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L.A. Quartet #1

The Black Dahlia

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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.

348 pages, Paperback

First published September 1, 1987

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About the author

James Ellroy

152 books3,637 followers
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 Times Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Best Book for 2001. Ellroy lives in Los Angeles.

Ellroy is known for a "telegraphic" writing style, which omits words other writers would consider necessary, and often features sentence fragments. His books are noted for their dark humor and depiction of American authoritarianism. Other hallmarks of his work include dense plotting and a relentlessly pessimistic worldview. Ellroy has been called the "Demon Dog of American crime fiction."

See also http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0255278/

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5 stars
24,589 (27%)
4 stars
31,963 (35%)
3 stars
22,651 (25%)
2 stars
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1 star
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,015 reviews
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,573 reviews5,900 followers
February 19, 2015
I hated this damn book.
My friend Hulk-boy told me to read this author. I may punch him in the face.

It starts with the boxing fight of two young police officers Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard. They become known as Mr. Fire and Mr. Ice. The hotshot team that got the LA police dept a raise with their boxing match.
They team together after the fight as partner's. Then a young woman's body is found. She has been cut in two and tossed out. Betty/Elizabeth Short's story will become ingrained into your memory after that point.
Her history isn't pretty and the dept. tries to keep some of it out of the press because the public won't care about women they see as hooers.

I kept putting this book down saying that I was going to dnf the bastard. Then a few minutes later I would pick it up and begin reading it again. That's the kind of fucker this book is.
It's based loosely on a true story but in real life the Black Dahlia case is still open. Bless that poor girl's soul.

Dirty cops, women seen as skirts, corruption and sometimes just pure stupidity threads throughout this book.
I totally read it in my head with a Mickey Spillane voice too.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,919 reviews10.6k followers
August 16, 2016
Elizabeth Short is found murdered and LAPD detectives Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard catch the case. Can Bleichert and Blanchard bring in her killer before the case destroys them both?

Some time around 2005, my local bookstore owner pushed this on me. At the time, the only detective books I'd read were The Maltese Falcon and a few Hard Case books. It took me a week to get through but it felt like spending a month in jail. The Black Dahlia was a game changer for me, a powerful book that made me see detective fiction in a different light. When it went on sale on the Kindle for $1.99 (and Kemper also started reading it), I figured it was time for a reread.

As I've said many times before, the magic of getting older is that old books become completely new books. I'd forgotten most of what transpired in The Black Dahlia so it was like being tied up and dragged down a gravel road all over again.

The Black Dahlia is the rise and fall of detective Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert, and Elizabeth Short, the dead woman who ultimately did him and his partner, Lee Blanchard, in. Bleichert and Blanchard bond over boxing and wind up being partners in Warrants until Elizabeth Short is found dead and mutilated, cut in half on the sidewalk. Both men wind up entangled with Elizabeth Short for different reasons. Blanchard wants to avenge her to make up for the sister he once lost and Bucky takes up when Lee goes missing.

This book is as noir as it comes, full of obsession, lies, death, sex, murder, pornography, and more lies and obsession. As with most books of this type, the mystery is eventually solved but not without costing everyone involved damn near everything in the process.

In the decade since I last read this, I've become desensitized by reading hundreds of crime books and been made more cynical by life in general but this book still packs one hell of a wallop. Much like Bucky, I was pretty obsessed by Elizabeth Short's murder and couldn't put the book down, as cliche as that sounds. Just like the first time I read it, I felt like I'd spent a few nights in jail when I was done, wrung out and ready for a couple beers.

Something else the passage of time has given me is how much Ellroy writes like a much darker Raymond Chandler. Ellroy's similes kick like an unlicensed .45 a cop carries just for emergencies and Dwight Bleichert is one of the most well-crafted characters in crime fiction. Lee Blanchard is not without his nuances, either. The relationship between Bucky, Kay, and Lee really lent itself to some crazy shit.

Honestly, the only thing I can think of to complain about is that Blanchard and Bleichert's names are too similar. The Black Dahlia is a must-read for all serious crime fiction fans. Five out of five stars.
Profile Image for Francesc.
389 reviews192 followers
March 26, 2022
Excelente novela. Me gustó mucho todo el ambiente pugilístico y la relación entre los policías. La trama también es entretenida. Muy buena.

Excellent novel. I really liked the whole pugilistic atmosphere and the relationship between the cops. The plot is also entertaining. Very good.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,812 followers
June 5, 2017
Ah, the post-war years. America’s golden age when things were so much better than they are today. When no injustice ever occurred, and no one was unfairly treated. Every pay check was a fortune, every meal a banquet, and the worst crime was the odd rapscallion stealing a pie off a window sill. Or maybe sometimes the bisected body of a woman who had been brutally tortured would be left in an empty lot which would put a wildly corrupt police force in a frenzied media spotlight as the cops fruitlessly tried to solve the murder.

It really was a simpler time…

This was the book where James Ellroy stepped his game up from promising mystery writer to a creator of epic historical fiction by mixing a famous unsolved murder with seedy LA history via flawed fictional characters. Our narrator is Dwight ‘Bucky’ Bleichart, a former boxer turned LAPD officer just after World War II. Bucky agrees to fight another cop named Lee Blanchard as part of a departmental publicity stunt. The boxing match makes them partners, but it’s Lee’s girlfriend Kay who unites all three of them into a family. It’s a dead woman that eventually starts to tear them all to pieces.

In reality Elizabeth Short was just another young woman who came to LA with stars in her eyes, but her unsolved murder became one of those crimes that stuck in the public consciousness. Ellroy has talked and written a great deal about how he poured a lot of his unresolved feelings about his mother’s unsolved murder into the Dahlia case, and if there’s one thing you’re sure of by the time you’re done reading it’s that he knows what it’s like to be obsessed and haunted by dead women.

