Aza / 2022

The Black Dahlia, James Ellroy

Autorea: elenaoregi

Post honen idazlea: Slawka Grabowska

The Black Dahlia, James Ellroy

Penguin Books, 2022

383 pages

ISBN 978-0-09-953786-1

Post hau ingelesez dago.

This month’s Donostia Book Club’s read is a crime fiction novel and is held on November, 14th in an exceptional location: Duque de Mandas’ room at Plaza de la Constitución, 2nd floor.

First published in September 1987, The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy is a fictionalized account of the real life murder of Elizabeth Short. Short’s body was found in an abandoned field near the famous Hollywood sign on January 15, 1947. Despite a long and public investigation, the murder remains unsolved to this day. It’s one of the most famous unsolved cases in American history. This twisted noir novel is also inspired by the author’s family story: on June 22, 1958, when Ellroy was ten years old, his mother, a nurse Geneva Odelia was raped and murdered and her body abandoned in a ditch on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Both unsloved cases had many things in common and in Ellroy’s imagination connecting them felt right.

In the novel, there are many different themes to analyze, but most of all it’s an interesting vision of what life was like in Los Angeles in the 1940s. We can observe well-crafted male characters versus female characters trapped by society’s expectations. And all that with direct and crude descriptions, the use of almost violent language. Aggressiveness is present in the pages of this novel in many ways.

Also, it’s interesting that The Black Dahlia is a part of Ellroy’s “L.A. Quartet novels”: The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz. All of them have won numerous awards and are international bestsellers and can be read independently.

The Black Dahlia, as various other novels by the author, was adapted for cinema. A neo-noir crime thriller film directed by Brian De Palma was released in 2006 starring Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, and Mia Kirshner.

I’m well aware that because of it’s content it’s not a book for everyone, but if you feel like reading it along with us, here you have some questions to ponder about:

  • In the prologue Bucky says Elizabeth Short is “at best a could-have-been — a tag that might equally apply to me.” What does he mean?
  • What is the significance of the nicknames “Mr. Fire” and “Mr. Ice?”
  • How does the Blanchard-Bleichert story apply to the Black Dahlia mystery? Why does Ellroy start there?
  • In the beginning Bucky is not interested in the Dahlia case. He requests to be transferred back to Warrants several times. What changes? At what point does the Dahlia become an obsession?
  • Why does Bucky’s marriage fall apart? In what ways are Kay and Bucky playing roles? Is their relationship built on lies?
  • Why does Bucky believe Madeleine’s alibi? Why is he drawn to her?
  • Were you surprised by the solution to the Dahlia murder? Why do you think Bucky chooses private justice?
  • Why does Bucky let Ramona off free? Do you think that was the right decision?
  • Is this pulp fiction? Or literature? What makes it different?
  • Is the novel misogynist or does it simply describe 1940s reality?
  • How are women and men represented in the book? What are their roles?

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