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Black Dahlia ()

The first classic detective stories--Sherlock Holmes, Wilkie Collins, etc.--were based on the premise that crime and evil-doing would yield to the rigorous application of reason.  The great police procedurals (Adam Dalgleish, the 87th Precinct, etc.) assume that professional technique and relentless work will solve the crime.  No matter how noir the private eye novel, there is an implicit message that, though evil lurks just beneath the veneer of even the wealthiest family, and though the police and the crooks may both try to stop him, there exists a special breed of modern knights errant who will sally forth and do battle when we truly need them.  Then there are the mysteries of James Ellroy, in which the evil has started to ooze out into public view, where the cops have been so desensitized by their contact with that evil that they are often as brutal as the criminals, and where crimes are not necessarily ever solved.

Ellroy's vision is so bleak, and his stories are so unsettling, that it's sometimes a relief just to finish reading one, to get out from under his oppressive obsessions with violence and crime and corruption. Black Dahlia is a particularly personal work, with the famous unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short in 1947 standing in for the tragic murder of Ellroy's own mother in 1958.  Similarly, the cop, Bucky Bleichert, who is consumed by the case and descends into madness, eerily parallels Ellroy himself (who has written about his own tortured fascination with his mother's slaying in My Dark Places).  Where we tend to read mysteries because we like to solve puzzles ands want the reassurance that good triumphs over evil, Ellroy offers us instead unsolvable crime and the unsettling sensation that evil may well triumph and that the good guys may be as dangerous as the bad guys.  His books aren't for the squeamish--they are just too disturbing--but they are terrific if you can take it and Black Dahlia is a good one to start with.


Grade: (A-)


See also:

James Ellroy Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: James Ellroy
    -PROFILE: How a Former LAPD Detective Became the ‘Godfather’ to L.A. Crime Writers: From inspiring elements of Michael Connelly’s Bosch to advising James Ellroy, Detective Rick Jackson has been a force on and off the police force ( Miles Corwin -February 5, 2021, L. A. Magazine)
    -INTERVIEW: THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF JAMES ELLROY: Steven Powell's new work on Ellroy is an ambitious biography and a fascinating glimpse into the mind of "the Demon Dog." (ANDREW NETTE, 2/10/23, Crime Reads)
    -ESSAY: The Mixed Legacy of James Ellroy: A life of crime fiction. (Mark Dunbar, 2/28/23, Hedgehog Review)