Ellroy is also fascinated by the shady history of LA and its police department, and he uses that knowledge to craft a fantastically violent and corrupt world where the cops are often worse than the criminals they’re arresting. Almost everyone involved the investigation has their own agendas, and the methods used to get what they want are brutal. Nobody gets out clean when it comes to the Dahlia, least of all those who give the most while trying to learn who killed her.

This is a great crime story with a hard boiled edge that was one of the books that made me a huge fan of James Ellroy.
Profile Image for Nikita T. Mitchell.
100 reviews117 followers
July 11, 2008
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 233 pages worth only borrowing from the library
... only 7.4% (24/324) of the book worth purchasing

Granted, I only paid about $5 for the book (thanks to half.com) technically I should've only spent like 40 cents. Plus think about how many trees that could've been saved if James Ellroy, the author, had simply gotten to the point.

But who's counting...?

The core of the plot is based on a 1940's Los Angeles murder mystery. The body of a young woman was found in a vacant lot mutilated, cut in half, and disemboweled. Two detectives, ex-boxers, take on the case and become overly obsessed with this young woman's life - and death - to the point where it literally destroys their own lives.

What I really struggled with while reading this book was the inclusion of random storylines as well as the excessive - and mostly pointless - details that made the book way longer than it needed to be. For instance, the first 67 pages of the novel are spent developing the relationship between the two detectives and describing their boxing past. The author also over-used police jargon which only made it harder for me to connect with the characters. The book's only saving grace was the last 30(ish) pages where the twisted plot came into focus.

In conclusion...
What I liked: the twisted mystery plot
What I disliked: Ellroy's inability to focus on what was important to me, the reader

While this book may be worth reading for you mystery/suspense lovers out there, I would strongly suggest that you save our trees and borrow The Black Dahlia from your local library. Don't let another wasted page get printed.

(Posted on Uptown Literatti: http://uptownliteratti.blogspot.com/2...)
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
November 9, 2020
So I think I am done for the moment with my little nasty obsessive foray into the world of Elizabeth (Bettie) Short and some of the (other, which is to mean besides me, now) men who were obsessed with her. Short, at 23, was found murdered and mutilated in a vacant lot in LA January 15, 1947, and it is still one of the most sensational murders in LA history, fueled by multiple accounts of the grisly details of her death, and speculation (which typically accompanies these kinds of stories) about the nature of Short’s sensationalized (sex) life. A naked woman dies and is found in a vacant lot, we have to ask questions for seventy years about her sex life, of course.

I first read Rick Geary’s comics true crime account, which is short but dense, and carefully researched, and focuses on Bettie Short's life. Geary's research leads him to accept the media and publicly stated police view (that helped to fuel public interest in her case) that she was basically a “nice” girl, a virgin (almost) to the end who just wanted to have fun with men and maybe make it in the movies. Short kept a scrapbook of dozens of men she dated, most of whom insisted they never had sex with her (because this is one of the questions cops want to know, too, about a dead beautiful girl). This perspective on her as a “Madonna” somewhat strains credibility, however, as her father’s testimony denies it, and several of her roommates cast doubt on it, and one of her last “boyfriends” seems to have been a guy in an LA mob that was in charge of prostitution for his outfit.

Ellroy, in both this novel and the graphic adaptation of it, takes the position that Bettie is, while sexually active—and who cares if she is? Apparently everyone, including me—a victim of circumstances. Like thousands of women (and men) who naively think they can break into the film world, Bettie left home without much money, with no promise of work, and tried to piece together a life in LA, getting involved with “the wrong crowd,” one of whom she clearly crossed.

But the story in Ellroy’s Black Dahlia is less about Short and more about the obsession to know her and solve her crime. Those who get hooked on her are implicated in this crime, including we readers, and we all have our own histories and demons to bring to it. Ellroy’s story is about detective Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert, and his partner, Lee Blanchard, who both are led to drugs and madness and criminal excess themselves in the process of investigating this crime. Bleichert and Blanchard are best friends, ex-boxers and partners in the case. As it turns out they both get involved in complicated ways with women that connect them to Short’s story.

Blanchard lost his sister and wants to solve the murder to in part deal with his rage and guilt over her loss; Bucky eventually also gets similarly obsessed with the case, and in the process gets involved with a woman who looks like Short who had a short affair with her. Both Lee and Bucky are in love, too, with Kay, the woman Lee lives with. I know, whew, a lot of layers to work through here, but Ellroy is good at digging deep into this muck. And for Ellman it is indeed the muck of the human condition wit which Ellman is pricipally concerned. The "good old days" of LA in the forties, all those great Hollywood films and glamour? Forget about all that.

Everyone in Ellroy’s story is morally compromised, including we as readers obsessed with this sad, ugly tale, as we, too, ask questionable questions about her sexual reputation and get fascinated with her wild life as people usually do in and through media-sensationalized cases: How many men? Is she bi-sexual? Is she, in the end, a prostitute for the mob? And why should we care about her sensational case? Why can’t we just leave her alone in peace? Who are we to obsess about the men in her life? And why can’t we look away when we, too, find her body in that vacant lot?

This is a particularly American story of lies and media obsession and madness, it seems to me. In the process of investigating the crime, the LAPD received over 2,000 confessions from literally all over the world, and probably still receive tips today, which we learn is typical of a case like this. What is up with that?! It certainly seems like a tale of collective cultural madness, saying something particularly about some/many men, maybe, but the story as a whole also implicates many women as willing partners in this crazy world, too.

