The Black Dahlia (L.A. Quartet #1)

The Black Dahlia (L.A. Quartet #1)

by James Ellroy

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reprint)

View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, April 2


The Black Dahlia is a roman noir on an epic scale: a classic period piece that provides a startling conclusion to America's most infamous unsolved murder mystery—the murder of the beautiful young woman known as The Black Dahlia.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446618120
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 09/28/2006
Series: L.A. Quartet Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 89,345
Product dimensions: 4.15(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

The winner of numerous awards and accolades, Lee Earle "James" Ellroy is one of the most acclaimed mystery authors writing today. He is best known for his L. A. Quartet novels (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L. A. Confidential, and White Jazz), two of which were adapted into movies. The Black Dahlia was based in part on the unsolved real-life murder of his mother when Ellroy was 10 years old. He is also the author of Perfidia, the Underworld USA series, and his memoir My Dark Places, among others.

Read an Excerpt

The Black Dahlia

By James Ellroy


Copyright © 1987 James Ellroy
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-69887-3

Chapter One

The road to the partnership began without my knowing it, and it was a revival of the Blanchard-Bleichert fight brouhaha that brought me the word.

I was coming off a long tour of duty spent in a speed trap on Bunker Hill, preying on traffic violators. My ticket book was full and my brain was numb from eight hours of following my eyes across the intersection of 2nd and Beaudry. Walking through the Central muster room and a crowd of blues waiting to hear the P.M. crime sheet, I almost missed Johnny Vogel's, "They ain't fought in years, and Horrall outlawed smokers, so I don't think that's it. My dad's thick with the Jewboy, and he says he'd try for Joe Louis if he was white."

Then Tom Joslin elbowed me. "They're talking about you, Bleichert."

I looked over at Vogel, standing a few yards away, talking to another cop. "Hit me, Tommy."

Joslin smiled. "You know Lee Blanchard?"

"The Pope know Jesus?"

"Ha! He's working Central Warrants."

"Tell me something I don't know."

"How's this? Blanchard's partner's topping out his twenty. Nobody thought he'd pull the pin, but he's gonna. The Warrants boss is this felony court DA, Ellis Loew. He got Blanchard his appointment, now he's looking for a bright boy to take over the partner's spot. Word is he creams for fighters andwants you. Vogel's old man's in the Detective Bureau. He's simpatico with Loew and pushing for his kid to get the job. Frankly, I don't think either of you got the qualifications. Me, on the other hand ..

I tingled, but still managed to come up with a crack to show Joslin I didn't care."Your teeth are too small. No good for biting in the clinches. Lots of clinches working Warrants."

* * *

But I did care.

That night I sat on the steps outside my apartment and looked at the garage that held my heavy bag and speed bag, my scrapbook of press clippings, fight programs and publicity stills. I thought about being good but not really good, about keeping my weight down when I could have put on an extra ten pounds and fought heavyweight, about fighting tortilla-stuffed Mexican middleweights at the Eagle Rock Legion Hall where my old man went to his Bund meetings. Light heavyweight was a no-man's-land division, and early on I pegged it as being tailor-made for me. I could dance on my toes all night at 175 pounds, I could hook accurately to the body from way outside and only a bulldozer could work in off my left jab.

But there were no light heavyweight bulldozers, because any hungry fighter pushing 175 slopped up spuds until he made heavyweight, even if he sacrificed half his speed and most of his punch. Light heavyweight was safe. Light heavyweight was guaranteed fifty-dollar' purses without getting hurt. Light heavyweight was plugs in the Times from Braven Dyer, adulation from the old man and his Jew-baiting cronies and being a big cheese as long as I didn't leave Glassell Park and Lincoln Heights. It was going as far as I could as a natural-without having to test my guts.

Then Ronnie Cordero came along.

He was a Mex middleweight out of El Monte, fast, with knockout power in both hands and a crablike defense, guard high, elbows pressed to his sides to deflect body blows. Only nineteen, he had huge bones for his weight, with the growth potential to jump him up two divisions to heavyweight and the big money. He racked up a string of fourteen straight early-round KOs at the Olympic, blitzing all the top LA middles. Still growing and anxious to jack up the quality of his opponents, Cordero issued me a challenge through the Herald sports page.

I knew that he would eat me alive. I knew that losing to a taco bender would ruin my local celebrity. I knew that running from the fight would hurt me, but fighting it would kill me. I started looking for a place to run to. The army, navy and marines looked good, then Pearl Harbor got bombed and made them look great. Then the old man had a stroke, lost his job and pension and started sucking baby food through a straw. I got a hardship deferment and joined the Los Angeles Police Department.

