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The Black Dahlia Mass Market Paperback – September 1, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Narrator Hoye firmly nails young world-weary cop Bucky Bleichert in this audio version of Ellroy's 1987 crime novel. The flawed boxer-turned-lawman becomes obsessed with L.A.'s notorious unsolved 1947 torture-murder case, as well as the secret life of his missing partner, Lee Blanchard. Hoye proves a fine match for Ellroy's hardboiled prose, shuttling easily between hard and soft tones, crystallizing Bleichert's mix of cynicism, confusion, hurt and rage. Set in booming postwar Los Angeles, this tale of ambition, deceit and obsession builds to symphonic proportions. Throughout, Hoye skillfully modulates his narration to distinctly render each character—corrupt cops, city officials, pimps, GIs, Mexican bar owners, prostitutes, society matrons and even the sound of a bullet piercing canvas. Hoye especially shines during heated police interrogations, able to shift his voice on a dime. The audio includes a new afterword from Ellroy, which might have delivered more punch had Ellroy read it himself. But in terms of this gritty, sprawling novel, Hoye was unquestionably the right man for the job.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Also like LA Confidential, the story is set within the LA Police Department, following two main characters, Bucky Bleichart and Lee Blanchard, through their investigations of a tortured and murdered young woman. There are no angels in the story -- Bleichart and Blanchard lead twisted lives on the point of breaking, and the victim, Elizabeth Short, was broken well before her murder.
The story follows obsessions. Neither Bleichart nor Blanchard is a homicide detective, but, in their own ways, neither can look away from the Short murder. Blanchard's girlfriend, Kay, is drawn into the story as well, with her own twisted and nearly broken background. As the story escalates, so do the obsessions, with a kind of apocalyptic feel for the lives of everyone involved. We follow Bleichart though one more dark layer after another, tied together by Blanchard's advice, "Cherchez la femme, Bucky. Remember that."
In a very revealing Afterword to the book, Ellroy himself describes the story as set among "psychically maimed misfits running from World War II." He also gives us insight into his own obsession with the story, based on a true event -- a story he felt compelled to tell because of his own dark experiences. It's really pretty dark all the way down, from the true event, to the author, to the novel itself.
The characters in the story are constantly tested, and many if not most fail. That's what makes the book both hard to take but also hard to look away from. It tests our baser instincts.
The storyline had so many highs and lows - twists and turns, especially near the end!
This book is a work of fiction, based on two murders, one famous murder of a young woman in California and another murder of the author' s own mother. It's not just a crime drama, it's a study of obsession, guilt and redemption.
As it turns out, "The Black Dahlia" is well written, a "page-turner", and mostly fascinating. I almost gave it only 4 stars because of the level of violence and excessively gory details, but the writing is strong enough to get past those objections. Still, after reading "The Black Dahlia", I'm reading a less violent novel before beginning "The Big Nowhere".
As others have said, this is a complete novel. It's complex. The plot weaves around and resolves well, if not in the best taste. The writing is crisp but not staccato. You can get details from other four or five star reviews.
So where is the difficult? It was, for this reviewer, in several areas. The first is the book is written in genuine 1940's American-ese which apparently used an utterly different idiom than modern American-ease. For example, what does it mean when a bunch of street bums 'wave their short dogs' at police? What is the 'high sign'? (No, it's not the middle finger salute - that made no sense in context).
All too often the author goes on for a few pages and then concludes with one of these obsolete sayings or doings meaning the naive reader would lose the entire meaning of those pages. I'd have liked to have seen a glossary.
The next issue is the motivation of the characters. None of them made any sense to me. I couldn't see real people behaving this way in reaction to events. Here's one small thing. The police mount a huge strike force to solve a murder but the investigation reveals the victim to be a nasty exploitative prostitute (for some reason, the author turned the real victim into this). I have a tough time believing that the 40's L.A. police would go all out for months to solve the murder of a prostitute.
Worse, the characters' reactions to this victim made little sense but no less sense than how they react to each other. That was all true until the afterward of this edition when the author revealed, in such frank detail, why he wrote as he wrote, that for a bit, I thought I was reading a suicide note. I had a tough time believing anybody could be so honest about his inner thoughts and then just go in with life, but the author did.
The afterward pulled the whole book together for me and suddenly, upon reading these last 15 or so pages, the previous 300 or so pages came into sharp focus.
Part procedural, part psycho drama literature and all superb. Highly recommended.