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review 2016-07-30 18:41
The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
The Black Dahlia (L.A. Quartet #1) - James Ellroy

In theory, THE BLACK DAHLIA is a true-to-form noir that follows the recollections of a cop through his off-color criminal investigations and backroom police politics, punctuated by the one of the worst unsolved murders in American history.

In practice, it’s a sex fantasy that occasionally remembers it’s supposed to be a detective novel.

Whether or not the reader likes the book depends entirely on how much they connect with the main character, Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert, and his partner Lee Blanchard. Most of the book is devoted to how their rising star status in the LAPD and personal friendship is decimated by the Black Dahlia investigation. The case itself frequently takes a backseat to their disagreements, to the point where any generic murder victim could fill her role in the story. She’s a tool to showcase the effects of bringing personal baggage into a murder investigation, nothing else.

The hardboiled elements are the weakest parts of the book, as it tries too hard to harken back to the glitz and grime of classic noir. Between the aggressive nonstop slang, the dozens of noir archetypes played entirely straight, and the numerous crimes encountered by the lead characters, it felt like Ellroy wanted to shove every aspect of 50+ years of tradition into a single book. Many of the book’s set pieces never quite feel real despite their gritty portrayal, and it often requires the reader to have some working knowledge of 1940s Los Angeles to make sense. The hazy veneer of the narrative also works to the book’s disadvantage, as the pacing often feel meandering and disjointed.

Meanwhile, the objectification of the Dahlia herself is uncomfortable. Ellroy has always been forthcoming about his dark lust for Elizabeth Short, and he holds nothing back here. Even so, it’s one thing for a fictional noir character, such as Carmen Sternwood in THE BIG SLEEP, to be a promiscuous mentally ill girl, but it’s another to turn a real-life murder victim into a ravenous kinky sexpot. The “they didn’t publish all the facts in papers!” excuse only holds up so far, and it’s hard not to eye roll at scenes that are supposed to be taken seriously. Combined with the fact that the Dahlia murder isn’t even the central mystery of the book, and it comes off as shameless.

To THE BLACK DAHLIA’s credit, the writing between the discovery of Elizabeth Short’s body and the introduction of the femme fatale is fantastic, and shows how fifty years of hindsight benefit the noir format. The true crime aspect of the book likewise adds a layer of unpredictability: the question isn’t just a matter of whodunit, but why weren’t they ever apprehended? The plot twists, despite relying too much on hardboiled detective clichés, are well-thought out and rarely come off as contrived despite their nature. The quality of the writing shines through the book’s preceding flaws.

It might not be a good book about the Black Dahlia murder, but it’s a decent neo-noir at the end of the day.

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text 2016-07-29 02:01
Reading progress update: I've read 100% (The Black Dahlia)
The Black Dahlia (L.A. Quartet #1) - James Ellroy

TL;DR: "Local Cop Spends All Waking Hours Thinking About Screwing Dead Girl, is Screwed By Dead Girl."

 

Proper review to follow tomorrow-ish. Don't know how I feel about this one yet, but I completely understand why Hollywood gave the film adaptation to the director of SCARFACE. Yeesh.

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review 2016-06-05 07:40
The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy
The Black Dahlia - James Ellroy

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy is an intense, action-packed page turner.  Even though the unsolved murder case from the 1940's has received a lot of coverage, Ellroy's book brings it to life with beautifully drawn characters.  I  gave it five stars.

 

I purchased this on sale & read it in one sitting.  Bucky Bleichert & Lee Blanchard, ex-prize fighting boxers turned cops are now partners.  They explore this grisly torture killing.  It has far reaching consequences.  It is a haunting story.

 

"I never knew her in life.  She exists for me through others, in evidence of the ways her death drove them.  Working backwards, seeking only facts, I reconstructed her as a sad little girl & a whore, at best a could-have-been--a tag that could also be applied to me."

 

The language was rough but true to the times.

 

Link to purchase: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003BM9RCG

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text 2015-06-29 20:36
Meeting James Ellroy, Back in April...
The Black Dahlia - James Ellroy

James Ellroy... Have you heard about him? I hear many ´Nos´... But you've heard about ¨L.A.Confidential¨? Of course you have! So, he´s the guy who has written it. Yep. It´s based on a book!

 


 

James Ellroy is a self-proclaimed king of literature. ¨Who wants to read Marquez, Cortazar or Herta Muller? But they all read me!¨. He seems to repeat it whenever he gives an interview. And listening to him at Gutun Zuria (Literature Festival in Bilbao, April 2015), I couldn't help but ask myself if he really believes it. I've read Marquez, Cortazar and Muller. And I´m just half-way through my first novel by Ellroy... After all, he admits he doesn't read critics of his works, nor does he use internet. How detached from reality is he? Not long ago I wouldn't even recognize Ellroy's name. Yes, I knew the films, but never heard about the author... Dressed in a trench and Hawaiian shirt he seems one of the characters from his own novels.