The Black Dahlia is brutal, crude, profane, filled with the lingo and tastes and smells and sounds of forties dark LA life. It’s not always easy to read, like you're wanting to look away from the car wreck on the side of the road but you're not able (or willing) to. The year after publishing this fine noir, carefully researched crime novel (not a “true crime” novel, and more a cultural thriller than a straight murder mystery), Ellroy got even more sensational and published a memoir about how his obsession with Bettie Short was connected to the fact that his own mother was raped and killed. Like Blanchard, Ellroy was driven to actual madness, completely out of control, maybe even like Blanchard near death, obsessed with his mother’s case, which he fictionally conflates in many ways with Bettie Short’s story. So that is fascinating, right? Now, obsessed myself, having also just seen the Brian de Palma film version, I have to read Ellroy’s My Dark Places. Whew, when will it end? Help!
Profile Image for James Thane.
Author 9 books6,915 followers
July 28, 2019
Everyman's Library has just published a new hardback volume containing all four of the novels that comprise James Ellroy's first L.A. Quartet. Ellroy was at my local bookstore a few weeks ago promoting this book and his new novel, This Storm, which is the second novel in his new L. A. Quartet. With signed copies of both books in hand, it seemed like a good time to return to The Black Dahlia, the first novel in the original series.

Set in booming and corrupt post-World War II Los Angeles, it takes as its starting point one of the most famous unsolved murders in the history of L.A., or of the rest of the country for that matter. The victim was a promiscuous young woman named Betty Short, who seemed to captivate everyone who fell into her orbit, at least as Ellroy imagines it. Short was tortured over several days before her body was cut in half, disemboweled, and abandoned in a vacant lot.

Short was only one of a number of young women who came to Hollywood at this time, dreaming of success, only to come to bad end. But the press dubs Short The Black Dahlia, and the discovery of her brutalized body turns into a sensational murder case that captures the city's attention--a case that can make or break reputations. Spearheaded by an ambitious deputy D.A., the police devote thousands of man hours interviewing witnesses, potential subjects, and tracking down leads.

Caught up in the maelstrom are two young cops, Lee Blanchard and Bucky Bleichert. Former boxers, the two men bond over the murder case. They become partners and ultimately fall in love with the same woman. They also fall in love with the Black Dahlia, and the case consumes both of them with irrevocable consequences for them and for the woman, Kay, with whom they are involved.

This novel is in many respects a coming of age story for Bucky Bleichert, who is at the center of the novel. Beginning as an idealistic young patrolman, Bleichert will be tested and corrupted by the Dahlia case in ways he never could have imagined, and the reader watches in awe and horror as he descends into the hell of his obsession with Betty Short.

Mixing fictional characters with real ones, The Black Dahlia is also a stunning portrait of postwar Los Angeles and of the people and the forces that were shaping the city at that time. James Ellroy's own mother was raped and murdered a decade or so after Betty Short, when Ellroy was still a young boy. As in the case of Betty Short, the killer was never found, and this may explain Ellroy's fascination with the Black Dahlia. Blunt, brutal and beautifully written, this is a riveting story and a true classic in the field of crime fiction.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,432 reviews827 followers
August 22, 2016

As is true of many goodreads readers, I am a serial book hopper.
NOT TODAY! I devoured this book like a starving woman!
Today I discovered for myself- (not you guys! You probably discovered it many books ago!)a whole new genre and author- according to Wiki- neo crime noir. James Ellroy. Absolutely brilliant.

This is based on a true and unsolved crime in the late 1940s in LA, in the time of the zoot suit troubles and disturbed young ex marines and soldiers home from the War. Every one wants to make a buck. You know...chain smoking, gun toting, gangsters and drug dealers, a police department riddled with corruption, pimps and ' hooers' (Ellroy's word)

Ellroy's mother was also murdered and I believe in interviews the author admits that this novel has all the more intensity, passion and obsession you might expect, as a result.

This was such a dark novel. I don't know why this was news to me when it comes from the 'noir' genre, but I really was genuinely surprised by its corrupt and sleazy undertones. The writing has a hard boiled feel to it that I loved.

All the characters were compromised and flawed. In the story everyone's lives were touched or ruined by the victim of the crime, the Black Dahlia, whether she was known to them personally or not.

Can't wait to read the next one and explore this whole new-to-me genre!
Profile Image for kohey.
51 reviews193 followers
December 26, 2015
Well,it ALWAYS takes me some time to sort out and gather blown-away pieces of my sensitive heart Mr.Ellroy has masterfully done for me.
It makes me feel sardonic,but I LOVE this process and of course,this GREAT work.

One thing that I like about this novel is the massive impact it has on me.The story hooks me up at the start,grabs me by the collar and drags me around violently through the whole story,and finally dumps me into the gutter(let me confirm this;I’m not an open masochist!) On this priceless experience,I give easily five stars.

The other thing is that everyone here is morally corrupt,to the point that I feel sorry and attached for them.There exists NO shallow person here,whether he or she is good or bad.I sometimes wonder if there is a clear-cut line between good and bad in the real world.Mr.Ellroy CAN write hopelessly bad,foolish,yet lovable characters that share at least some parts with you.I’m sure that’s the beauty of this gem.
Profile Image for Beatriz.
829 reviews704 followers
April 15, 2021
El 15 de enero de 1947 fue hallado en un solar de Los Ángeles el cuerpo salvajemente torturado y mutilado de la joven Elizabeth Short, a quien la prensa bautizó como "La Dalia Negra". Pese a las muchas teorías y hasta curiosas atribuciones de culpabilidad, el caso sigue oficialmente sin estar resuelto.

Precisamente me llamaba la atención cómo el autor abordaría uno de los crímenes sin resolver más famosos de Estados Unidos, ya que no podía darse esa licencia en una novela de este género y dejar a sus lectores sin un culpable. Pues bien, Ellroy no defrauda y construye un argumento tan inteligente que permite resolver el caso, pero siendo consecuente con la incógnita que se mantiene hasta nuestros días.

