Monday, January 10, 2011

Readalong : The Black Dahlia : Week one

I'm participating in The Lost Entwife's January readalong of The Black Dahlia. The reading assignment for January 2-9 was to read the Prologue through Chapter Nine. I'm reading from the 1987 Mysterious Press edition.

I'll try not to give away too much of the story, but you may find some spoilers in my readalong posts.

James Ellroy blends details of the real Black Dahlia murder case with fiction to create a compelling crime novel. The book is narrated by LAPD officer Dwight "Bucky" Bleichert. The Prologue and Part I provide background on Bleichert and his soon-to-be partner Lee Blanchard. I would normally find it annoying for a book to take so long to get the the main storyline, but Ellroy wrote it well, and I found it interesting. It seems like a necessary part of the story.

By the end of Part I (chapters 1-6), Bleichert and Blanchard have settled in as partners and are ready to face the Black Dahlia case together. The body turns up within a few pages of Part II beginning. Chapters 7-9 cover the first few days of the investigation. The primarily procedural nature of these chapters seems authentic if sometimes a bit graphic. The description of Elizabeth Short's (a.k.a. Black Dahlia) injuries had me feeling a little sick to my stomach despite my frequent watching of TV crime dramas.

In addition to authentic police procedure, Ellroy succeeds in creating a believable 1940s Los Angeles. The characters are blissfully unaware of their political incorrectness. It brought to mind the recent debate about the sanitizing of Mark Twain. Ellroy uses the natural speech of the era -- anything else wouldn't ring true. [Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement of offensive language/racial slurs.]

I'm really enjoying The Black Dahlia so far and can't wait to keep reading. Thanks to Lydia for organizing another great readalong.

Related post:
Readalong : The Black Dahlia : Week two
Readalong : The Black Dahlia : Week three

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The Black Dahlia

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