Book-related and General Links: (Author Site)
    -EXCERPT : from Crime Wave by James Ellroy (Bold Type)
    -ESSAY : Kansas confidential :  A poet of the twisted mind, James Ellroy is the author of brutal noir thrillers. His new book is just as dark, but aims a lot higher - at the Great American Novel. Lewis Jones meets him in Kansas City (Daily Telegraph)
    -INTERVIEW : Out of the dark :  James Ellroy, the bad boy of US literature, is mellowing. He has found a 'profound' woman and banished his demons, he tells Edward Helmore (The Guardian)
    -INTERVIEW : James Ellroy: In His Own Words (Random House)
    -INTERVIEW : Oedipus Wreck (Salon)
    -INTERVIEW : January 17, 1997 interview with James Ellroy, writer  of L.A. Confidential (World Guide)
    -INTERVIEW : Who killed Jean Ellroy? (Allen Barra, Interview)
    -INTERVIEW : Call Me Dog : An interview with James Ellroy by Paul Duncan  (Richmond Review)
    -INTERVIEW : SPLICEDwire: James Ellroy interview
    -INTERVIEW : (John Krewson , The Onion)
    -INTERVIEW:   James Ellroy  "Noir is a simple view. I've taken it as far as it can go."  (Beatrice)
    -INTERVIEW:   James Ellroy  "This book was ordained even before I saw my mother's file..  (Beatrice)
    -INTERVIEW : Underworld USA : James Ellroy talks (Kristine McKenna, LA Weekly)
    -CHAT TRANSCRIPT : James Ellroy (
    -PROFILE :  JAMES ELLROY (1948-) (Guardian Unlimited uk)
    -PROFILE : THE REAL PULP FICTION : James Ellroy calls his rude, violent, breakthrough novel American Tabloid a "sewer crawl" through history. His own life has been no walk in the park (PAUL GRAY, April 10, 1995, TIME)
    -Ellroy Confidential
    -Ellroy, James (altculture)
    -James Ellroy (Notes in the Margin)
    -James Ellroy links - The Mysterious Home Page
    -ARCHIVES : "Ellroy" (Salon)
    -ARCHIVES : "Ellroy" (NY Review of Books)
    -ARCHIVES : "James Ellroy" (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES : Demon Dog Central : James Ellroy resources at The Richmond Review and beyond
    -LINKS :   James Ellroy (Guardian Unlimited)
    -REVIEW : of BLACK DAHLIA by James Ellroy (1987) (Betsy Brown, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of BLACK DAHLIA by James Ellroy (1987) (Newgate Callendar, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Black Dahlia (Mystery Guide)
    -REVIEW : of THE BIG NOWHERE By James Ellroy (1988) (Sarah Schulman, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Crime Wave Reportage and Fiction From the Underside of L.A. By James Ellroy (1999) (Charles Salzberg, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of My Dark Places An L.A. Crime Memoir. By James Ellroy (1996) (MICHIKO KAKUTANI, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of My Dark Places An L.A. Crime Memoir. By James Ellroy (1996) (Bruce Jay Friedman , NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of My Dark Places (Charles Taylor , Salon)
    -REVIEW : of My Dark Places (Dominique Baldy, The Guardian )
    -REVIEW : of My Dark Places (The I)
    -REVIEW : of My Dark Places (New Statesman,  Carole Angier)
    -REVIEW : of My Dark Places (Charles Wyrick, Book Page)
    -REVIEW : of American Tabloid (Complete Review)
    -REVIEW : of AMERICAN TABLOID By James Ellroy (1995) (JANET MASLIN , NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of AMERICAN TABLOID By James Ellroy (William T. Vollmann, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : May 11, 1995 Luc Sante: Low Lifes, NY Review of Books
       American Tabloid by James Ellroy
    -REVIEW : of American Tabloid (Mystery Guide)
    -REVIEW : of American Tabloid (Richard Pendleton, Spike)
    -REVIEW : of WHITE JAZZ By James Ellroy (1992) (Wendy Lesser, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : Crime Wave by James Ellroy (Frances Fyfield, booksonline uk)
    -REVIEW : of Crime Wave (Greg Bottoms, Gadfly)
    -REVIEW : of The Cold Six Thousand by James Ellroy (Tom Cox, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of Cold Six Thousand (Chris Lehmann, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of The Cold Six Thousand (Independent uk)
    -REVIEW : of The Cold Six Thousand (Edward Helmore, The Age)
    -BOOK LIST : Hard Boiled : Five great noir novels from the post-Chandler generations : The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy  (David Bowman, Salon)
    -BOOK LIST : Gritty city : The author of "One Woman Short" and "Hip Hop America" picks five great urban books : White Jazz by James Ellroy (Nelson George, Salon)

    -FILMOGRAPHY : James Ellroy (Imdb)
    -PROFILE : WATCHING MOVIES WITH / CURTIS HANSON :  Curtis Hanson: A Dark Lesson in Trust (RICK LYMAN, NY Times)
    -PROFILE : BLOOD & THUNDER : Cult Mystery Author JAMES ELLROY's Tough, Bloody Vision at Last Makes It to the Screen With Warner Bros.' "L.A. CONFIDENTIAL"
(Ray Greene, Box Office Online)
    -REVIEW : of LA Confidential (Rob Blackelder, Spliced)

    -The Black Dahlia Web Site
    -Black Dahlia (Crime Library)

Recommended books by James Ellroy :
    -Brown s Requiem (1981)
    -The Big Nowhere (1988)
    -LA Confidential (1994)
    -American Tabloid (1996)
    -My Dark Places : An L.A. Crime Memoir (1997)