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Publisher's Summary

On January 15, 1947, the tortured body of a beautiful young woman was found in a vacant lot in Hollywood. Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, a young Hollywood hopeful, had been brutally murdered. Her murder sparked one of the greatest manhunts in California history.

In this fictionalized treatment of a real case, Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard, both LA cops obsessed with the Black Dahlia, journey through the seamy underside of Hollywood to the core of the dead girl's twisted life.

©1987 James Ellroy (P)2006 Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Passionate, violent, frustrating...imaginative and bizarre." (Los Angeles Times)
"Ellroy's powerful rendering of the long-reaching effects of murder gives the case new meaning." (Library Journal)
"Building like a symphony, this is a wonderful, complicated but accessible tale of ambition, insanity, passion, and deceit, with the perfect setting of booming, postwar Los Angeles." (Publishers Weekly)

Featured Article: These Noir Listens Will Take You to the Dark Side of Fiction


What do you love most in your mystery listens? Is it dark, moody settings and gritty storylines? Is it morally ambiguous main characters with complex inner lives? If so, noir is your kind of fiction. As a literary genre, noir can be difficult to nail down because so much of it is based on a general feeling of darkness and danger. Noir fiction was inspired by film noir, and film noir traces its roots to hard-boiled detective novels. Check out the world of noir fiction audiobooks.

What listeners say about The Black Dahlia

Average Customer Ratings
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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Black Dahlia

I woudn't recommend this book for anyone who cannot handle violence in their literature . . . that being said, the book was very compelling and didn't just cover the tragedy of the murder of a young woman; it also gave us a look at the darkness of the lives of our main characters. Being able to get a picture of what drove the characters to be portrayed in the manner they were helped the book flow better and gave insight to their actions. After reading this book I was driven to do internet searches and learn more about the true crime that occured - I had never heard of the Black Dahlia before. I did feel a little lost in the final chapters of the book as I felt they skipped around a lot; however I did walk away from the story feeling like justice was served in the story (and hopefully in real life). I have recommended this book to several of my friends.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

An oddly compelling story

Filled with spooky noir nuances, outrageous storylines and complex characters, this is a don't miss book. That's not to say that it doesn't have it's flaws. There are some plot points that make very little sense, and some of the story is downright gory. However, as a whole, it makes for great listening, full of old Hollywood lore and 40's detective lingo.
I purchased and downloaded this well before the film release, fully intending to have it listened to before I saw the movie. I'm actually glad that I didn't read the book before the movie, because while the movie stands on it's own as entertainment, it is nothing next to the book. It's lengthy and requires your full attention, but I think you will find it's worth it.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Great naration

The book was very good, one of the better Audible listens in the two plus years that I've been a member. The narator deserves special mention: Without a doubt, the best naration of all the books I've listened to since joining Audible.

19 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

GREAT BOOK

Let me say I am a rabid fan of James Ellroy.
His genius is that he goes into his characters souls and he understands the human soul very well.
Be aware that his mother was murdered in much the same way The Dahlia was murdered. This should give you more insight into of his characters feelings for The Dahlia.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Entertaining.

I enjoyed this listen, but would strongly warn those easily offended by violence, racial slurs, bias, language, and the like to choose an alternative. That said, this novel takes some time getting started as a good deal of time is devoted to establishing main character back story, but upon the discovery of "The Dahlia," the plot snaps along without losing any momentum or quality. Sometimes depressing, sometimes outright funny, sometimes uplifting, this novel easily takes its rightful place within the Noir/Crime genre, and for those who enjoyed "L.A. Confidential," it is a sure bet. **Bonus author interview included wherein author identifies his thought processes and motivations associated with the writing of "The Black Dahlia."

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Enthralling

Ellroy's rendering of post-war LA and its cops and their culture enthralled me as much as anything in this very entertaining book. That, together with strong, full characters, a believable plot and well-pitched narration, make this one of my favorite selections so far.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great Read

Ellroy immerses you in postwar L.A. His writing is as close as one can get to a time machine. And, yes, his writing is about the characters' reacting to the Dahlia murders: good fiction -- even good crime fiction -- is always about character.

If only L.A. Confidential and The Big Sleep were available in unabridged versions. Ellroy simply can't be abridged/

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

captivating

loved it, captured my attention the way through. Any hard driven detective can relate, and this book showed me the noir history of Los Angeles, be that it's fictional it still maintained a truth of history.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Totally fiction except for who & how the girl was murdered

Thought there would be more accurate depictions of the detectives and people who knew the murdered girl. It’s all made up.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A Noir Gem

I’ve been a noir-aholic since 12 years old when I saw The Maltese Falcon on TCM for the first time. From there I gorged on classics like Murder, My Sweet and Kiss Me Deadly. It wasn’t until I was 15 and saw L.A. Confidential that I became the noir junkie I am today. Needless to say, James Ellroy is one of the greatest noir authors of all time as far as I’m concerned. He has an uncanny ability to take the tropes and characters from the noirs of yesteryear and place them in a dangerous and murky world all his own. He’s also unmatched in his ability to integrate real historical events and people into his stories and provide grounding and resonance to his books. Everything from the Zoot Suit Riots, The Hollywood Blacklist, the suspicion and eventual internment of Japanese Americans, and the real life tragic murder of Elizabeth Short all add context and personality to his books and help his characters and the world they inhabit seem three dimensional, real, and totally dangerous. Unfortunately, with that historical context comes all the naked bigotry, homophobia, and casual misogyny that was typical of the time so be prepared. However, I never felt like the prejudices of the time as exhibited by the characters are used cheaply or exploitatively. I think it’s there to reflect what the LAPD and society at large were unfortunately like at that time.
While L.A. Confidential is still my personal favorite Ellroy novel, I feel like The Black Dahlia might be his opus. It certainly seems like it’s his most personal. Ellroy has three undeniable talents all of which are on display here. One, he consistently writes characters you can’t help be consumed with. He knows what it’s like to be haunted by the damnable unknowns that plague a person who’s loved one was murdered or disappeared. The painful obsession and bottomless hunger for answers are vividly personified in his two main characters here and it’s practically impossible not to become consumed with it yourself. The second is his ability to make Los Angeles itself seem like a character of its own. LA isn’t just a setting in his books, it’s a living breathing entity. Third is his skill in playing with the noir genre itself. Yes, hard-boiled detectives, femme fatales, and crooked politicians all abound but I’d argue that Ellroy is the least predictable noir author of all time. A self-proclaimed noir-junkie like me can spot the twists and turns in a noir pretty easily after years of indulging my habit. It’s only with Ellroy however that I find I can’t see what’s coming next or where the next blow will fall and that is a rare talent indeed.
I don’t think The Black Dahlia is for everyone. There’s the aforementioned casual racism, sexism, and homophobia. There’s also no shortage of blood and guts (to say nothing of T&A). It’s also not the true crime story some might be expecting. If however you’re looking for a great mystery or you’re looking to indulge you’re own noir habit then please give The Black Dahlia a listen. I would also recommend the other stories in his L.A. Quarter trilogy : The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz. If you’d like some noir that’s lighter and funnier check out Noir: A Novel by Christopher Moore.

1 person found this helpful