Dan Schwent's Reviews > The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
870755
's review

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2016, 2016-books, pants-shittingly-awesome
Read 2 times. Last read August 12, 2016 to August 15, 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.
151 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Black Dahlia.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

Finished Reading (Other Paperback Edition)
February 7, 2008 – Shelved (Other Paperback Edition)
August 6, 2009 – Shelved as: crime-and-mystery (Other Paperback Edition)
July 19, 2016 – Shelved as: plan-on-rereadin... (Other Paperback Edition)
August 12, 2016 – Started Reading
August 12, 2016 – Shelved
August 12, 2016 –
11.0%
August 12, 2016 –
21.0%
August 14, 2016 –
36.0%
August 15, 2016 –
42.0%
August 15, 2016 –
44.0%
August 15, 2016 –
49.0%
August 15, 2016 –
52.0%
August 15, 2016 –
55.0%
August 15, 2016 –
57.0%
August 15, 2016 –
59.0%
August 15, 2016 –
62.0%
August 15, 2016 –
63.0%
August 15, 2016 –
68.0%
August 15, 2016 –
73.0%
August 15, 2016 –
76.0%
August 15, 2016 –
79.0%
August 15, 2016 –
81.0%
August 15, 2016 –
85.0%
August 15, 2016 –
87.0%
August 15, 2016 –
88.0%
August 15, 2016 –
92.0%
August 15, 2016 – Shelved as: 2016
August 15, 2016 – Shelved as: 2016-books
August 15, 2016 – Finished Reading
September 6, 2018 – Shelved as: pants-shittingly-awesome

Comments Showing 1-30 of 30 (30 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Darwin8u Now you have to read the rest of the LA Quartet.


message 2: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Darwin8u wrote: "Now you have to read the rest of the LA Quartet."

I've got the Big Nowhere in my clutches.


message 3: by Truman32 (new)

Truman32 Such a great author and such a great book! Nice review!


message 4: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Truman32 wrote: "Such a great author and such a great book! Nice review!"

Thanks!


Lauren Great review! The Blanchard/Bleichert thing kept tripping me up, too. I get the whole pattern of doppelgangers and confused identities, but it still made me kind of mentally stutter every so often.


message 6: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Lauren wrote: "Great review! The Blanchard/Bleichert thing kept tripping me up, too. I get the whole pattern of doppelgangers and confused identities, but it still made me kind of mentally stutter every so often."

A lot of authors are way more guilty of this than Ellroy. There have been some books where I think "Is your M key twice as big as all the others? Think of a different name!"


Kemper Dan wrote: "There have been some books where I think "Is your M key twice as big as all the others? Think of a different name!" ..."

I think they call this Andrew Vachss Syndrome.


message 8: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Fantastic review, Dan. Glad your reread stood up well to the test of time!


message 9: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Mike wrote: "Fantastic review, Dan. Glad your reread stood up well to the test of time!"

Thanks! Me too.


message 10: by PorshaJo (new)

PorshaJo Awesome review Dan!


message 11: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Thanks!


message 12: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Koivu My desire to read this one had been waning (especially after that meh movie version a few years back), but you reeled me back in!


message 13: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent You shan't regret it!


message 14: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Koivu Dan wrote: "You shan't regret it!"

Well, I certainly don't regret commenting on this review, because you said shan't, and a fella just can't get talk like that 'round these parts no more!


message 15: by Zoeytron (new)

Zoeytron I echo Jason's view on your use of the word "shan't". Made me smile!


Ɗẳɳ  2.☊ Very nice review here, Dan. I've been scared to tackle anymore Ellroy, after that American Tabloid book nearly drown me. It was a fantastic story, but those 600 pages felt like a 1,000.


message 17: by Mike (new)

Mike Great review! I vaguely recall the movie as being less than stellar. Based on this review I'll give the book a try.


message 18: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Mike wrote: "Great review! I vaguely recall the movie as being less than stellar. Based on this review I'll give the book a try."

Thanks! The movie left out a ton of stuff and I've managed to mostly forget it.


message 19: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Ɗắɳ 2.☠ wrote: "Very nice review here, Dan. I've been scared to tackle anymore Ellroy, after that American Tabloid book nearly drown me. It was a fantastic story, but those 600 pages felt like a 1,000."

Thanks! Once I read the rest of the LA Quartet, I'll probably read American Tabloid and call it a day.


message 20: by Lina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lina Scalfino Dan you have written a very thorough review of this book. It sure is different! I like the reference to a noire book, that explains all the nuances and the complexities that this author throws at the reader. Sure thing that the characters jump from the pages! I enjoyed the book if you say that with this genre, but I don't think it's for everyone!


message 21: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Lina wrote: "Dan you have written a very thorough review of this book. It sure is different! I like the reference to a noire book, that explains all the nuances and the complexities that this author throws at t..."

Thanks! I highly recommend the entire LA Quartet.


William Fabulous review, Dan! It's on my top-to-read list, and moving up!

... it was like being tied up and dragged down a gravel road all over again....


message 23: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Thanks!


William Finally started this, mostly due to your superb review.
.... it was like being tied up and dragged down a gravel road all over again.


William Finished. Wow. Brutal and brilliant and vulgar and obscene. Addictive and alive and raw, a roller coaster of dark crime noir.


message 26: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent William wrote: "Finished. Wow. Brutal and brilliant and vulgar and obscene. Addictive and alive and raw, a roller coaster of dark crime noir."

You have to read the other three books in the LA Quartet now.


William Starting #2, The Big Nowhere.

I'm itching to watch the now 20 year-old "L.A. Confidential" movie.


message 28: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent William wrote: "Starting #2, The Big Nowhere.

I'm itching to watch the now 20 year-old "L.A. Confidential" movie."


The Big Nowhere was probably my favorite of the trilogy. I still haven't watched the LA Confidential movie.


William Dan wrote: "I still haven't watched the LA Confidential movie. "

Wow. It's truly extraordinary. A masterpiece in every respect.


Ɗẳɳ  2.☊ Dan wrote: "The Big Nowhere was probably my favorite of the trilogy. I still haven't watched the LA Confidential movie."

For shame!


back to top