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The Black Dahlia Paperback – April 1, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 325 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press (April 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446674362
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446674362
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (239 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #695,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Based on a notorious, unsolved Los Angeles murder case, the central drama of this hard-boiled mystery--set in the late 1940s--begins when the body of Elizabeth Short, an engagingly beautiful and promiscuous woman in her 20s, is discovered in a vacant lot, 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 L.A.P.D. cops, narrator Bucky Bleichert and his partner, Lee Blanchard, both ex-boxers who also are best friends and in love with the same woman. Despite a huge effort by the department, leads seem to go nowhere, and Bucky is mortified when he inadvertently helps to suppress evidence--the apparently innocuous fact that a woman he spends many nights with, casually bisexual Madeleine Sprague, daughter of a crooked real-estate tycoon, knew "the Dahlia" and slept with her once. Bucky begins to fear for his future, but slowly and dangerously, he learns that his is one of the tamest crimes of corruption committed by the many people he knows. Building like a symphony, this is a wonderful, complicated but accessible tale of ambition, insanity, passion and deceit, with the perfect settingof booming, postwar Los Angeles.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Using the basic facts concerning the 1940s' notorious and yet unsolved Black Dahlia case, Ellroy creates a kaleidoscope of human passion and dark obsession. A young woman's mutilated body is found in a Los Angeles vacant lot. The story is seen through the eyes of Bucky Bleichert, ex-prize fighter and something of a boy wonder on the police force. There is no relief or humor as Bleichert arrives at a grisly discovery. Ellroy's powerful rendering of the long-reaching effects of murder gives the case new meaning. This should be a major book for
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

I literally could not put the book down and read it in one day.
Chris Keener
Also, there are way too many coincidences that really make it difficult to suspend disbelief even with a strong effort.
Vingilot
This is an excellent story that is a perfect balance of character and plot.
PSK

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

178 of 187 people found the following review helpful By Bob Carpenter on December 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
James Ellroy's "The Black Dahlia" is almost too dark, too gripping and too believable. It stands out among a crowd of mysteries (sub-genre police procedural) as simply a great novel. Most mysteries I put down and forget that I've read them. The characters from Ellroy's noir vision of L.A. in the late 1940s and early 1950s are indelibly etched in my mind, as is Ellroy's characterization of the period and location itself. This is the most visceral book I've ever read.
I picked up this book myself from Partners and Crime's Top 100 shelf (P&C is an awesome mystery bookstore in Manhattan's Greenwich Village). I loaned my copy to a friend, who gave it back to me a week later and said he didn't want to read the rest of the series or any other mystery novel again in his life -- this one was perfect and anything else would just ruin his ability to savor "The Black Dahlia". I loaned it to a second friend who finished it in a week, and then went out and bought the complete Ellroy ouevre. This is not a one-night read unless you have strong eyes, strong coffee, heroic concentration and an iron will.
If you get a chance, hear Ellroy read from these books in person.
Sequencing Ellroy's books is tough, because they're all similar in terms of time frame, setting, and characters. The L.A. trilogy plus one is:
* 1947: The Black Dahlia
* 1950: The Big Nowhere
* 1951: L. A. Confidential
* 1958: White Jazz
Dudley Smith also appears in Ellroy's second novel, "Clandestine", set in 1951.
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56 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Stephen McLeod on August 31, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This first novel in the much-praised "L.A. Quartet" is one of the great American works of art. Up there with Twain, Fitzgerald, Chandler, Hammett and Hemingway. "Dark" is too bright a word for Ellroy's fiction. Another reviewer called Ellroy "the Caravaggio of modern fiction." That says it all.
In the "Dahlia", a real woman named Betty Short, whose butchered corpse appeared in a vacant lot one morning in real-life L.A. circa 1947, Ellroy found his essential enigma and his battering muse. This famous, unsolved murder victim becomes in the novel, a terrifying emblem for his own oedipal quest, a quest that he fearlessly explored in his memoir *My Dark Places*. It is a work of genius, and we are all the richer for it. Its scope is epic. Its tone is sharpened ebony. Nothing in Ellroy's previous novels prepares you for this. It is also a book that repays multiple readings. It's only outdone by each subsequent novel. Full-blown addiction is the only way I can describe my response to Ellroy's fiction. It will jazz you and haunt you and inhabit your dreams.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
Back in the mid-1980's, The Black Dahlia was the first James Ellroy novel that I had ever read. I have since become a huge fan, reading everything he has written, including a personal account of his own mother's murder, My Dark Places. My admiration for Mr. Ellroy as an author is unparalleled. Nowhere is his genius for capturing the noir era/LAPD corruption/tarnished Tinseltown of Los Angeles more evident than in The Black Dahlia. This densely plotted tale expertly exposes the gritty, seamy side of post-war Los Angeles. He also writes it like an homage to its victim, Elizabeth Short, whose murderer is unknown to this day. She was the classic Hollywood victim. To his credit, Mr. Ellroy does not shy away from exposing the brutal hypocrisy of Hollywood in the 1940's and 1950's. Mr. Ellroy's books are not for the squeamish; his blunt, staccato-like dialogue can be somewhat off-putting. Anyone, however, interested in a writer who delivers a story packed with interesting characters and an intricate plot, The Black Dahlia - along with Mr. Ellroy's other novels - is the choice for you.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Black Dahlia is a crime thriller based upon a famous case in the 1940's. A Hollywood starlet named Elizabeth Short was found dead and hideously mutilated in a vacant lot. This case was never solved but has fascinated criminal investigators and the public ever since.