 

He likes to call himself ¨pit-bull of literature¨, but at times he seems more of a clown. In the middle of the talk I realize it all is just an act. He sells himself and he does it well, there are many impressed by his carefully built character. Everything is well measured. He talks about his mother´s murder, absent father, his married lover, women in his life. But how much of that is real? He doesn't hesitate to share some gore facts from his childhood, but he gets angry when asked about other authors.

 

So: what kind of person is James Ellroy? Unimpressed by his act on the stage, I put myself in a line to sign a book. Yes, the one i still haven't finished. ¨Black Dahlia¨, I have to say it´s good. Not just a cheap crime novel, but a social analysis hidden behind the crime story. Very vivid descriptions of Los Angeles in the 1940's make it an ambitious novel.

 

The familiar excitement sets in: I´m going to talk to an author, to someone who creates fictional worlds and makes a living out of it, my personal kind of hero... Fishing the paperback out of my bag I feel momentary ashamed for not buying a hardcover, hoping the pit-bull part is not going to be the real one. And you know what? James Ellroy in person is nothing like James Ellroy on the stage. He's actually NICE! Open and friendly doesn't hesitate to take a selfie with me (my first ever!) and he patiently answers my questions. He seems genuinely interested in a short conversation we have, while he signs my copy of ¨Black Dahlia¨. Asked about some advice for an aspiring author, he says: ¨Just write. Don't question yourself. Write. The huge probability is, it's no good. Not what you write, not what I write. But don't think about it: write. You´re never gonna know if what you write is really good. I don't!¨. Huh! I knew it! All was just an act and in front of me stands a real human being, modest and unsure, but determined to succeed. 

 

I come out from the meeting happy and sure I will not only finish ¨Black Dahlia¨, but read his other works. Because James Ellroy is not a pit-bull, not a clown, he´s just a very good writer selling his works in a world where books need some crazy promotion to be noticed.

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text 2015-06-01 18:04
May Reads & roundup
The Devil Gave Them Black Wings - Lee Thompson
The Hanover Block - Gregor Xane
The Black Dahlia - James Ellroy
The Jigsaw Man - Gord Rollo
The Library of the Dead - Michael Bailey,Michael Bailey,Erinn L. Kemper,Gary A. Braunbeck,Sydney Leigh,Gene O'Neill,Yvonne Navarro,Mary SanGiovanni,Brian Keene,Chris Marrs,Roberta Lannes,Kealan Patrick Burke,J.F. Gonzalez,Weston Ochse,Lucy A. Snyder,Christopher Golden,Tim Lebbon,R
Pennies for the Damned - Edward Lorn
Heaven's Prisoners - James Lee Burke
No One Gets Out Alive - Adam Nevill
When We Join Jesus In Hell - Lee Thompson
Light in August (The Corrected Text) - William Faulkner

A cracking month for getting back on track as regards my yearly target, I'm now 7 books ahead of the game after reading one or two novellas and short stories. A mixed month with quality including two of the worst books I've ever read and one of the best in William Faulkner's Light in August. I've smashed last months 18 with a solid 26 in May but you might say there's a bit of cheating in there with short stories but hey, they all count in my book. 

 

As per usual I'm a few reviews behind but working on them as we speak and I'm coming up to one year on booklikes at the end of June. So I've got a brilliant idea for a give-away and if you like Craig Saunders then watch out.

 

 

  1. Gregor Xane – The Riggle Twins (4*)
  2. The Sun Dog – Stephen King (4.5*)
  3. Lee Thompson - The Devil Gave Them Black Wings (4.5*)
  4. Gregor Xane – The Hanover Block (4*)
  5. John Everson - Violet Lagoon (3.5*)
  6. Craig Saunders – Insulation(4*)
  7. James Ellroy – The Black Dahlia(4*)
  8. Gord Rollo – Jigsaw Man (3.5*)
  9. Jack Lance – Pyrophobia (3*)
  10. The Library of the Dead anthology(4*)
  11. John C Foster – Dead Men (1*)
  12. Edward Lorn – Pennies for the damned (4*)
  13. Sam West - Dreamworld: Extreme Horror (2*)
  14. James Lee Burke - Heaven's Prisoners (4*)
  15. Adam Nevill – No one gets out Alive (4*)
  16. Lee Thompson - When We Join Jesus In Hell (5*) reread
  17. Iain Rob Wright – K is for Klutz (2.5*)
  18. Michael Blumlein - The Brains of Rats (3.5*)
  19. Brian Keene – The Rising (4.5*)
  20. William Faulkner - Light in August (5*)
  21. Iain Rob Wright – J is for Jaws(2.5*)
  22. Michael Burnside - Not Another Bloody Zombie Story (1*)
  23. Michaelbrent Collings – Strangers (4.5*)
  24. Iain Rob Wright - Slasher: the Escape of Richard Heinz(3*)
  25. William Todd Rose - Bleedovers: A Dystopian Novella (3.5*)
  26. Carlton Mellick III – Clownfellas (3.5*)
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