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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black and Blue
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...
Published on 23 Jun 2005 by OEJ

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Something a little different
This book was chosen by the Reading Group I attend and I would have probably not chosen it, or even known about it otherwise!

I quite enjoyed it but there were mixed feelings amongst the rest of the group.

It is quite a violent book - which doesn't bother me, and the american slang was also not much of a problem as I read it on my kindle and made...
Published 15 months ago by Amanda B


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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
By 
OEJ - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Black Dahlia (Paperback)
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. Despite a huge and highly publicised investigation, things go nowhere, and Bucky causes himself problems by sleeping with the casually bisexual Madeleine Sprague (daughter of a corrupt real-estate tycoon) who knew "the Dahlia" and slept with her once; he knows he has suppressed vital evidence in the case. With bent cops all around him Bucky fears for his life, but such is his all-consuming obsession with bringing the killer to justice that he eventually sets out on a personal vendetta and painstakingly recreates the last few days of Betty Short's life, eventually digging up new witnesses and evidence that the official investigation failed to discover.
This is a superb mixture of dark fact and even darker fiction, no doubt fuelled by Ellroy's life-long desire to find his own mother's killer and an outstanding example of ambition, insanity, passion and deceit, not to mention sexual obsession, set against the background of a booming, post-war Los Angeles.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 100% proof pulp fiction, 19 Dec 2002
This review is from: The Black Dahlia (Paperback)
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Macabre Heart of Darkness, 19 Oct 2004
By 
S. Cottrell - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Black Dahlia (Paperback)
This is unforgettable literature. It both defines and transcends the genre. Hugely evocative of an age. Beautifully crafted characters. Stark horror. Dialogue like broken glass. The scene-setting boxing story and the dynamic between the three lead characters is incredibly poignant, and provides a more human dimension to the narrator than is usually on show in Ellroy's leading men. The red-meat-and-healthy-living also provided a counterpoint to the gothic gore. While the plot is by no means straightforward, it is satisyingly self-conatined, and rather less sprawling than the remainder of the LA quartet. Whereas horror and evil in those novels is embodied by Dudley Smith, in the Black Dahlia the horror seeps out of the body itself, corrupting all who come near her. This book sows the seed of the American Nightmare that is graphically illustrated in bloom in the remainder of the quartet through to the Cold Six Thousand. Ellis Loew is an excelllent villain, and Russ Millard a saint driven to distraction. Quite simply the best crime novel I have yet to read.
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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
This review is from: The Black Dahlia (Paperback)
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. It is not a forensic reworking of the police case, nor really a historical account, so anyone expecting much by the way of hard fact should look into non-fiction instead. What it is, at first, is a fast-paced, efficient novel with a great plot and complex characters and if it had ended where I felt the character arcs naturally came to an end, it would have earned itself five stars.

What follows this is a tacked-on ending to 'solve' the case which feels rushed and for the most part unbelievable. Obviously it is fiction because the case was never solved, but the way Ellroy ties it all up is very unconvincing. I will give no spoilers here, but I felt that the book went on that 100 pages too long and those pages were spent on a conclusion that was awkward, confused and totally unnecessary. Ironically it would have been more satisfying if in this case, the Black Dahlia had stayed as she has been captured in history, forever a mystery.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just amazing, a brilliant read from cover to cover, 4 Sep 2001
This review is from: The Black Dahlia (Paperback)
This was my first James Ellroy book, but I am hooked. I found this book to be so powerful - the subject matter and the way he dealt with it. This book really got under my skin, I could not stop reading it, when I did, I could not stop thinking about it (even in my sleep).
This book will live with me for a very, very long time....brilliant.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Something a little different, 29 May 2013
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This review is from: The Black Dahlia (Kindle Edition)
This book was chosen by the Reading Group I attend and I would have probably not chosen it, or even known about it otherwise!

I quite enjoyed it but there were mixed feelings amongst the rest of the group.

It is quite a violent book - which doesn't bother me, and the american slang was also not much of a problem as I read it on my kindle and made ample use of the instant dictionary feature.

The book does start with the build up to and the taking place of a boxing match which did put me off at first as boxing really is not my thing (I have never watched a Rocky film in my life!) but as the murder story line starts and the intrigue begins I began to get into it and I am glad I persevered!

Not a great book but a good read nevertheless with an almost guessed twist at the end!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best ever crime-novel., 2 Nov 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Black Dahlia (Paperback)
James Ellroys fictional investigation of the real life - never solved - murder of semi-prostitute Betty Short has left a burning inpression on me. The caracthers are very complex and the plot is so too. Ellroy is capable of creating a story where everything is important, but irrelevant at the same time, so that the reader will be puzzled right to the end. To read this book is no mistake!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping thriller, 18 Feb 2013
This review is from: The Black Dahlia (Paperback)
Based on a true story from the 1940's that was never solved, The Black Dahlia was the nickname given to a murdered young woman found in a vacant lot in Los Angeles . There were plenty of suspects and confessions but still remains unsolved to this day.

It did take me some time to get into, it was quite a long winded beginning before the actual murder was discovered and because of where and when it is was set there is a lot of American language and slang - quite a few I hadn't heard of. I did have to look up some of them but then I just read round them and could still follow the plot. This book is about obsession, corruption, is sexually explicit, goes into some detail of the crime scene and of torture - so some gruesome reading, probably not for the faint hearted; oh and it's quite racist aswell - but I suppose this was to be expected with being set in the Forties.

I couldn't tell where fact ends and fiction begins and I guess this is testament to Ellroy's research and writing skills. There isn't a part in the book that seems unbelievable and the ending seems very plausible. Infact, I really like the ending and didn't see the twist coming.

One criticism I have and I don't believe this to be down to the author, I don't know if it was just this copy of the book but there were several mistakes throughout - missing letters, incorrect words used, this didn't really detract from the story but it is quite annoying.

Overall this is a good thriller, not one I'd usually pick but made a change... and am now off to watch the movie adaptation!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written thriller..., 7 Jun 2006
By 
This review is from: The Black Dahlia (Paperback)
A pretty good thriller from James Ellroy (LA Confidential), about two cops investigating a young woman's murder.

The story is hung on the true story of Elizabeth Short, who was discovered murdered on a vacant lot in LA in 1947. It achieved notoriety by the rather gruesome way she was left; cut in half and arms and legs splayed - she had also received a lot of nasty injuries which I won't go into.

The book rather uses this as a backdrop (I don't know how much truth about the case is in it) for the story of Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard, two boxers and now LA cops who team up on the case. They both seem to become rather obsessed with the Dahlia herself, and their relationships with each other and their women are explored with this in mind. The whodunnit element builds up nicely and some good twists mean that there is a satisfying denouement, with, as often with Ellroy, a continuing sense of some gloom for the surviving protagonists.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars mesmerising wallow in moral effluent, 10 July 2002
By 
Dobester (Istanbul, Turkey) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Black Dahlia (Paperback)
The reader of this and Ellroy's other books about L.A. will be shocked by the amoral, repugnant personalities of all of the books' characters, where even the innocent are corrupt. Ellroy constantly defies the reader to like his characters, who are brutal, racist, sexually predatory egotists to a man. However, t the writing and plotting are overwhelmingly good, and "Dahlia" is truly unputdownable. In fact, after reading one Ellroy, you'll read them all, and start trawling the net for stories about him. Crack cocaine in print form, basically.
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The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy (Paperback - 3 Jan 1993)
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