I saw where my thoughts were going. FBI goons were asking me if I considered myself a German or an American, and would I be willing to prove my patriotism by helping them out. I fought what was next by concentrating on my landlady's cat stalking a bluejay across the garage roof. When he pounced, I admitted to myself how bad I wanted Johnny Vogel's rumor to be true.

Warrants was local celebrity as a cop. Warrants was plainclothes without a coat and tie, romance and a mileage per diem on your civilian car. Warrants was going after the real bad guys and not rousting winos and wienie waggers in front of the Midnight Mission. Warrants was working in the DA's office with one foot in the Detective Bureau, and late dinners with Mayor Bowron when he was waxing effusive and wanted to hear war stories.

Thinking about it started to hurt. I went down to the garage and hit the speed bag until my arms cramped.

* * *

Over the next few weeks I worked a radio car beat near the northern border of the division. I was breaking in a fatmouthed rookie named Sidwell, a kid just off a three-year MP stint in the Canal Zone. He hung on my every word with the slavish tenacity of a lapdog, and was so enamored of civilian police work that he took to sticking around the station after our end of tour, bullshitting with the jailers, snapping towels at the wanted posters in the locker room, generally creating a nuisance until someone told him to go home.

He had no sense of decorum, and would talk to anybody about anything. I was one of his favorite subjects, and he passed station house scuttlebutt straight back to me.

I discounted most of the rumors: Chief Horrall was going to start up an interdivisional boxing team, and was shooting me Warrants to assure that I signed on along with Blanchard; Ellis Loew, the felony court corner, was supposed to have won a bundle betting on me before the war and was now handing me a belated reward; Horrall had rescinded his order banning smokers, and some high brass string puller wanted me happy so he could line his pockets betting on me. Those tales sounded too farfetched, although I knew boxing was somehow behind my front-runner status. What I credited was that the Warrants opening was narrowing down to either Johnny Vogel or me.

Vogel had a father working Central dicks; I was a padded 36-0-0 in the no-man's-land division five years before. Knowing the only way to compete with nepotism was to make the weight, I punched bags, skipped meals and skipped rope until I was a nice, safe light heavyweight again. Then I waited.


Excerpted from The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy Copyright © 1987 by James Ellroy. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

The Black Dahlia (L.A. Quartet #1) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 95 reviews.
McCarthy92 More than 1 year ago
This is the first James Ellroy novel I have read and I am 100% sure that it's not my last. The Black Dahlia is the first in his LA Quartet, and I haven;t read the other three novels in the Quartet yet, but The Black Dahlia is a MASTERPIECE. I rarely give this title to books, but the Black Dahlia deserves it. Characters, prose, dialogue, plot, all of these aspects of a crime/mystery novel are tip-top. As the characters fall into madness over the investigation into the grisly murder of Elizabeth Short, I felt what they were feeling and became obsessed in the novel. Ellroy's writing style is what achieves this. This is not a large novel, it's about average size i would say, but it has the pacing of an epic and gave off the feeling that I had known these people for a much longer time. Ellroy packs so much information and story in just a single page and he does this with his short, punchy prose that jumps right off the page. The Black Dahlia is a masterpiece in all of literature, just be warned: this book will make you made with the desire to read more. P.S. This book is also very violent, almost to the level of Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, not that that is a problem with me because both of these books are masterpieces. Enjoy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a great book. The author writes about atrocities and depravity with a calm certainty that makes them, somehow, worse. And this is a good thing a marvelously crafted book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After L.A. Confidential. Two of the best books in this genre that I have ever read. The plot and character development during the course of the book surpasses almost every author I enjoy. I will "read him out".
Guest More than 1 year ago
James Ellroy made the story of The Black Dahlia even more epic than it had been in past times. I think Ellroy presents an effective writing style. He combines factual events with fictional characters. The strengths of the novel were the detail and excitment the weaknesses being a dull start. I would recommed this book to anyone that enjoys law. It looks over many aspects of the case and the brutal rivalry of cops. Overall, the book was interesting and suspensful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
People are not always what you would expect them to be; In "The Black Dahlia," by James Ellroy, many characters turn out to be much different from the initial expectations. The novel is based on the true story of the gruesome murder of Elizabeth Short on January 15, 1947. This unsolved murder became more commonly called the famous case of the Black Dahlia. The main character is Bucky Bleichert, a former boxer and now Warrants Officer for the Los Angeles Police Department. Bleichert and his partner become obsessed with uncovering every detail of the life of the Black Dahlia. The plot is constantly twisting and turning, leaving the reader waiting for more.