Ellroy's novel is told from the viewpoint of an ex-boxer, Bucky Bleichert, who joins the police force and ends up investigating the Black Dahlia murder. Bucky becomes fascinated with the murder victim, as well as with femme fatale Madeline, the nymphomania heir of a corrupt real-estate dynasty. Bucky's partner is a rogue cop hyped on Benzedrine who seems to have more money than he should on a cop salary. Bucky falls for his partner's girl and socializes with them in an intimate triangle.

Ellroy's writing is flamboyant and edgy, using gritty cop lingo to describe the seamy underbelly of Hollywood. The story manages to reveal the twisted psychology of a cop on the edge, and the moral ambiguity of using violence to protect the peace. Bucky's emotional state is touchingly portrayed; a deep sadness and depression at his balancing act between sadism and masochism that plays out in every area of his life. Ellroy portrays the 1940's with clarity and wit, with all its beauty, glamour and pre-civil rights brutality. Highly recommended!
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By edijul@foothill.net on September 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
There I was you see, I walked into the book store, the whole place smelled like old moldy books. So I see this old broad behind the counter. Had a couple of miles on her, sort of like me. So I ask her, trying not to sound too stupid, "Do you have any Elway books?" She looked at me, smiled and said "who?". Elway, you know, wrote L.A.Confidential". She said "Oh, you mean Ellroy". She then walks over to the used paper back mystery section and said, "All I have by Ellroy is "The Black Dahlia". It's based on a murder that happened in L.A. a few years ago". So I picked my brain, thinking, " yeah I read something about this Ellroy guy in the newspaper a couple of years ago". So I buy the book, looks like it is on its last legs, pages are almost yellow and ready to fall out. I take the thing home, read the back cover, get an idea of the story and start to read it. Then after reading a few pages, I'm hooked. I'm turning page after page, my eyes feel like two hot burning coals. I'm sweating, my brain feels like it's been scooped out, slammed against the wall and it's oozing down like cauliflower mixed with vanilla yogurt. I feel like laying two raw pieces of pork chops alongside my head so I can cool off. I read this book in two days. My whole life came to a stop. Never did have a clue on how it would end; yeah there were little clues here and there, but my little pea-picking brain never picked them up. Now I says to myself, "this Ellroy guy can really write". Now I'm afraid to read any more of his books. I don't want my life to come to a stop again. I'm an old retired copper, read my share of mysterys in my day, but I've got stuff to do around the house, I can't just read all day. So be aware !Read more ›
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