Por otra parte, avanzando la lectura me di cuenta que la apropiación del caso de la Dalia Negra para su obra de ficción es circunstancial, es decir, el autor podría haber escogido cualquier otro caso y el resultado habría sido más o menos el mismo, porque a pesar de lo macabro de este crimen, no es lo que realmente quiere contar. Más allá de la trama detectivesca, La Dalia Negra es, sobre todo, la historia de una obsesión, personalizada en Bucky Bleichert, el protagonista y uno de los policías a cargo de la investigación; Elizabeth Short acaba por gobernar su vida, incluso al punto de impedirle tener una vida amorosa o sexual normal.

En definitiva, una novela negra diferente y muy dura, donde los personajes son más humanos, donde sus obsesiones y deseos se reflejan con gran sordidez y realismo, y que me mantuvo al vilo durante toda la lectura. Además, es un magnífico relato policial, con minuciosas descripciones de la sociedad empobrecida económica y moralmente de la Norteamérica de la posguerra, donde la política va unida a la corrupción y acaba salpicando a todos.

Reto #2 PopSugar 2018: Un crimen real
Profile Image for Maria Clara.
992 reviews506 followers
June 5, 2017
Ufff! Es como un directo a la mandíbula! Un golpe que no te esperas y que te atrapa en una voragine de locura y violencia, que hace que al final no sepas quienes son los buenos y quienes los malos; si es que los hay! Un mundo donde sus protagonistas no son perfectos, al contraio, juegan bajo una doble o triple moralidad, que les permite sobrevivir a sus propias decisiones y errores. Poco más puedo decir, salvo remarcar las palabras del genial Stephen King: “Si me preguntan quién es el mejor novelista vivo cuya literatura es feroz, valiente, divertida, escatológica, hermosa, enrevesada y paranoíca… la respuesta es fácil: James Ellroy.”
Profile Image for William.
675 reviews324 followers
January 3, 2021
Wow! WOW. Ten Stars Masterpiece.

Brutal and brilliant, raw and alive, elegiac and painful.
A masterpiece of crime-noir and personal desire with intense action, often obscene. Warning: Adults Only.

The young police characters introduced are only partly drawn before the horrifically mutilated body of a beautiful young woman is found in a vacant lot. An extraordinarily driven tale of partner-cops, the neophyte Bleichert and the old-pro Blanchard are utterly captured by the mystery.

Looking back, I know that the man possessed no gift of prophecy; he simply worked to assure his own future, while I skated uncertainly toward mine. It was his flat-voiced "Cherchez la femme" that still haunts me. Because our partnership was nothing but a bungling road to the Dahlia. And in the end, she was to own the two of us completely.

Remember, the case of the Black Dahlia was real, and remains unsolved today. In the best crime-noir tradition, Ellroy provides us with a very good and dramatic solution, but this is not fact - read more here:
Wikipedia: The Black Dahlia murder case

Also know that Ellroy's own mother was murdered when he was only 10... CBS News interview with Ellroy (1998)

“It’s as if Elizabeth Short became a stand-in for my mother. I wanted to feel the horror of my mother’s death and I used Elizabeth Short as a substitute.”
- James Ellroy, Unsolved Mysteries TV series.

Elizabeth Short with unidentified man

Elizabeth Short was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in the suburb of Medford just outside of the city with four sisters. In 1930, following the stock market crash of 1929, Short's father left his car on a bridge and disappeared after losing all his money. After believing he was dead for years, she finally sent a letter to the family saying he moved to California. Short is pictured here with an unidentified man sometime in the 1940s.

Warning, Adults only: There are many horrific and violent scenes here, and a truly macabre and depraved solution to the mystery. Naked racism and misogyny abound, but there is redemption here too, with a bright hope for our hero in the final pages.

Wow. Starting the book, the meeting and growing bonds of partnership between Bucky and Lee are a rollercoaster of crime, brutality and love. They are very different, yet almost helplessly attracted to each other like the north and south poles of magnets. Ellroy then melds the enigmatic and damaged Kay between and around them in a powerfully erotic and emotional alliance.

In the early teamwork of Lee and Bucky, we see the brutality and youthful certainty of their growing power and authority. The pressure is raised and Lee and Bucky are then presented with the horrifying death of the Dahlia. Lee's emotional damage and Bucky's love for his partner drag them into a catastrophe of an investigation. Everything they hold dear and every belief they share will be ripped apart and defiled by the end of the book.

Ellroy viscerally presents the "Fire and Ice" boxing match between the two heroes, certainly the best boxing/fist fighting I have seen since the Spenser series by Robert B. Parker. This fight shows the core identity of each man, the style, the power and heart each will bring to the solution of the crime.

The way Ellroy writes the beautiful Kay to bind them even more is pure genius. Their relationship is complex, troubled, erotically charged and yet full of intense love.

The supporting police and other characters are rich and alive, but the air of a dark, brutal Los Angeles colours every moment. The police case unfolds, the politics and corruption just as we expect, but without cliché. Down we go into an ever darker crime, and the darkening souls of our heroes.

Throughout the middle section of the book, we feel the frustration of Lee and Bucky, and the other police on the case. So many dead ends, false clues, false hopes. We live this case ourselves through Ellroy's fabulous prose.

So many fall in love with the Dahlia in death, in her beauty and who she might have been. Each chapter amplifies her tragedy and her desperation.

A truly extraordinary tale. I literally could not put it down, even at 2am last night, and was mercilessly dragged to the finish at 4am. Wow.

Serious flaw in the plot:

There are so many extraordinary quotes and passages in this book, but my favourites all contain spoilers.

I got in the car and headed home, wondering if I would ever tell Kay that I didn't have a woman because sex tasted like blood and resin and suture scrub to me.


The interior was even more churchlike: velvet wall hangings depicting Jesus and his adventures decorated the entrance hall; the benches filled with lounging brownshirts looked like pews. The front desk was a big block of dark wood, Jesus on the cross carved into it--most likely a retired altar. The fat Rurale standing sentry there licked his lips when he saw me coming--he reminded me of a child molester who would never retire.

