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0220 | The Black Dahlia – James Ellroy

Context: Read this as our landlady’s pumpkin decayed slowly in the garden.

Hard-hitting crime writing doesn’t come much better written than this. Ellroy takes up where writers like Chandler & Capote left off and rips 50 years off the genre in a story which is as complex pyschologically as it is graphic. Based on the true unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, if it’s your sort of thing, you’ll probably think this is the most amazing novel. It’s not really my thing and, although I did appreciate the writing style, the content was a bit gruesome for me.

Two policmen in LA, rival boxers and eventual partners, are drafted to help investigate the brutal murder of a woman. But there’s a lot more going on in the crime than at least one of the cops is aware of and, as the plot spirals out of control, so too do the characters as they attempt to cope.

Whereas Chandler wrote of events and Marlowe’s involvement in them, Ellroy has both the events and the inner thoughts and feelings of Bleichart well-described which gives this novel a holistic tension that earlier crime writing I’ve read seems to lack. Not only is there a mystery to solve out there in the real world but, deep inside the detective, there are deeper myseries afoot.

I can see how this novel has been influential. I couldn’t help thinking of films like Seven when reading it and how the crime takes over the lives of those investigating it.

But I can’t imagine why anyone would want to read this on a regular basis. It’s so stressful. I felt like I needed a break from this genre for a while before I’ll be relaxed enough to start over again.

I never knew her in life.

I asked Betty to grant me safe passage in return for my love.

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