Friday, March 6, 2009

The Black Dahlia -- Book Review

Officially, the 1% Well-Read Challenge has finished for 2008 -- I am finishing up my last book now and look forward to selecting my new list for 2009/10 sometime in the next week. Sign-ups for the next year are ongoing right now, so if you'd like to pick 10 books from the 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die list, you can be 1% more well-read too. (Note: A new list was published in the middle of last year's challenge -- I'm adopting the new list for 2009/10).

I've loved exercise of reading books I probably would never have picked up if not for the, The Black Dahlia.

The Black Dahlia was published in 1987 and is a crime fiction based on the unsolved Hollywood murder of Elizabeth Short in 1947. It is a dark novel, portraying a corrupted time period in Hollywood's history when the crime fighters were oftentimes the crime dealers. The protagonist, Bucky Bleichert, is an ex-prize fighter and cop in the Los Angeles police department, who struggles to contain his fists and his sexuality at many times while trying to solve this sick and heinous murder crime. His mental overinvolvement in the case, the betrayals of his partner and others that he trusts to be superior, all give this story line lots of twists and turns.

If crime fiction and murder mysteries are your interest, this novel is extremely well-written and puts forth a heck of a tale -- if you can make it through the violence, sex and drugs. Unbelievable. Crime noir in every sense of the word.

I can appreciate the book, but it's just not my thing. It's just a little dark and pessimistic for this Rosy Sunshine. It gets even weirder at the end of the book, when James Ellroy, the author, in an Afterword, describes how the murder of his mother when he was 10 and the murder of Elizabeth Short conjoined for him in writing this novel. His mother was attractive and promiscuous and paralleled the life of Elizabeth Short in many ways...And she was brutally raped and murdered in 1958. Ellroy writes:

Her death corrupted my imagination. My reading focus turned to crime stories. My father bought me Jack Webb’s book The Badge for my eleventh birthday. It contained a piece on the Black Dahlia murder. Jean Hilliker [his mother] and Betty Short—one in transmogrification.

I could not openly grieve for Jean. I could grieve for Betty. I could divert the shame of incestuous lust to a safe lust-object. I could dismiss Jean with a child’s callous heart and grant a devotional love to Betty.

I don't want to spoil it for you but, oh boy, there is a lot to talk about. It would make a great book club book -- but not if your book club is faint of heart.


Carol said...

You take on the book is interesting and well explained. I read it several years ago. I have since seen the son on a crime tv type update, which made the story even more weird. Amazing how they covered crimes up so long ago. With investigative reporters and papparazzi, its hard to do these days, don't you think?

Allison Ann Aller said...

I think the son (author) is especially brave to bring all this out into the open. I think he would have gone crazy otherwise.
Good review!

Marty52 said...

Good review; however, I think I'll pass. I like my books the way I like my movies, with a happy ending! Reading is my escapism and it has to be beautifully written and not depressing. Life alone can be depressing, I sure don't need it in my escapes from reality!

Heather J. said...

Yeah, this is one of the books on the 1,001 Books List that I have no intention of ever reading. You're quite brave for having tackled it ... I avoid "true crime" stories like the plague.

Congrats on finishing the challenge! Did you post the links to your reviews on the challenge blog yet?

Judy S. said...

Years ago I saw LA Connection which I think is based on one of Ellroy's books....also violent and a portrayal of corruption. Just noticed that I have Blad Dahlia on my shelf.... but I much prefer fictional mysteries. And I really have a tough time with visual violence. Congrats on finishing the Challenge and your excellent reviews!

Debra said...

I saw the movie and that was as far as I wanted to go with the story. I'm proud of you for finishing up the challenge!

karenfae said...

I have read that book and liked it. It was weird - liked a movie that was based on the book also.

Eva said...

i am still waiting for a crime book that would sweep me off my feet. crime and detective fiction are the ony genres i don't enjoy, but i am always willing to give them another chance. i have joined the challenge thanks to your link. it's going to be great!

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