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My Dark Places: An L.A. Crime Memoirby James Ellroy
James Ellroy is the heir apparent to Raymond Chandler. His dark, convoluted, steroid-infused crime novels have made him the reigning king of LA Noir. Ellroy's stylized prose is "so hard-boiled it burns the pot" and his outlook is as cynical as a frog in a frying pan. In his own words, Ellroy's LA novels "run antithetical to your standard crime fiction sensibility, which is usually a noble loner working against authority. I think my books are about bad men doing bad things in the name of authority." But this cynicism is countered by an infectious passion, a palpable energy that makes each Ellroy novel riveting and compelling. In My Dark Places, his gave readers a glimpse into the genesis of both his bleak outlook and the obsessive force that propels each novel.
In 1958, when James Ellroy was ten years old, his mother was brutally murdered. The crime was never solved. During his teenage years, young James became obsessed with the infamous Black Dahlia case, which was similar in many respects to his mother's murder. He then moved on to murdered women in general. His mother's memory haunted him for years. He first tried to escape her memory through drugs, and then he to exercise it through writing (for example, in his novel about the Black Dahlia case, he "solves" the crime). Neither worked. So he set out instead to write a nonfiction account of his mother. He teamed up with retired homicide detective Bill Stoner and set out to solve the case, now several decades old. Where their investigation failed, Ellroy's painfully honest account of the ordeal did not. Whether hailed a classic of its kind (though, for what it's worth, this quirky book is in a genre of its own), or reviled as the worst kind of exploitation, My Dark Places is a stunning achievement. Haunting, disgusting, fascinating, and brutally, Oedipally honest, this is one book no reader will forget.
Synopses & Reviews
In 1958 Jean Ellroy was murdered, her body dumped on a roadway in a seedy L.A. suburb. Her killer was never found, and the police dismissed her as a casualty of a cheap Saturday night. James Ellroy was ten when his mother died, and he spent the next thirty-six years running from her ghost and attempting to exorcize it through crime fiction. In 1994, Ellroy quit running. He went back to L.A., to find out the truth about his mother — and himself.
In My Dark Places, our most uncompromising crime writer — author of American Tabloid and White Jazz — tells what happened when he teamed up with a brilliant homicide cop to investigate a murder that everyone else had forgotten — and to reclaim the mother he had despised, desired, but never dared to love. What ensues is an epic of loss, fixation, and redemption, a memoir that is also a history of the American way of violence.
"My Dark Places is a genre-busting, oddball classic. A creepy primer on murder one...it's also packed with enough raunchy mother love to make you want to wash your hands between chapters. And Ellroy's rat-a-tat-tat narration gives his self-lacerating account a sense of brakeless free fall. This is literary necrophilia that Poe might envy. Ellroy is a haunted man, and more than writer enough to haunt anyone who hears his tale." Malcolm Jones, Newsweek
"Much of the memoir is taken up with a detailed account of the doomed investigation. But at the heart of the work is Mr. Ellroy's tortured attempt to resurrect his mother ('to dance with the redhead,' as he puts it), to repair his stupendous loss — and to piece himself together in the process. What he has produced can't be neatly categorized. It is a kind of hard-boiled Bildungsroman; and it may be the mother of all mother-and-son stories." Bruce Jay Friedman, The New York Times Book Review
"Ellroy's search for her killer ultimately became a quest for his mother's true identity. A cathartic journey for Ellroy that will appeal to his readers." Library Journal
About the Author
James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. His five previous novels, American Tabloid, White Jazz, L.A. Confidential, The Big Nowhere, and The Black Dahlia, were international bestsellers.
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