entusiasmato, questo libro è stato un approccio con James Ellroy più piacevole del primo tentativo (L.A. Confidential), di cui non ricordo praticamente nulla. Ho comunque un appunto da fare: non ho assolutamente capito PERCHE', dopo tutto il romanzo passato a cercare l'assassino della Dalia, una volta che Bleichert lo trova, di colpo viene preso da sentimentalismi di vario genere (francamente poco convincenti) e amen, lascia tutto come sta. Mah... La part...more
Michael
The Black Dahlia is everything I want in a noir style novel; it’s got the slang and lingo right, it has the corruption in the police force and it has the dark characters and themes. It’s just an enjoyable hardboiled/noir novel similar to what you would expect in the 30’s and 40’s. As far as the movie adaptation of The Black Dahlia, I really enjoy the film, but after reading the book, I did sit down and rewatched it with disappointing results.
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.
Colin McKay Miller
James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia falters in the final 50 pages, but it’s a solid crime read nonetheless.

In 1947, Elizabeth Short was found mutilated, cut in half and drained of blood in a vacant L.A. lot. Though the murder is real, Ellroy built a fictional set of characters and circumstances around the event (which the author’s afterword notes was done in an effort to make sense of his mother’s unsolved 1958 murder). Thing is, this horrific event doesn’t show up until 65 pages in. If Ellroy were...more
Erik Simon
My first Ellroy. I'm hooked, perhaps obsessed. I'm amazed by the depth reached via a noir novel; in that, it's like CHINATOWN. There were so many times and places a lesser novelist would have wrapped this puppy up, but Ellroy kept taking the story further than it seemed it could go, and by so doing, the book acquired marvelous depth and layers. And the story, to the end, was riveting.
Laurel
It took me several days to finish reading The Black Dahlia. I was tempted to quit several times, for reasons that will become apparent. This was my first time reading Elroy and noir, beyond the work of Lehane, whose work I really like. I knew very little about the Black Dahlia case, nor have I seen the movie, directed by Brian de Palma. I did not read any GR reviews. I did know that this is a famous book, and highly thought of by readers of Crime fiction. So, I proceeded with an open mind, but w...more
Lisa James
Just turned the last page of the afterword. Never having seen the movie, I was fascinated by the book. it was a little slow going at first, even though it had to be in order to set up the friendship between Lee & Bucky. The story was sad, horrific, twisted, detailed, & like a train wreck you can't look away from. How much of this book is actual fact & how much Ellroy took poetic license with, I'm not sure. I could have done without some of the negative terms the policemen used for wo...more
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...more
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...more
Ben Eldridge
In a word, raw. The narrative holds together reasonably well for the most part, but honestly, this would have benefited from some brutal editing. The pacing is particularly uneven... major sections of the novel are extremely slow and unnecessary (almost the entirety of Part I could have been dropped). The makings of the future brilliance of Ellroy are evident: the drawn out tension of (main character) Bleichert's descent into obsession is amazing (especially early in Part IV), and his early fli...more
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...more
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The Mystery, Crim...: LA Quartet 16 83 Apr 16, 2014 03:50AM  
You'll love this ...: November 2013 - The Black Dahlia discussion 71 59 Dec 07, 2013 08:57AM  
Around the World ...: Discussion for The Black Dahlia 10 59 Nov 17, 2013 09:44PM  
Mysteries & C...: June Group Read: The Black Dahlia 41 113 Jul 27, 2013 08:33AM  
Books2Movies Club: The Black Dahlia - The Novel 11 30 May 15, 2013 04:50PM  
Books2Movies Club: The Black Dahlia - The Flick 1 11 Apr 30, 2013 06:50PM  
Books2Movies Club: The Black Dahlia - Josh Hartnett as Bucky? 1 11 Apr 30, 2013 04:35PM  
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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
More about James Ellroy...
L.A. Confidential (L.A. Quartet, #3) American Tabloid (Underworld USA, #1) The Big Nowhere White Jazz (L.A. Quartet, #4) The Cold Six Thousand (Underworld USA, #2)

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“Where’s your sketch pad?” I asked.

… “I gave that up,” Kay said. “I wasn’t very good, so I changed my major.”

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“I like a woman who knows what she wants.”

Kay smiled. “So do I, but I don’t know any.”
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