At the end, the letters from Kay, and then Ellroy's final chapter of the book are Extraordinary, some of the finest prose in all of crime noir.

Note: a young Kay Lake appears in Ellroy's Perfida, set in 1941, seven years before Dahlia.
New York Times review of Perfida

Zoot Suit 1943

3.0% "... chaotic hard prose, tough-guy dialogue, a bit too much boxing subculture."

5.0% "... after a chaotic and uneven start, Ellroy has settled down and the prose is hard-boiled delicious!"

11.0% "... great fight scene"

14.0% "... what a thrill. Wooooohooooooo!"

32.0% "... a sense of lost momentum here, sadly"

59.0% "... there's an awful lot of brutality without direction here, without purpose. That's just boring."

Profile Image for Έλσα.
491 reviews95 followers
May 9, 2019


Profile Image for Mara.
400 reviews280 followers
July 17, 2016
In January of 1947 the body of a woman, later identified as Elizabeth Short , was found mutilated and abandoned in a vacant lot Los Angeles. In the papers (ever eager to run with a story of this ilk), she became known as "the Black Dahlia" after a film of the same name.

Elizabeth Short aka The Black Dahlia 1947

In June of 1958 the assault and murder of another woman, Jean Hilliker (formerly Ellroy), hit the L.A. papers. Unfortunately, there were probably many other victims who came in between them, but these would be the two murders that most impacted the life of the young James Ellroy (still known then as Lee Earle Ellroy).

Jean Hilliker Elroy murder 1958

As described in the afterword to this 2006 edition of his book (which accompanied the release of its movie adaptation), the fictionalized story is inspired by the lives and deaths of both women. In real life, both murders remain unsolved.

James Ellroy's world is a dark, dark place, one that is corrupt in every sense of the word. The detective (and ersatz Ellroy), Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert, though by no means naïve at the start, comes to see how the most gruesome elements can seep into and pervade every aspect of one's life. Innocence isn't lost, it was never there to begin with.

The writing is frantic and maniacal at times – intentionally so. The characters' frustrations become your own. I found myself putting the book down and picking it back up in a huff, too haunted to just leave it alone. I certainly could not live on a literary diet of James Ellroy alone (though I imagine that doing so would result in actual weight loss), but he is an undeniably powerful writer whose words (like the Dahlia's smile) will never really leave you alone.
Profile Image for Izzy.
74 reviews55 followers
October 19, 2012
The Black Dahlia is a thriller
Ellroy’s masterpiece
Gritty, seamy, LA noir


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 contribute. A first love, a heartrending split. An abusive parent, crippling poverty – it doesn’t have to be bad, either: an early love of books fostered by the long forgotten sensation of your heavy lids slowly and rhythmically lulled to closing each night. A penchant for the macabre, or a sunny disposition. Nature played a hand, and certainly you were given your own personal reactionary template. (That penchant for the macabre, or sunny disposition – was it fostered by an innately rebellious soul? Or a genial, loyal one?) The intricacies are endless, and if we were to follow this line of thought to its very conclusion, it would lead us to some ageless mystery of life.

In 1958, James Ellroy was a small boy, and his mother was murdered. He became fixated on an earlier wave of murders in the L.A. area, in particular the case of Elizabeth Short, the “Black Dahlia.” It will never be clear if Ellroy, the boy, held that carbon deep, to be slowly polished diamond-bright with that resulting psychic mess, with drink, with obsession. Or did he start off as fresh and pink as the rest of us, and trauma did the rest?

I think it’s a combination of both, but the result is that the Dahlia and his own experience entangled deeply and became one and the same.

I’ll confess I’ve never read My Dark Places, Ellroy’s own examination of the very thing I’m clumsily trying to unravel. My concern lies more with this book of fiction.

So, now think on how your own minor or major life events have shaped you. Those little scars on your psyche. Imagine what would have become of you as a 10 year old James Ellroy. Take everything you have ever gleaned from popular culture about: Freud, sex, children, men, writers, male writers, golden Los Angeles and rotten Hollywood. Spice it with what a healthy imagination will do to a few details of shadowy, grizzly female murder. More than you know about your own mother’s death. Mix them together and stir them in a pot – no a fucking cauldron. I am asking you to take your most intense, private emotions and amplify them by 1,000. Then, feel those feelings for decades. Then, wring yourself out and drip blood onto blank pages.

Then get that shit published!

Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,493 reviews959 followers
August 24, 2016

What this book is : an excellent thriller, a true page turner that keeps you rushing for the finish line, a character driven police procedural, a harsh, gritty, uncompromising expose of the darker side of police work in Los Angeles around 1946.

What this book isn't : a true crime story, the solution to the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, anchored in facts and carefully considered evidence. It's highly speculative, concerned more with packing as many surprises and twists as possible in a high octane finale. It's a very cleverly constructed argument, but, by this very cleverness, it feels to me just a tad contrived, unrealistic. I believe there is a much simpler answer to the puzzle of the Black Dahlia than the one offered here.

Having said that, my first James Ellroy experience was intensely captivating. The novel opens with a boxing match between two cops, soon to become partners, and from this explosive introduction, the story continues to step-dance, duck and punch hard at the facts, sending the reader reeling more than once, emotionally exhausted after the long rounds, but high on adrenaline and thirsty for a K.O.

