The Black Dahlia – Review

The best part about reading, is being able to time travel all over the world through all different time periods and eras. Last week, I was in 19th Century Bath, England chasing after ghosts and falling in love. This week I spent my time in Hollywood, CA in the 1940’s pre and post WW2 hunting down a sadistic killer.

The Black Dahlia The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy is a very grisly, graphic and disturbing book. But I still enjoyed it immensely. The novel starts off with two former boxers now policemen, duking it out for a crowd to corral moral support from the city voters in order to procure a raise for the entire LAPD. Ellroy writes in a fast-paced, somewhat jumpy style with lots of police jargon. There is a lot of derogatory and racist terminology sprinkled throughout the novel, and almost no one is innocent or the “good-guy”, particularly the women. Then again, this is the police-world and the police usually deal with crooks, pimps and prostitutes, in a big city. The racist words, although jarring, were probably abundantly used back then, so it helps keep the plot in its time-frame. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the same terminology still pops up in modern police life in this decade. But to be fair, I found Ellroy to be somewhat misanthropic across the board, and not towards any specific race or gender as other reviewers have claimed.

The story centers around Lee Blanchard and Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert coming upon the mutilated and tortured body of Elizabeth Short, nicknamed The Black Dahlia by the media. While neither man was completely mentally or emotionally stable when the novel begins, the Dahila cases engulfs their lives and takes both men into a downward spiral of sex, booze and corruption, all in the name of finding Dahlia’s killer. Bleichert is easily the protagonist in the novel, and despite his faults and slip-ups, he wears his heart on his sleeve knows when to separate the good guys from the bad guys. Pschologically he shifts back and forth between “moral” and “immoral” finding a center of gravity in Kay Lake, Lee’s girlfriend and former mob-moll. Although no character is endearing, all the characters stick with you after you put the book down.

The storyline is full of twists and turns and exciting new characters that you loath immediately, but still want to know more about. There is great character development, even though it feels more like de-evolution as we learn that what people project is not necessarily genuine of their actual being. Everyone in this novel has dark skeletons in the closet and something to be ashamed of. Its a dark look inside morality, psychology and what is considered “right” and “wrong” among various ethnicities and social classes. No one is perfect, no one is good, but some people do try, and that is a true reflection of the world.


The Black Dahlia
by James Ellroy
Warner Books, 1987
ISBN 0446618128
358 pages

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3 responses to “The Black Dahlia – Review

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