Ellroy's use of situational irony enables the characters to be ever-changing, and keep the reader guessing. Characters that were thought to be virtuous and honorable, have their true identity revealed as being corrupt. Bucky learns not to trust people because he is never sure of what their true intentions really are. Even his love, Kay, has many secrets which she keeps away from him. This book shows the horrors of postwar Hollywood, the realities of prostitution, man's obsession with sex, and it also contains repulsive and gory detail. The reader, along with Bucky Bleichert, becomes obsessed with the Dahlia and is not able to put the book down until all loose ends are tied up. Although an extremely dark book, it is also engaging.

Tennesseedog 9 months ago
So this is a pretty interesting work. I did read the original Ellroy work, The Black Dahlia, quite a while ago and was wondering how this text and its graphic accompaniment would work. Well I think it worked well and the color drawings nicely complimented the text without grabbing too much attention or leaving the text hanging there all by itself. This murder case was a famous LA case and being able to quickly read through this novel as opposed to managing the hefty writing style of author Ellroy makes this volume perfect for non-readers or millennials who don't have the time to leisurely read a great tale. It is my first graphic novel though I have a couple of Conan graphic novels and a Solomon Kane graphic novel (That Kane character a creation of Robert E. Howard).
insanepoet65 More than 1 year ago
TITLE: The Black Dahlia AUTHOR: James Ellroy GENRE: Mystery/Crime PAGES: 364 This is the first book in James Ellroy’s “L.A. Quartet” series. Set in the 1940’s, The Black Dahlia is set around the now infamous murder of Elizabeth Short, a prostitute that was brutally murdered and dumped in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA. It is told from the point of view of Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert, a L.A. cop who, along with his partner Lee Blanchard, gets caught up in the investigation of the murder of Elizabeth Short. This case takes over their lives, and becomes an obsession with both men. It is an obsession that will destroy marriages and careers. At the beginning, I found this book compelling and hard to put down, but toward the end I just wanted it to end. The writing style is sharp, and it pulls the story along, but then as you go, it dulls and becomes more of the same. I was left wondering if I had read certain parts earlier in the novel. As I got closer to the end, i could not wait to finish it, just so I could move on to my next read. 3 out of 5 Bookmarks.
FicusFan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am not sure if I had read this back in the 80s when it first came out. I was interested because I thought I would see the movie. Turns out the movie was no better than the book, and has faded from the theatres.The actual murder, and the victim are minor points in this book. The author has some kind of series of books set in the past (1940s) and this is just one of them. He uses the Black Dahlia, but not to tell her story, more for his own purposes. He is more interested in the setting (LA), the times (just after the war) and the police officers and their lives, than the murder or the victim. Unfortunately, I could have cared less.Because it is set so long ago there is a lot of nasty stuff about race, ethnicity, religion, and women. Normally I don't judge works set in the past with modern mores, but since the book wasn't good, the nasty stuff really rankled.Finally his mother was murdered when he was a kid, and he dumped a lot of personal stuff in the book. He uses the author's note at the end to go on about him, and his murdered mother. Very little about the Black Dahlia. In this type of book I like to know what was real, what was changed, added or deleted. Also how he came up with his theory and how likely it is accurate. No such luck, its all about him. What a wallow.
ImBookingIt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a dark read. I like characters with shades of grey, but I need some light grey in with the blacker shades.This book didn't have enough points of light for me. I didn't feel that the darkness brought any new perspectives to me, or that I learned from in. I just felt it was dark for the sake of being dark, and that just isn't my kind of book.I did think the mystery was interesting, enough so to save it from being a 2 star book.
heidijane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a bit difficult to get into at first, mainly because of the slang but also because the story didn't really get going until the body was found a little while into the book. Still an enjoyable cimre/mystery book though, and very exciting towards the end!
Kiri on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Distinctly dark, pessimistic, misogynistic, highly clichéd, and grinding Noir. Ellory wrote a fine novel with L.A. Confidential and I suppose fans of the genre will find this a well qualified addition to the hard-biting grit-filled novels of the L.A. Quartet. I however found this lacking in the redeeming facets that encase the Noir genre.It does live up to its description as a highly fictionalized account of the as yet unsolved Black Dahlia case, dancing around the facts and presenting only the most sensational tabloid possibilities of Ms Short's real life and maligning her in the process, presenting its own solution, and creating characters and scenarios that continue on like Hollywood gone mad. It also, rather unpleasantly, reveals the authors negative fixation with women and his own mother (something that is actually addressed in the afterword - which I did not discover until I read it at the end and was surprised he acknowledged.) While I am glad he's worked some of these issues out - seeing these addressed in such a manner -- even in print -- is disturbing to say the least.This has been named as part of the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die. I do not agree with that assessment, but I did not create the list nor the criteria it is based upon. As you can tell I don't have a problem disagreeing with that list either! =D
