I first heard of The Black Dahlia when my freak of a friend posted horrifying pictures of Elizabeth Short's mutilated corpse on his facebook page. (Yeah, I have great friends.) If you have kinder, gentler friends who haven’t kept you in the loop, you may not know that the crime in this book is based on actual events, though much of the investigation is fictional.
After seeing those photos (which my lovely friend tagged as “road kill”), I decided I wasn't interested in watching the 2006 movie. I assumed it focused on the repulsive details of the poor girl’s torture and murder. My mind drew parallels to the movie Seven, which--while being a highly suspenseful thriller--left me with the thoroughly depressing feeling of "what is wrong with humanity?"
But I was curious enough to read the book, which I figured wouldn't be quite as bad as the movie in terms of sickening visual images that can be so difficult to expunge from my mind. And it was kind of nice to find that the novel didn’t dwell on the killing, but instead focused on the police work during the resulting investigation.
That’s not to say Ellroy pulls any punches. Nothing is glossed over or whitewashed or made pretty in this story. There is an element of “even the good guys are the bad guys,” but I didn’t end up disgusted with all of my fellow humans. Just some of them.
Even if it hadn’t been written all over the cover, I think I would have been able to guess that Ellroy also authored L.A. Confidential. I haven’t read that book, but I’ve seen the movie, and it has some similarities (namely cops and whores in mid-twentieth-century Los Angeles). Turns out the two books are part of what’s called Ellroy’s “L.A. Quartet,” which also includes The Big Nowhere and White Jazz.
My one complaint about the book: the family of crazies with a crazy friend kind of defied belief. One crazy person would have been enough, but Ellroy kept stacking up the insanity. As soon as we knew one mentally ill character was involved, we learned of another. And another. But, though I gripe, I must admit this did not diminish my ability to enjoy the book.
My favorite “noir” is of the Pinot variety, but Ellroy writes some pretty good crime fiction. I have added The Black Dahlia to my netflix queue (now that I think I can handle it) and will probably read The Big Nowhere at some point.
Now for something completely different…
3 days ago