Review: The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy


Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Cornerstone Digital, 2011. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 1449 KB. Print Length: 340 pages. First published in 1987 by Mysterious Press. ASIN: B005R2103W. ISBN: 9781446492642.

My contribution to Crimes of the Century, this month the chosen year was #1987.

getimage.aspxThe Black Dahlia, the first novel in the L. A. Quartet, is freely inspired on a true story. On 15th January 1947, the mutilated body of a beautiful young woman was found in a vacant lot in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, California. Forensic analysis determined that the victim, Elizabeth Short, had been tortured for days. A journalist gave her the nickname The Black Dahlia, in reference to the film The Blue Dahlia directed by George Marshall, starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, premiered only a few months before, and because of the victim’s habit to dress herself in black. Short’s murder remains unsolved to date and is one of the most famous unsolved murders in American history. 

The story is told in the first person from the perspective of Bucky Bleichert, a former boxer turned into policeman. During the first pages he tells how he joined the police and his first encounter with Lee Blanchard whom, to begin with, was his opponent in a boxing match. Shortly after Blanchard  becomes his patrol partner and ends up being his best friend. The reader will get to know  the role played by Kay Lake, Lee’s live-in-girlfriend and the relationship that is established between them three. One day, following the track of a rapist, they run into the scene of a crime and Bleichert sees the naked and mutilated body of Elisabeth Short. Although they do not belong to Homicide, both will be transferred to this case. Lee Blanchard becomes obsessed with The Black Dahlia and Bucky Bleichert believes this is because Lee’s sister was murdered when Blanchard was just a kid.

The Black Dahlia is the first book I’ve read by James Ellroy. I was very much interested in reading his L.A. Quartet novels, and thanks to Rich Westwood’s meme, Crimes of the Century, I have had finally the chance to begin reading the first one. A book that I liked very much and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the novels in the Quartet. Particularly I’ve enjoyed his sober prose and his gritty and realistic writing style. Certainly, It’s not a novel suitable for all sensitivities, occasionally, you may find yourself out of your comfort zone. But in a nutshell, it’s an excellent book superbly written. A must read if you like the ‘noir’ sub-genre and an impressive recreation of the times in which the story unfolds that I strongly recommend.

The Black Dahlia was adapted for a film of the same name by director Brian De Palma in 2005 and released in 2006. It was, however, a critical and commercial failure, with the consensus being that it had been poorly made and acted, and at times appeared incoherent. The latter fault may have been caused by De Palma’s drastic editing of the finished product, which initially ran for three hours and eventually cut down to two.

James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. His L.A. Quartet novels— The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz—have won numerous awards and are international bestsellers. His novel American Tabloid was Time magazine’s Novel of the Year for 1995; his memoir, My Dark Places, was a Time Best Book and a New York Times Notable Book for 1997. His novel The Cold Six Thousand was a New York Times Notable Book in 2001. His most recent novel, Perfidia, published in September 2014, is the first book in his Second L.A. Quartet. The design of this series is unprecedented. Ellroy takes characters from the original L.A. Quartet and the Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy and places them in Los Angeles during World War II as significantly younger people.

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

The Random House Group

James Ellroy Homepage 

James Ellroy on The Black Dahlia – Guardian book club

John Mullan on The Black Dahlia – Guardian book club

James Ellroy on The Black Dahlia – books podcast

La dalia negra de James Ellroy

19574g La dalia negra, la primera novela del Cuarteto de Los Ángeles, está inspirada libremente en una historia real. El 15 de enero de 1947, el cuerpo mutilado de una mujer joven fue encontrado en un solar vacío en Leimert Park, Los Ángeles, California. El análisis forense determinó que la víctima, Elizabeth Short, había sido torturada durante días. Un periodista la bautizó como La dalia negra, en referencia a la película La dalia azul dirigida por George Marshall, protagonizada por Alan Ladd y Veronica Lake, estrenada sólo unos meses antes, y debido a la costumbre de la víctima a vestirse de negro. El asesinato de Short sigue sin resolverse hasta la fecha y es uno de los crímenes más famosos sin resolver en la historia de los Estados Unidos.

La historia está narrada en primera persona desde el punto de vista de Bucky Bleichert, un ex boxeador convertido en policía. Durante las primeras páginas se explica cómo se unió a la policía y su primer encuentro con Lee Blanchard quien, para empezar, fue su oponente en un combate de boxeo. Poco después Blanchard se convierte en su compañero de patrulla y termina siendo su mejor amigo. El lector también podrá conocer el papel que desempeña Kay Lake, la novia de Lee, y la relación que se establece entre ellos tres. Un día, siguiendo la pista de un violador, se encuentran con la escena de un crimen y Bleichert ve el cuerpo desnudo y mutilado de Elisabeth Short. A pesar de que no pertenecen a homicidios, ambos serán transferidos a este caso. Lee Blanchard se obsesiona con La dalia negra y Bucky Bleichert cree que esto se debe a que la hermana de Lee fue asesinada cuando Blanchard era sólo un niño.