mojacobs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Could not finish this - perhaps I've read too many hard-boiled American cop stories. The psychology felt all wrong to me, very contrived, the writing just stumbling along. Perhaps I tried this at the wrong time. Anyway, I gave up after 100 pages and think probably Ellroy is not for me.We are a year later now, and 've tried again: read 200 pages and then gave up. I am a crime book and mystery lover normally, so it's rather unusual for me to really not want to finish this. I dislike the main characters Bucky Bleichert and his partner Lee Blanchard intensely. I find the writing very contrived, I can feel the writer going for hard-boiled, film noir, etc. and it does not come naturally at all, ... no, I really will not finish this. I've seen raving Amazon reviews, calling this a work of genius, great American art, ... sorry, not for me.
CynDaVaz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The main character in this book was not someone I could find myself connecting with. I didn't like him at all and I found this novel rather boring, actually. A huge disappointment.
ElectricRay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If, as a non-initiate, you stop and try to understand it, James Ellroy's writing style will have you completely bamboozled. The way to approach it is to barrel through it at a hundred miles an hour - that's the pace it was intended to be read at - and eventually everything will start making sense by itself. Even if it doesn't there is still something exhilarating about the way James Ellroy writes: it's a guilty pleasure, and Black Dahlia features some of his best writing. If after a while you really find yourself struggling, just google on "Ellroy Glossary" and you'll pick up any number of fanzine crib sheets.Once you get the hang of the Ellroy idiom it's quite addictive and you even start talking like that yourself a bit. Which is embarrassing.As with all Ellroy novels I've read, in Black Dahlia the streets are mean, the characters morally bankrupt, and the plot so byzantine as to implicate every one from the chief of police to some Mexican pornographers. This is very much Ellroy's world view: fundamentally we are all ugly, and the worst of us are the ones who pretend we're not. It's very Thomas Hobbes, actually. The plot scenario is very similar to L.A. Confidential - two cops with a strange interpersonal relationship and a common squeeze on the hunt for the perpetrator of a dastardly crime. But while the crime is much more brutal, the book itself is not so dark. Sure it isn't Ogden Nash, but it (and especially the Ellroy Lingo) frequently had me sniggering as I read. Maybe I'm just desensitised to Ellroy's morbid style.I think the danger with Ellroy is to read too much into it; the patios is so convincing it is easy to mistake this for something deeper than it is: like Quentin Tarantino, Ellroy is the first to admit his art really is pulp fiction, despite what the critical luvvies say.But look, bottom line, it's a cracking read, and that's all you really need to know.
adobe4578 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best crime novels ever written.
mikemillertime on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderfully paced whodunit, this book is a prime example of noir, blending elements of action, mystery, history, crime. sex and politics into one rich world of danger and intrigue. The characters are also a lot of fun, and the book's length is shortened by its relentless propulsion. While the final solution was a bit bland, and the book also features the strangest epilogue I've ever seen where the author recalls semi-incestuos thoughts about his murdered mother, the book is still highly recommended for all aficionados of the detective genre.
kariannalysis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book has taught me, if I¿m going to read a book about something that really happened, I need to do some research. Let me go ahead and throw this out there: This book uses some facts from the case, but fuses fact with fiction. I didn¿t know that until I got to the end of the book and read that the two main characters, other than the Dahlia were made up. Before I got that far, I couldn¿t understand why the case was never solved because the book told me who did it. Wow, did I feel dumb.Before the last few chapters, I would have only given this book one bookmark. It was not what I expected. It is kind of dirty (yes, I¿m being a prude again). There¿s a lot of sex and it¿s pretty morbid. I expected the morbidity, just not all the sex. Everything I read about the Dahlia says people speculated she was a hooker but it wasn¿t true, so when the book kind of played off that, I didn¿t know what to believe.The last few chapters, however, bring it all together. I was very surprised at who was pegged the killer and even more surprised at how ¿Bucky¿ handled the news.I¿m more of a high heel and handbag book kind of girl. I personally would say this is more of a guys book about cops and boxing.I did think it was written well. When I read it, I really felt like I was in the 40¿s. I really like, looking back now, how many facts he used in the book and how he played off them to make this a novel. Everyone can hear about a murder and put a story together about how it happened, but this was a good story.Looking back at the writing, especially towards the end, I¿m going to give this book 3 bookmarks. If you can push through the first 3/4 of the book, the last 1/4 is great and an intriguing read to find out who¿s the Dahlia¿s killer (fake killer, they never solved it).
