When I first started listening to The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy, I was really enjoying it. The voice of the story teller was fantastic, and I was interested in how Ellroy could craft a work of fiction around a well known true crime. In fact, I was questioning why I had this perception that Ellroy was someone my dad would read, but who I wouldn't like. But when the police brutality began, my interest quickly waned.
The mystery of who killed Elizabeth Short, a/k/a The Black Dahlia, is still unsolved more than 60 years after her death. In Dahlia, Ellroy solves the mystery through his invented characters, while making the LA police of the 1940s look like corrupt bullies. I can't imagine that the families of the true detectives involved with this investigation were not incredibly offended by the portrayal. Ellroy doesn't even bother with a perfunctory "This is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to any person living or dead, blah, blah, blah" which makes me think that it must be so clear to all involved that these are fictional characters that no legalese is required.
Although the police beatings of suspects and witnesses began somewhere around the 5th disc, I kept listening through all 11 discs, thinking that the protagonist, Bucky Bleichert, had to realize the wrong of his ways, and change. He did not. The one redeeming part is Ellroy's Afterward, where he confides that he based his version of the Dahlia on his mother, who was also killed in an unsolved LA murder, not so many years after the Dahlia murder. He must have created the role of Bleichert, the investigating officer obsessed with the case, to represent himself. Ellroy describes his struggle to find his mother's killer, and to understand who his mother was, which mirrors Bleichert's struggle relating to the Dahlia. I hope Ellroy didn't beat up as many people during his investigation.
Next up on CD: The Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
Still reading: Netherland by Joseph O'Neill