La dalia negra es el primer libro que he leído de James Ellroy. Yo estaba muy interesado en la lectura de su Cuarteto de Los Ángeles, y gracias al meme de Rich Westwood, Crimes of the Century, he tenido por fin la oportunidad de empezar a leer la primera. Un libro que me ha gustado mucho y estoy deseando leer el resto de las novelas del Cuarteto. Particularmente he disfrutado con su prosa sobria y su estilo descarnado y realista. Ciertamente, no es una novela apta para todas las sensibilidades, de vez en cuando, puede que usted se encuentre fuera de su zona de confort. Pero en pocas palabras, es un excelente libro magníficamente escrito. Una lectura obligada si le gusta el sub-género ‘noir’ y una impresionante recreación de la época en que se desarrolla la historia que recomiendo encarecidamente.

La dalia negra fue adaptada al cine con el mismo título por el director Brian De Palma en el 2005 y estrenada en el 2006. Fue, sin embargo, un fracaso de crítica y público, siendo el consenso que estaba mal hecha, los actores no eran los adecuados y en ocasiones éra poco coherente. Este último fallo puede haber sido causado por la drástica  edición de De Palma del producto acabado, que de las tres horas inicales finalmente se quedaron en dos.

James Ellroy nació en 1948 en Los Ángeles, ciudad que le ha servido como telón de fondo de su narrativa. Es uno de los grandes escritores de novela negra contemporánea, y su trabajo es deudor de la tradición iniciada por Hammett y Chandler. Gracias al crudo retrato que hace de la Norteamérica racista y conservadora, recibe el sobrenombre de “Perro rabioso de las letras norteamericanas”. Varias de su novelas han sido consideradas libro del año por medios como Time, The New York Times y Los Angeles Times. Su última novela, Perfidia, publicada en septiembre de 2014, es el primer libro de su Segundo Cuarteto de Los Ángeles. El diseño de esta serie no tiene precedentes. Ellroy toma personajes del Cuarteto original y de su Trilogía Americana y los sitúa en Los Ángeles durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial cuando son significativamente más jóvenes.

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Ediciones B

14 thoughts on “Review: The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

  1. Agreed, PastOffences! His life could so easily have seen him end up in prison. I had huge admiration for his unstinting honesty in that book. I’m a huge Ellroy fan, including this book – thanks for the useful links Jose – which I read before the film came out – I’ve yet to see it, but it is on the Sky+ box waiting…I’d have to say my favourite novels of Ellroy personally are American Tabloid and (of course) the sublime LA Confidential, the film of which is one of my favourite movies ever. I’ve had Perfidia on an ARC since before it’s release, but it’s a big book and will take me ages, so I’ll keep it for post-Bloody Scotland and when it starts to get a bit darker at night. He is an author you have to be in the right frame of mind to read – his sharp staccato style takes a bit of getting used to, but once you’re used to it, you are immersed in his world. Jose, I don’t know if you’ve ever read David Peace’s Red Riding Quartet, set in Yorkshire – 1974, 1977, 1980, 1983 – but they are also fantastic – grim, but wonderful. You do have to read them in order though. There was also an excellent TV adaptation a few years ago in the UK and it’s definitely worth seeking out if you enjoy the books. Sorry for nattering on but I think Ellroy’s best work should be far more widely read than it appears to be! Thanks Jose, and Rich, I’ll pop over soon and see what’s on the agenda in August at PastOffences.

  2. I enjoyed your review, Jose. Not sure why, but I’ve never read Ellroy. I’ll have to remedy that at some point as the LA Quartet sounds just my type of thing (and I’m a fan of the film LA Confidential).

  3. I saw him speak in Lyon – he is quite the showman, almost a parody of himself, but very charismatic – and he explained that his staccato style emerged in his first novel because the editor told him his wordcount was too high and he had to cut out some of the storylines. He was unwilling to do that, so instead he cut out all the adjectives, adverbs, connectors, even verbs… He was half-joking, but I think part of it was true.

    1. I’m so jealous Marina – he’s one author I’d love to hear speak! I’ll have to hope he comes to Edinburgh for a future book festival, I guess. I’d make the 300 mile round trip (everywhere’s quite far from here; that’s not excessive!)

  4. Pingback: ‘Answering machines feature hugely’ – #1987book round-up | Past Offences Classic Crime Fiction

  5. Pingback: July 2015 Round-Up and Pick of the Month | The Game's Afoot

  6. Pingback: Meme: New to me Authors July to September 2015 | A Crime is Afoot

  7. Pingback: Favourite Books 2015 | A Crime is Afoot

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s