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The Black Dahlia [Paperback]

James Ellroy
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Jan 1993

Los Angeles, 1th January 1947: a beautiful young woman walked into the night and met her horrific destiny. Five days later, her tortured body was found drained of blood and cut in helf. The newspapers called her 'The Black Dahlia'. Two cops are caught up in the investigation and embark on a hellish journey that takes them to the core of the dead girl's twisted life.

The first part of Ellroy's crime fiction masterwork, the LA Quartet, and based around a real murder case, The Black Dahlia pulses with violence, darkness and brutality. It is crime writing at its most powerful.

Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow (3 Jan 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099366517
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099366515
  • Product Dimensions: 2.4 x 13.1 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 268,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"'A mesmerising study of the psycho-sexual obsession...extraordinarily well written' The Times"

"'One of those rare, brilliantly written books you want to press on other people' Time Out"

"'A wonderful tale of ambition, insanity, passion and deceit' Publishers Weekly"

"'A unique voice in American crime writing' " (Sunday Telegraph)


Critical acclaim for The Cold Six Thousand:


Book Description

a Brutal and powerful crime masterpiece by the author of LA Confidential

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 100% proof pulp fiction 19 Dec 2002
If, as a non-initiate, you stop and try to understand it, James Ellroy's writing style will have you completely bamboozled. The way to approach it is to barrel through it at a hundred miles an hour - that's the pace it was intended to be read at - and eventually everything will start making sense by itself. Even if it doesn't there is still something exhilarating about the way James Ellroy writes: it's a guilty pleasure, and Black Dahlia features some of his best writing. If after a while you really find yourself struggling, just google on "Ellroy Glossary" and you'll pick up any number of fanzine crib sheets.
Once you get the hang of the Ellroy idiom it's quite addictive and you even start talking like that yourself a bit. Which is embarrassing.
As with all Ellroy novels I've read, in Black Dahlia the streets are mean, the characters morally bankrupt, and the plot so byzantine as to implicate every one from the chief of police to some Mexican pornographers. This is very much Ellroy's world view: fundamentally we are all ugly, and the worst of us are the ones who pretend we're not. It's very Thomas Hobbes, actually.
The plot scenario is very similar to L.A. Confidential - two cops with a strange interpersonal relationship and a common squeeze on the hunt for the perpetrator of a dastardly crime. But while the crime is much more brutal, the book itself is not so dark. Sure it isn't Ogden Nash, but it (and especially the Ellroy Lingo) frequently had me sniggering as I read. Maybe I'm just desensitised to Ellroy's morbid style.
I think the danger with Ellroy is to read too much into it; the patios is so convincing it is easy to mistake this for something deeper than it is: like Quentin Tarantino, Ellroy is the first to admit his art really is pulp fiction, despite what the critical luvvies say.
But look, bottom line, it's a cracking read, and that's all you really need to know.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black and Blue 23 Jun 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In 'book noir' circles, the very stylish Ellroy is cult king - there surely is nobody quite like him. Hard to believe that he didn't actually live through the real-life experience of the infamous Black Dahlia murder of 1947 but Ellroy himself wasn't born until 1948. He dedicated this masterpiece to his mother, who was murdered in LA in 1958, her killer never being found. Perhaps this defining moment in the writer's life is the key to his obsession about those dark days of crime and corruption (on both sides of the law) in the twilight years of Hollywood's Golden Age.
As a background, Ellroy himself was a young man haunted by his mother's ghost; he became a thief, an alcoholic, a drug abuser and a sexual pervert who became notorious as a peeping Tom fixated on women's underwear. He broke into people's houses, he stole stuff, things like food and lingerie. He served time in jail. He declared himself to be a Nazi to get a rise out of people. Thankfully he eventually channelled his energies into writing, and what a gift he has given us.
This first of the author's famed 'LA Quartet' is based on the notorious murder of the young, beautiful and promiscuous Elizabeth Short, who has been found cut in half, disemboweled and bearing evidence that she had been tortured for several days before dying. Dubbed "The Black Dahlia" by the press, the victim becomes an obsession for two LAPD cops, narrator Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert and his partner, Lee Blanchard, both ex-boxers who also happen to be best friends and in love with the same woman.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Slice of Noir, Shame About the Ending 5 July 2011
James Ellroy's fictional take on the real murder of Elizabeth Short comes as the first novel in his LA Quartet. Having previously read 'LA Confidential' and enjoying the writer's taut, stylized prose and dedication to the noir genre, I thought his account of a famously unsolved crime would be an interesting avenue to take.

Ex-soldier turned cop Bucky Bleichert narrates the story as he is partnered up with fellow detective Lee Blanchard, by way of a boxing match and much political manoeuvre by the powers that be. It is down to the same people-on-high that they get embroiled in the case involving the Black Dahlia, a woman brutally murdered and mutilated, with a reputation that precedes her. Hundreds of policemen are tasked to the case as it is lived out through the press, but as leads fade away and interest wanes, the Dahlia seems destined to become one more unsolved death. Bucky is left with Blanchard, his partner and best friend who is deeply disturbed by the case and unable to leave it alone. He also has his own dark problems involving an odd love triangle between himself, Lee and Lee's live-in girlfriend, encounters with a mysterious rich woman, not to mention a growing obsession with the murdered Betty Short herself.

All the hallmarks of the noir genre are here, Ellroy evidently works hard to create an atmosphere akin to the novels of the time. His writing is skilled and muscular and the dialogue snappy and evocative. The characters are suitably flawed: the white knight cop navigating a murky world, the man with a past that he cannot forget, sleazy power-hungry authority figures and the misused, damaged women with both good and bad intentions. The writer knows what he is doing and paints a powerful picture of post-war Los Angeles and it's teeming underbelly.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The All-Consuming Epic
Quite possibly the greatest murder mystery I've ever read. Ellroy weaves this tale together with confidence and panache. Sheer brilliance.
Published 11 days ago by R. Davison
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic
The Ellroy book to start with. Wonderfully gritty thriller set in LA, and as with other Ellroy novels, weaves actual events into the story. Read more
Published 1 month ago by DeiryMe
5.0 out of 5 stars Very exciting
This thriller is great, because it's based on a true life murder mystery - but the author really brings it to life. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Margot Letts
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading despite the ending
I don't mind saying what I've said in my review title, because I would have much preferred to have known in advance that the ending was not going to be satisfying. Read more
Published 2 months ago by J Baker
5.0 out of 5 stars outstanding
This is the first book in years where I can truly say I was sad to finish reading it. Characters are great, story imaginative and absorbing. Read it and you won't be disappointed
Published 2 months ago by skidmarx
4.0 out of 5 stars Throwback To A Different Time
The Black Daliah is a really good read. Chronological forensic analysis of a griesome crime with interesting leads in the flawed detectives. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jeffers 15
5.0 out of 5 stars Tense and exciting
I'd wanted to read this ever since i saw the L.A. Confidential film, then played the L.A. Noir game. The Black Dahlia is better than both. Read more
Published 4 months ago by StillSharpe
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read
Superb storyline ! A real page turner. Detail around boxing and detective work very realistic. The reality of selfishness and human fragility runs right through this book.
Published 7 months ago by Mary Mac Cabe
4.0 out of 5 stars The Black Dahlia
This, the first book in Ellroy's 'LA Quartet', is a work fiction based around true events: the horrific murder of Elizabeth Short in Los Angeles in 1947. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Steve D
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
A gripping thriller, magnificently written. The way Ellroy develops the plot and subplots is just extraordinary. An amazing literary and cunning trip.
Published 10 months ago by Giovanni Figueroa
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