Share via Email Sense of an ending … James Ellroy. It summarises my relationship with a young woman named Elizabeth Short. Betty Short lived from to Her life was unnotable up to the point of her death. She became canonised, dramatically misunderstood and celebrated solely due to the ghastly nature of her passing.
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Share via Email Sense of an ending … James Ellroy. It summarises my relationship with a young woman named Elizabeth Short. Betty Short lived from to Her life was unnotable up to the point of her death.
She became canonised, dramatically misunderstood and celebrated solely due to the ghastly nature of her passing.
It was both a sleepy burg and supersonic boomtown. Radio was here. The movie biz was here. Nightclubs and jazz joints rocked around the clock. Allow me to again crib from Dylan Thomas. The murder has remained unsolved for 67 years. It was the first death and the right death at the right time. The death occurred the year before I was born. Elizabeth Short, meet Jean Hilliker. Betty died at My mother died at I grew up to write both their stories.
Jean died at its finale. These two women own me, inextricably. Both have hot-wired me to the history of Los Angeles. My novels portray the secret human infrastructure of large public events.
They are historical romances to the core. My literary view was shaped by classical music more than crime fiction or noted dead women. This book hauntingly summarised the Black Dahlia murder case. I read it at age Betty and Jean merged then. I was a lonely boy who lived to read, escape into music and tell himself stories. My first Betty and Jean stories were saviour fantasies. I rescued both women as their killers drew near. My childhood moved into a troubled adolescence and early adulthood.
And I did. The Black Dahlia was published in It served as the first novel of my LA Quartet. It was my seventh novel. Short was a story, a fixation, a human being I was working my way up to. I wanted to honour a woman who was too often harshly judged and morally condemned in the public record. I wanted to honour Jean Hilliker, my mother, by extension. The Black Dahlia is largely the tale of love in conflict with sexual obsession. Short is never seen alive.
I built her character entirely from postmortem reminiscence. She is misinterpreted until the precise moment that my detective hero comes to understand that he is as one with her. A living man and a desecrated woman merge in the spiritus mundi. The subtext is entirely religious. My detective accords Short the gift of tender insight and unlocks his frozen heart as a result. The fictional denouement and naming of the killer recede at this spiritual juncture.
Short has taught Officer Bucky Bleichert how to love. There is no Betty without Jean. My books derive from an inexplicable yearning. I long for times past and ask God for the wherewithal to unlock their secrets.
I was not content to know Short solely in death and have placed her — bountifully alive — in my new novel, Perfidia.
A living woman — yearned for and then scarcely known — led me to recraft Kay Lake, love interest and heroine of The Black Dahlia. Betty and Kay do not meet in Perfidia. Betty and Kay cohere in the spiritus mundi.
Short is now 67 years dead. Kay Lake lives on as a very old woman. Yearning forged The Black Dahlia then, as it forged Perfidia now. Yearning is a touchstone that allows me to view and rewrite history.
The Black Dahlia
His first reaction upon hearing of her death was relief: he could now live with his father, whom he preferred. Nicknamed the "Black Dahlia," Short was a young woman murdered in , her body cut in half and discarded in Los Angeles, in a notorious and unsolved crime. Throughout his youth, Ellroy used Short as a surrogate for his conflicting emotions and desires. During his teens and 20s, he drank heavily and abused Benzedrex inhalers. I caddied right up to the sale of my fifth book. He then goes on to say that he read works by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Ellroy followed these three novels with the Lloyd Hopkins Trilogy.
‘I knew pretty quickly I was on to something’: James Ellroy on writing The Black Dahlia
Can Bleichert and Blanchard bring in her killer before the case destroys them both? Some time around , my local bookstore owner pushed this on me. It took me a week to get through but it felt like spending a month in jail. The Black Dahlia was a game changer for me, a powerful book that made me see detective fiction in a different light.
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Kay is the former girlfriend of a gangster whose arrest by Lee helped make his reputation. Bucky, outweighed and outclassed, initially tries to throw the fight, as his winnings would be enough to put his dementia -addled father into a good nursing home, but decides to win as that would get him a plainclothes job in the Warrants Division. He fails, but he gets the Warrants job anyway. Partnered with Lee, the two men quickly become friends. They work well together until an arrest goes wrong and they kill four men in a gunfight. He rebuffs her, despite a powerful attraction, because he sees her and Lee as a surrogate family. On January 15, , the hideously mutilated body of Elizabeth Short, or the " Black Dahlia ", is found in an abandoned lot and becomes a media sensation.
James Ellroy on The Black Dahlia – Guardian book club