I have noticed with another book set in the 1940's ("From Here to Eternity") how popular boxing was in the Us, especially with the armed forces and the police. Los Angeles in 1946 is no exception, and a good showing in interdepartmental competitions can give an ambitious young officer a good opportunity for promotion. Our first person narrator, Bucky Bleichert, is just about to test the theory:

Lee Blanchard, 43-4-2 as a heavyweight, formerly a regular attraction at the Hollywood Legion Stadium, and me: Bucky Bleichert, light-heavy, 36-0-0, once ranked tenth by 'Ring' magazine, probably because Nat Fleisher was amused by the way I taunted opponents with my big buck teeth. [...] Physically, we looked as antithetical as two big men could: Blanchard was blond and ruddy, six feet tall and huge in the chest and shoulders, with stunted bowlegs and the beginning of a hard, distended gut; I was pale and dark-haired, all lanky muscularity at 6 foot 3. Who would win?

There are of course nuances to the motivations of the cops, with a good deal of machismo thrown in, like little boys trying to see who can piss the fartest. But the match was an early example for me of how good Ellroy can be at combining action with subtle characterization. The author will later prove that he is also very good at hiding red herrings and important clues in the early stages of the plot, time bombs that would explode in a very satisfactory manner latter on.

I have read hundreds of crime novels in the past. What makes Ellroy special here? For me, it's the insider view of police work, showing the detectives acting most of the time little better than the criminals they are chasing : intimidating witnesses, falsifying evidence, lying under oath, brutal, arrogant, clannish, racist. Despite all the bad apples, some are honestly working for law and order, and are ready to 'buck' the system. The wordplay is intentional, since the true hero of the story may not be a knight in shiny armor , but he has a conscience, determination and enough integrity to go against his brothers in blue, even when such actions will label him a snitch and a pariah.

What I didn't like so much has little to do with the story itself, but with a little research I did afterwards into the true case of Elizabeth Short. No matter how often I tell myself that the Ellroy book is fiction, I keep thinking the author could have done a better job in his portrayal of the victim . I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I was moved more by the restrained, straightforward and even slightly boring style of Sjowall and Wahloo in their early Martin Beck novels than by the flashy, clever constructions of Ellroy.

... but I still plan to continue with the L.A. Quartet, as these books are almost a historical chronicle of the period and the city in their richness of detail and in their intriguing characters.
Profile Image for Richard.
984 reviews357 followers
August 2, 2015
Most people are familiar with the case of the Black Dahlia, one of the most infamous unsolved murder cases in U.S. history, where a young, pretty Hollywood starlet named Elizabeth Short is found in a vacant lot, her body mutilated, disemboweled, and cut in half. But this isn't a true crime book. Just as in the fantastic The Big Nowhere, the first book I read by author James Ellroy, he mixes L.A. history and fascinating fictional characters and weaves an awesome tapestry of the seedy and depraved world of 1940's Los Angeles. The novel is told from the point of view of Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert, who starts the book as a promising new LAPD warrants officer, until he gets embroiled in the case of the Black Dahlia, changing his life forever in more ways than one, as he is swept up in the obsessive circus that the investigation becomes.

This fixation on the case is personal for the author, he also fell victim to the Dahlia's pull in real life in the late 50's after Ellroy's mother was brutally murdered. He became fascinated with historical violent crime and studying the murder of Elizabeth Short became a proxy for dealing with his mother's death. This personal attachment fills the book with real earnestness and passion that helped to make it a crime classic.

Aside from the fact that Ellroy's usual knack for great wordplay is on display, one of the most interesting things about the novel is the way the obsession over the Dahlia is detailed, an obsession that jumps from person to person like a disease, eating away at everyone it touches. Although his partner jumps headfirst into the investigation, Bucky starts off fairly unfazed by the murder, annoyed at the media frenzy and eager to get back to working warrants; catching normal bad guys he can understand, not ones that cut Glasgow smiles into pretty girls' faces from ear to ear. But eventually he succumbs to the Dahlia's pull and falls deeper, the way Danny does in The Big Nowhere, so deep it becomes all he thinks about. The Black Dahlia is the story of that kind of obsession, the one that can eat away at the soul.
Profile Image for Toby.
831 reviews328 followers
April 1, 2013
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 that usually afflicts the protagonist in these stories and replacing it with a brutal and hard edged look at the underbelly of L.A. in the late 1940's.

Ellroy takes the mood of something like Edward G. Ulmer's classic 1945 poverty row noir Detour and adds everything that they weren't allowed to show back then with this psychological character study. This is what makes him stand out from the crowd. On face value this could be taken as a police procedural novel but if you look beyond the stumbling detection plot you are invited in to a journey filled with depravity and weak willed men and the death of a beautiful yet impure girl used as a background or excuse for their behaviour.

Aside from that opening section there are few things that I had a problem with which caused the low rating, primarily that of the behaviour of the protagonist Bucky. We are consistently told that he has an obsession with the murdered girl but at no point did I ever know why or feel as if it was a natural progression of his character. He is a cop, he wants to solve the murder, he wants to investigate other crimes, it's just another murder and then all of a sudden, with no warning and no explanation he is fantasising about the girl and obsessing over the case. In his later work I think Ellroy got much better at this aspect of explaining his protagonists behaviour but for this one, sadly it was lacking.

I don't think I can let the review go by without mentioning the movie. It wasn't very good was it. I saw it first and knew it wasn't a very good adaptation. Initially whilst reading I thought it was because it was too faithful to the novel but as I came to the end I realised that I coudn't remember much of it from the film so that clearly wasn't it. The movie was bad but then I don't think this novel really lends itself to a good movie adaptation and in this age of any old hack (Suzanne Collins being the most recent example) writing a novel filled with cliches just so they can sell the movie rights that might not vibe but what's wrong with a book being written just to be an enjoyable book and nothing more?