whirled on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't mind a flawed hero or heroine, in fact, they often help draw me into the story being told. But The Black Dahlia's 'hero', damaged LA cop Bucky Bleichert is not just flawed, he's a violent, doped-up misogynist with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. And who cares what happens to someone like that? A disappointing and rather vile read.
marcfitch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A book that truly plumbs the depths of human depravity.
TheAmpersand on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There's a lot in "The Black Dahlia" that feels pretty familiar. It's set, like many film noir favorites, in a gritty, rapidly expanding postwar Los Angeles. It describes a man's world filled with cop talk, boxing matches and lots of dangerous, highly sexed dames. And, of course, it's based on the already-famous murder of aspiring actress Elizabeth Short. While the novel abides by some of the rules of the detective genre, Ellroy also managed to surprise me a few times. The central protagonists of his story, Bud Blanchard and Bucky Bleichert, are, in a sense, straight from central casting: they're tough-guy cops who boxed in their youth and aren't afraid to swear, drink, or use excessive force when the situation demands it. Still, they're not one-dimensional heroes or thugs; Ellroy isn't shy about discussing their troubled backgrounds or revealing their inner torment. The woman they both fall for, Kay Lake, is a classic charmer, but she's not just window dressing for a tacked-on love story. She's read more books than Bud and Bucky combined, and she's sensitive to the role she plays in both their lives. Likewise, while the book throws in a few stock characters, but they're part of a larger, nuanced picture of the class and race dynamics of mid-century L.A. Ellroy's prose will also strike a chord in anyone who's watched a few cop dramas, but it's so pitch-perfect, emotionally charged, and riotously profane that it often seems bracingly fresh. Ellroy seems to be trying his hardest to pull the curtain on a lot of cop movie conventions. This isn't to say that this novel isn't, in some sense, highly stylized, but merely that Ellroy often manages to balance the book's more obviously lurid elements with real writerly depth. In a word, the book feels authentic, and that's a sort of success in itself. It's also, at times, fun, sexy, vulgar, and even genuinely touching. Oh, and highly readable: "The Black Dahlia" is surprisingly consistent. It's fast-paced without seeming rushed, and richly detailed without seeming cluttered. I don't know if Ellroy's a great Ameican writer, but I'm willing to bet that he's a natural at what he does. In his autobiography, "My Dark Places," Ellroy describes spending much of his turbulent adolescence obsessed with the Black Dahlia murder. It shows; Ellroy's in high gear from the first page to the last and this is, in a sense, one of the book's problems. To say that this novel isn't for the faint of heart is an understatement; there's stuff here that'll make hardened gore fans shudder and as the sex, death and gore piles up on the page, one begins to wonder if "The Black Dahlia" is a novel or a personal exorcism of sorts. In a sense, I can see the appeal of including the grisly details that many detective writers who actually worked in the fifties would not have been allowed to publish. At the same time, the last few pages of the novel contain scenes so gross they're nearly cartoonish in their depravity. Likewise, Ellroy's plot is well-constructed, but it's possible that it takes one twist too many to seem entirely well, authentic. I'm tempted to say that as the novel ends, Ellroy overplays his hand; did his characters have to sink that far, and did he have to describe it in so much detail? Well, maybe Ellroy's willingness to take this extra step suggests that he might be a genre writer after all. At any rate, "The Black Dahlia" is a compelling story, a masterful exercise in style and, at times, a darn good book besides.
hazelk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I like the fast pace and the language of American crime novels but not in this case. It didn't help that I couldn't understand a lot of the slang. The beginning I found offputting with so much of the buddy-buddy stuff and the boxing. The case in real life is interesting and I think I'll get a non-fiction account.
uryjm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Inspired by the "Haunted Hollywood" tour, I bought and reread this classic piece of American Gothic Crime. It didn't disappoint, and was actually a much better detective story than I'd remembered. I also remembered finishing it in Aberdeen the last time, but didn't remember that there was an Aberdeen connection in the book - the killer is originally from there! Funny coincidence that.
wenestvedt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is, I believe, the source for the movie "L.A. Confidential," which was itself pretty wonderful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved on to The Big Nowhere
Anonymous More than 1 year ago