To ape the man: Vibe! I enjoyed this book. Buy! This book. Read! About filth, bent cops, dead girls, psychotic killers and gratuitous political glad-handing. Don't! Keep it hush-hush. Give! A copy to everyone.
Profile Image for Paul Ataua.
1,340 reviews123 followers
May 11, 2022
Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard become partners as police officers, buddies in life, and they even share a friendship/love relationship with the same woman. Suddenly, they are drawn into the case of ‘The Black Dahlia’, a women who was brutally tortured , killed, and cut in two. What follows is a story of an unbridled obsession that rips their relationship into pieces and leads to a speedy descent into hell for everyone concerned. I read this many years ago and was shaken by it. This time, it felt even more powerful. It is maybe a little too long, like you think you have reached the bottom only to find there is somewhere below that. So glad I decided to read it again and will definitely move onto the next in the quartet.
Profile Image for Labijose.
957 reviews416 followers
July 17, 2017
Leída hace años. La encontré magnífica. James Ellroy escribió esta primera novela de "El cuarteto de Los Ángeles" en 1987, y junto con "L.A. Confidential"(1990) creo que son sus dos grandes obras maestras. Por lo menos de las que yo he leído.
Profile Image for RJ - Slayer of Trolls.
764 reviews179 followers
August 24, 2020
Corrupt cops, dizzy dames, Hollywood hoopla, police procedural mashed up with harboiled dicks, this one has it all in spades. Ellroy hasn't yet surrendered to his full Demon Dog self, and the connection between his work and Chandler's is laid out bare like a corpse at the Coroner's. Like many of Ellroy's works, the plot is at times sloppy and silly, contrived and convoluted, but readers should just lay back and soak up the ambiance like an improv jazz solo.
Profile Image for Ben.
74 reviews940 followers
October 27, 2009
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 during my reading when I was enthralled, flipping through the pages at a rapid-fire pace. For this short period of time I couldn’t put it down; it felt much like a thriller. But I couldn't keep my focus. Too many quick, concrete details. Not enough depth. Not for me.

And of course Ellroy the man, the persona, is fascinating. I wish I had his balls, his level of testosterone, his blunt but articulate, poignant way with words. His passion and intensity. (There’s that word again, but you can’t avoid it with him: Ellroy = intensity.)

And he is more than a genre writer-- one need only look to this novel’s boxing scene, or think about some of its overriding principles of chaos, corruption, and selfishness to see this. If you’re into crime, noir, detective, or mystery novels, you’re crazy not to try this. I couldn’t help but notice that most of my GR friends liked it, giving it four or five stars-- but most of them had it on a genre-related shelf. In other words, they were probably predisposed to liking it, probably having read and enjoyed other books that display similar themes. And yet, the average rating for this book from all of those on GR is 3.54: that’s pretty low compared to most books, and I think it says something about the chances of you liking this. And yet again!!!--- one need only read Montambo’s review of My Dark Places to see that you could still like Ellroy’s stuff without digging any of the genres he fits into (or transcends).

So I can’t say that you won’t like The Black Dahlia if you’re not into any of those genres, but I’d also say that you’re more likely to, if you are. And it bears repeating that his writing does go beyond any simple, narrow, genre-related category.

But, me? I’m done with Ellroy. For me he fits into a group of writers that I realize are great, but I just the same, happen to not enjoy. Updike, Morrison, some of McCarthy; there’s a number of them out there, and I’m adding Ellroy to the list.

Profile Image for Darth Fierce.
331 reviews23 followers
February 5, 2020
I should write a new review since I just finished a re-read but I'm not gonna yet. But if I did it would start something like this (image only):


My Old Review:

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!!!
May 14, 2020

E is for Ellroy
4.5 stars

I cannot believe that I have never read anything by this author before. The fangirl in me is stirring.

I have never read a lot of noir, and I'm not really sure why. I love it in film. Sam Spade, the black and white, the beautiful women with smoke circles around their heads and their beautiful hairdos with scarcely a hair out of place sitting on an inspector's desk with legs for days and shorter than normal skirts. Cops with suspenders smoking cigars with the boys, talking about the "good ole days." The drawn out speak, talk of tinsel-town, tortured souls. I eat this shit up.

I could almost hear Josh Hartnett's quiet and introspective voice narrating this tale of two cops and their obsession with the Black Dahlia murder. You see, this book isn't really about Elizabeth Short. It's about Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard, two ex-boxer cops. Partners. Best friends. In love with the same woman. Obsessed with the same woman. Guided by their own demons. Demons that force their obsession with a dead girl. Demons that deal in death and destruction. Demons that cause catastrophe.
Bumfuck detective too blind to clear the case he was a homicide accessory to.
The weak point in a fairy tale triangle.
Best friend to a cop-bank robber, now the keeper of his secrets."

And that girl. That poor girl. They way those men saw her. They gave her a story. They gave her life.

This book is not for the faint-hearted. There is some graphic stuff here. The way this poor girl was murdered is absolutely atrocious. And Ellroy doesn't leave anything to the imagination. Usually I am a big fan of "show rather than tell" in my stories, but in this case, the opposite is true. Because Ellroy is a truly gifted writer, and his words gut you. They rip you apart. They make you angry and hurt and feel the pain of these characters. Their dialogue is raw and unfettered. Description is without nuance. But it all works.
In her calmest schoolteacher voice, Kay Lake Bleichert said, 'I almost told you. But you started whoring again, collecting her pictures. I just wanted revenge on the woman who ruined the two men I loved.'

This story also takes a while to unfold, but the end result is totally worth every single moment. I thought about this book and these characters for so long after I turned the last page. It even makes me want to watch the very lukewarm movie again. This book will make you angry and sad. It will cause you to think about things in your own life, your past. It will make you cringe. You may or may not like it. But regardless of your feelings or your reactions to this book, you will have to admit that there are some real emotions here, and only a talented writer can make them so real.

This book is also very loosely based on the real Black Dahlia murder which was never solved. I like the approach that Ellroy took with it, and in his afterward, described why he took the approach that he did. Reading his own words about his why just served to solidify my reactions to everything. I ached for that poor girl and the other nameless victims of violence and abuse that haven't made the front page. This book is for them. It ultimately made me sad.
Profile Image for Peter.
2,620 reviews467 followers
July 13, 2018
hard to get into the book, but if you're in it hits you, compelling, twisty, you feel like part of the 40s, for all hardboiled fans...
Profile Image for Steve.
962 reviews94 followers
February 27, 2015
On January 15, 1947, the torture-ravished body of a beautiful young woman is found in a Los Angeles 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.

This was an intense, wild ride of a novel. Hidden motives, questionable morals, crooked cops, double-crosses, and a spiderweb of links to crime after crime after crime make this one of the best noir books ever written, maybe even one of the best books of all genres.

I wasn't intending on reading the next book in the series, The Big Nowhere, but James Ellroy is such a great writer, I'm rearranging my TBR list to accommodate the rest of the books in the LA Quartet.
Profile Image for Tim.
476 reviews609 followers
August 6, 2018
On January 15, 1947 Elizabeth Short was found in an abandoned lot, severely mutilated and cut in two. Nicknamed the Black Dahlia in the press, she became a news sensation. It was a true crime, that was never solved. On the year of the 40th anniversary of the crime, James Ellroy gave a sense of (fictional) closure to the case with this masterful novel.

This is a story about obsession. People can be obsessed with many things; money, power… a good book, but in this case it’s a woman. A woman who most of our cast would never know until after she died. She becomes the mutual obsession of a select few who would always love her, and do anything to give her peace.

We follow Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert, a former boxer, now a warrants officer in the LA PD. He is new to the position and his partner (also a former boxer) Lee Blanchard is showing him the ropes. As they begin looking for a man name Nash who killed an old woman, they stumble upon another crime scene that will take them down a dark and twisted path.

After a somewhat slow start I became engrossed with this novel. On the second day of reading, I was lost in the Dahlia case, reading over 150 pages before I finally made myself stop to get some sleep. The next day after work I stayed up till 1AM to finish it. I didn’t get much sleep due to an extremely early day after that, but I regret nothing. This is a stunning work, the first in Ellroy’s LA Quartet, and a set up of themes to come.

There are no true “good guys” in this book, and it is all the better for it. Unlike many books or movies I’ve seen that focus on crooked cops, we get a sense that the majority here want this case solved. For the most part, they’re not looking for a patsy, they want the real killer, and if that means using tough interrogations, breaking and entering and using a few drugs on people to get them to talk… well, the ends justify the means. The characters are all rather fascinating, deeply psychologically scarred, yet realistic in most of their actions; able to make you root for them one page and disgust you in another.

It probably goes without saying, but I will place a warning here for any readers on the fence about the book. There are some extremely disturbing moments in here… and not just the Dahlia’s crime scene. Some of the twist and turns that our detectives come across during the course of the novel are extremely unpleasant. It also uses realistic views and language for the time, so do not expect PC dialogue.

If none of that bothers you, do yourself a favor and pick this up now. You will be getting a truly wonderful novel filled with clever twists and suspense in equal measure. It has a bit of a rough opening, but once the Dahlia shows up, things move fast and even the quiet slow moments have a tremendous amount of tension to them.

In closing: this is a fantastic read. A wonderful piece of historic fiction and noir. Highly recommended to anyone with even the slightest interest after reading the plot description. I would give it 4.5 stars if Goodreads would let me, but I’ll stick with the 4 star rating as I do find it to have a few minor flaws… nothing big enough though that it should dissuade a reader.
Profile Image for Josh.
1,636 reviews148 followers
May 1, 2013
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 other characters alike.

Everyone is tainted, judged by their inadequacies, hated by their conquests. The outlook remains bleak from the first bout to the bloody end. Cops Bleichert and Blanchard and the woman who both solidifies and threatens to break them are as well written and wholly consuming as any I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Story aside, the characters are what makes THE BLACK DAHLIA really come to life – not taking anything away from the case which looms over these characters till the very end.

Ellroy crafts a masterfully intense and provocative crime noir which takes the reader deep into his own dark places and allows them to wallow in a perpetual state of hopelessness and longing. THE BLACK DAHLIA is confronting, disturbing, and demands multiple reads - one of my all time favourites and a classic of the genre.
Profile Image for Jayakrishnan.
488 reviews167 followers
January 6, 2023
I could not get into it. Something about the first person narrator's voice bothered me ..... it never really struck a chord. I battled with this book for 3 months. There was something boring, pedestrian and inauthentic about Bucky's voice. Should macho swell characters who have it figured out be allowed to narrate novels? Isn't American literature the dominion of the down and out loser? Anyway, it was like reading a really long newspaper article without enough depth in it to hold my interest for more than 300 pages. The final revelations were interesting but come on, torturing your sexual rival based on a novel and men collecting human organs. I don't mind sinister over the top stuff like this. But it wasn't shrouded in enough mystery. Lee Blanchard and Kay Lake's antics behind Bucky's back. So hard to believe all that. There were just too many things going on here. All the elements did not mix well. Ellroy was trying to do too many things.

The book begins with the friendship/rivalry between star boxers turned cops - Lee Blanchard and Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert (the novel is told from his point of view) in the LAPD. The two men have to face off in a boxing match to secure a salary hike for the LAPD. After the match, the two men become thick friends and Lee throws his girlfriend at Bucky and they are a threesome though Bucky does not sleep with Kay. Atleast not in the beginning. Then Elizabeth Short's body turns up and things go really haywire between the three of them. There was something epic in scale about it with the trips to Tijuana, the discovery of the porn film and the last 100 pages or so when all sorts of ugly things come tumbling out of the old rich's closets.

The Black Dahlia is similar to Chinatown and Ross Macdonald and Chandler novels in that it involves shenanigans of the old rich affecting the lives of less privileged Americans. But I simply could not get into it. Bucky did not speak to me or for me. I guess it did not speak to Brian De Palma either. Nobody liked the film based on this book.
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